Search This Blog

Monday, March 01, 2004

Film Thoughts, Part II.

3A. Historical Accuracy and the Feud with the "Mainstream" Scholars.

I think I picked up where the vitriol toward the film from Our Masters, The Scholars, started. It begins with the opening credits, which quote from Isaiah 53. What is interesting is the dating--700 BC. For those of you not in the know, critical biblical scholarship has dispensed with the notion that the Prophet Isaiah wrote all of Isaiah. Instead, the basic view is that it was written in two or three (or even more) chunks by 2-3+ writers, during 2-3+ eras. Isaiah 53 is held to be one of the later sections. Not that this is a fringe view (though the 3+ in each category is lunging for the margins), and even those who hold to complete Isaianic authorship concede there are good arguments in favor of the opposing view. In fact, the majority of scholars hold that there was more than one author, etc.

I think the scholar-critics saw this at the head of the purloined script, snorted in contempt, and it went downhill from there. "We'll educate this Hollywood twit..." Alas, he spurned the lecture--which is unfortunate, because had there been some real orthodox mainstream scholarship offering advice and riding shotgun, most of the controversy would have been avoided. Instead, when he was hit with a fringe histo-crit broadside, he dug in his heels. Understandable, and, again, unfortunate.

4. What I Did Not Like.

In addition to the desire to see Pilate with more menace and Caiaphas humanized, a lot of people have mentioned the crow scene, and I agree. I'm not sure what Gibson was trying to do here, but it seems odd that it would happen after Jesus prayed that the others would be forgiven.

Also, some of the demonic flourishes seemed a little cartoonish, although I appreciated Gibson's effort to bring the "big realms" aspect of Good Friday into the mix.

Not so BTW, I think SAM's criticism of Jim Cork on his choice of review quotes is over the top. I don't think Jim's post can be fairly read as a blanket endorsement of everything in the Coren essay, and it's wrong to fang a guy who has been as open-minded and fair as Jim has been. He doesn't like the movie--hey, no skin off anybody's nose: this is not the Gospel, after all, it's just a depiction of an aspect of it. It's not like Jim is (unlike Coren) criticizing those who do like it, or their piety--a failing of both critics and supporters. However, I wish he'd stayed on the fence--as he notes, that would have made him pretty well unique.

5. "The Evangelical Opportunity of a Lifetime."

As with many aspects of this film, the answer is "no"--and "yes." No, in the sense that I don't think taking your heathen/apostate/fallen-away/indifferent friend or family member will lead to a Damascene conversion story. The altar call (a sacramental if there ever was one) will not necessarily follow.

However, in the sense that it will strengthen flagging believers, recharge their faith and send them boldly out into the world to witness, I think it will do that. He did that for me, so I think I could risk a little embarrassment for Him. I also think that this two hour film will build far more bridges between Catholics and evangelicals than decades of official chat-shop dialogues, with all that means for the Gospel in the world. Of course, you should pause to savor the irony of such a result coming from a product of the least "ecumenical" wing of Catholicism.

Then again, irony and providence are simply two sides of the same divine coin.

So, what did I think about the film?

No comments:

Post a Comment