Passion of the Christ
Neal King discusses his new book: The Passion of the Christ, about the controversies surrounding the 2004 film of the same name. The Passion of the Christ was the cinematic event of 2004. In the year leading up to its release it inspired one of the fiercest controversies, and perhaps the most significant exception to rules limiting the distribution of film violence and blood-letting, since the late 1960s. The film's unflinching depiction of the torture and crucifixion of Jesus was praised and deplored in equal measure as either scaling unprecedented heights of reverent iconography or plumbing new depths of gratuitous violence. At the same time, it provoked a nationwide storm of controversy for what many saw as its anti-Semitic portrayal of Jewish religious leaders. Neal King's study of the controversies over The Passion of the Christ explores how conservative Christians united in support of Mel Gibson and in opposition to liberal, secular and Jewish critics. The resulting public battle in the US over the editing and rating of this film generated more controversy than over any other film in recent cinematic history. By chronicling the publicity campaign that made this film the highest grossing independent production of all time, King reveals how Gibson deployed tactics that date from the days of silent movies about Jesus and the Jews. In a close look at debates over the film's classification, he shows how religious groups inspired ratings boards, media watchdogs and government censors worldwide to break their rules and guidelines about violence and the depictions of prophets and other religious figures. Finally, study of the film's narrative and visual style shows how the choices made by director, cast and crew contributed to the biggest argument over Hollywood and anti-Semitism in decades, and how longstanding patterns in the production and marketing of stories of Christ helped one filmmaker to turn his statement of faith into a partisan, blockbuster event.