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Cinemas braced for Mel's 'Passion'

February 24, 2004
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Mel Gibson's new film The Passion Of The Christ hit cinemas across America on Wednesday, and early indicators suggest the huge controversy surrounding it will help boost box office takings.

The hard-hitting movie, which portrays the last 12 hours of Jesus' life, has been accused of anti-Semitism by Jewish leaders. Catholic bishops in the United States have likewise slammed it for being too violent and portraying Jews in a negative light.

But its director has been commended by some Christian leaders, who say he has accurately presented the sufferings of Jesus. And critics have warned that although it is an impressive piece of movie-making, its graphic violence will be too much for some viewers.

"The film is the most violent I have ever seen," wrote one reviewer. "It will probably be the most violent you have ever seen. This is not a criticism but an observation; the film is unsuitable for younger viewers, but works powerfully for those who can endure it."

For the sake of realism, Mel decided to film The Passion in a mixture of Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin, with English subtitles. He sank $25 million of his own money into the production, which features Jim Caviezel as Jesus and Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalen.

The director is himself a devout follower of the Society of Pius X, a staunch Catholic organisation which has rejected the legitimacy of the Vatican since it was liberalised by Pope John XXIII in the mid-Sixties.

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Photo: ©
The actor who plays Christ, Jim Caviezel, was struck by lightning during filming of the movie. A devout Catholic, he has previously appeared in Angel Eyes and The Thin Red LinePhoto: © PAy
Photo: ©
Mel has invested $25 million of his own money in the production, which opens across North America on Ash Wednesday

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