The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The passion returns
Screen On & Off
James Caviezel in The Passion Recut, and (below) director Mel Gibson

March 1 is the first day of Lent and STAR Movies is observing the day by presenting the uninterrupted broadcast of the controversial Mel Gibson film The Passion Recut at 9 pm. The telecast will have no commercial breaks, and since the film is in Latin and Aramaic, it will have both English and Hindi subtitles.

The film depicts the final hours of Jesus Christ, from his prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane and betrayal at the hands of Judas Iscariot to the trials he endured under Pontius Pilate and King Herod and the suffering he undergoes carrying the heavy wooden cross to Golgotha amidst throngs of jeering citizens and savage beatings.

Starring James Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Hristo Jivkov and Francesco De Vito, The Passion Recut was nominated for three Oscars including Best Cinematography, Best Make-up and Best Music.

Director Gibson laid his money, his career and his reputation on the altar. Many prayed for him. Critics mocked him. But for every critic who mocked and every voice who spoke with fear and loathing, there were dozens more who accepted, embraced and adored this film. The box-office success of The Passion Recut may have forever changed the film industry.

'I had to make this film; I couldn't not make it,' Gibson says. 'About 13 years ago, I came to a difficult point in my life, and meditating on Christ's sufferings, on his passion, got me through it. I went to the wounds of Christ in order to cure my wounds. I began to understand it as I never had before, even though I had heard the story so many times. It was like giving birth: the story, the way I envisioned the suffering of Christ, got inside me and started to grow, and it reached a point where I just had to tell it, to get it out.'

What he didn't envision was the kind of controversy that The Passion Recut would throw up. 'I expected some, but I wasn't expecting it to get so personal,' reveals Gibson. 'It's been a real eye-opener. I have handled it by not letting it thwart this project, and by praying. My prayer life has grown a lot as a result of it. I pray for the people who are upset. I sincerely believe that their suspicions are wrong. This movie will bring people closer together, not incite violence and hatred. That was our experience in making it, and that has been the experience of the people who have seen it so far.'

Gibson admits that he didn't want to torture the audiences. 'The flashbacks are escape hatches, to give you relief from the suffering,' he says. 'But they also help fill out the story, the character of Jesus. The flashbacks show the human side of Jesus ' that he was a real man, a working man, with a real mother, with a sense of humour. You need to see that to understand that he really felt his suffering, just like any real man.'

Gibson has always been very particular about what he expects his audiences to do after watching The Passion Recut. 'The movie is about faith, hope, love, and forgiveness. If it stirs those things in people, it will be a success. I hope it makes people ask questions, and maybe even makes them want to read or re-read 'the book'.'

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