Shea has a post up about how wrong he was in his predictions about the movie, and his own little second degree of separation of involvement with it. It brought back my own memories of the hoopla from the weeks leading up to the release of the movie. (By the way, pray for Shea. His mother is dying.)
Like Shea, I was completely wrong in my predictions about the movie's chances of success. I thought that it had one advantage over the large budget blockbusters in that it was made on a relatively cheap budget, and therefore would not have to make much money in order to turn a profit. I couldn't foresee it making much more than that.
But there was a firestorm of controversy (aka free publicity) about the movie in the weeks leading up to its release,and there was a lot of hand wringing on the part of Catholics about whether or not they should go. It was anti Semitic, dontcha know. It was brutal, dontcha know. We knew that because a bunch of people who never saw it said so. It was also going to be brutal and in funny languages. No one would want to see it.
I myself was indifferent. Neither the language nor the brutality particularly bothered me. I had read medical descriptions of crucifixions and knew just how brutal they could be. I had been learning Latin as part of the degree I abandoned a year or two earlier, so that was no big deal either. I was neither hot nor cold for the movie, and unlike many around me at that time, I did not view either attending a movie or boycotting it to be an expression of my faith, but only an expression of my tastes as a consumer.
But others did, and inadvertently they helped me decide to see the movie. You see, many people in my old parish were searching for guidance on whether or not to see this movie, and they began writing e-mails to the priest and deacon, neither of whom were privy to any secret knowledge or previews of the movie, and therefore knew only as much or as little as did the congregation themselves.
And so it was that I took my mother to Mass one Saturday evening, the weekend before Ash Wednesday, that the deacon took to the pulpit and used the homily to give us his opinion of the movie.
I never did much care for this Deacon. He gave many of the worst homilies I ever heard. He ha a colloquial and informal style that I didn't care for, although others in the parish liked him. He supported women's ordination, and I am told that he predicted during the pontificate of John Paul II that the next Pope was going to allow married men to become priests at which point he would become a priest along with thousands of other men and the priest shortage would be over. In short, in response to "How wrong could this guy be?" the answer is: "Quite wrong."
On this day, however, he outdid himself. He delivered what has come to be, for me, the worst homily I ever heard. And that, dear friends, is really, really, saying something. I have heard homilies in favour of gay unions, in favour of female ordination, and a thousand other things to the point that it sometimes seems I have heard everything preached but Catholicism. But this one stands out in my memory as something special.
He was not going to the movie, he said, and he encouraged us all to do the same. Put the money into our Sharelife envelopes instead. He knew all about the Crucifixion, he said, and in fact he broke down weeping during the stations of the cross every Good Friday. He felt Mel Gibson did not need his money, was undeserving of our money, as he was Not One of Us, and iterated that if it was up to Mel, we would all be hearing Mass in Latin, the language of his brutal soldiers. Mel paid too much attention to the sacrifice, the old style, and not the new way.
The sermon went on and on, and as it grew I remember becoming angrier and angrier. I came here to give worship, hear the word of God, and offer once again the sacrifice of Calvary, not hear an amateur movie review. But here was this man was preaching one error after another in the context of discussing a movie which he had never even seen. Buddhists, I am told, believe that regarding knowledge as ignorance is noble, but to regard ignorance as knowledge is evil. And here we were.
And once again, after Mass, my fellow parishioners disappointed me. I thought that I could not be the only one who thought this was a farce, but no. One after another they greeted him on the way out and thanked him for helping them put the movie into perspective. Yes, they saw more clearly now. Thank you, Deacon, thank you.
I, however, and my mother as well, reached a different conclusion. I may have been neither here nor there before, but now I had made up my mind. I would go and see the movie, if only to shove it in this man's face. He did bring me clarity: if he was against it, there had to be something good in it.
So my mother and I saw a matinee some time afterwards. We were in crowded theatre filled with the most polite people you could meet. I did not find the movie either terribly shocking or enlightening. I was familiar with the Gospel accounts and with Roman executions. The movie was pretty much what I expected. I suspect that without the uproar and the ensuing free publicity it probably would not have done as well as it did, but that's only my opinion.
So that's my story about the movie. As I said, I didn't find it to be anything too revealing. The acting was alright, mostly. The filming was alright. I already knew the story. I saw a couple of historical inaccuracies, but nothing too earth shattering. On the whole I found the movie to be competent and adequate, but not much more than that. But for a fit of pique on my part... actually, I still would have taken my mother to it when she asked me. But even so. This was not about my faith. My faith lies in God, not in men and their works.