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|Mel Gibsons Great Passion - Interview |
Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2003 |
| |Christís Agony as Youíve Never Seen It
Mel Gibsons Great Passion - Interview
ROME, MARCH 6, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Oscar winning actor-director Mel Gibson is in Rome these days, working on a film on the passion of Christ at the Cinecittà studios.
The movie focuses on the last hours of Christs life and stars Jim Caviezel ("The Thin Red Line," "Angel Eyes," "The Count of Monte Cristo") as Jesus. Gibson granted the following exclusive interview to ZENIT.
Q: What made you decide to do this project?
Gibson: Its been slowly coming on for about 10 or 12 years now. Im a pretty old guy, but if you go back 12 years I was 35. Thats when I started to investigate the roots of my faith. I had always believed in God, that he existed, and I was brought up to believe in a certain way.
But in my middle years, I kind of drifted, and other things took center stage. At that point, I realized I needed something more if I was going to survive. A closer investigation of the Gospels, of the story, of the whole piece, was demanded of me.
Thats when the idea started to percolate inside my head. I began to see it realistically, re-creating it in my own mind so that it would make sense for me, so I could relate to it. Thats what I want to put on the screen.
Q: So many movies about the life of Christ have already been made. Why make another one?
Gibson: I dont think other films have tapped into the real force of this story. I mean, have you seen any of the others? They are either inaccurate in their history, or they suffer from bad music or bad hair. This film will show the passion of Jesus Christ just the way it happened. Its like traveling back in time and watching the events unfold exactly as they occurred.
Q: How can you be sure that your version is so accurate?
Gibson: Weve done the research. Im telling the story as the Bible tells it. I think the story, as it really happened, speaks for itself. The Gospel is a complete script, and thats what were filming.
Q: This seems like a switch from the usual Mel Gibson productions. Your specialty is action, adventure and romance. What made you decide to do a religious film?
Gibson: Im doing what Ive always done: telling stories I think are important in the language I speak best: film. I think most great stories are hero stories. People want to reach out and grab at something higher, and vicariously live through heroism, and lift their spirit that way.
There is no greater hero story than this one about the greatest love one can have, which is to lay down ones life for someone. The Passion is the biggest adventure story of all time. I think its the biggest love-story of all time; God becoming man and men killing God if thats not action, nothing is.
Q: Who will want to see a film like this?
Gibson: I think everyone will. The story has inspired art, culture, behavior, governments, kingdoms, countries it has influenced the world in more ways than you can imagine. Its a pivotal event in history that has made us what we are today. Believers and nonbelievers alike, we have all been affected by it.
So many people are searching for meaning in life, asking themselves a lot of questions. Theyll come looking for answers. Some will find them, some wont.
Q: So this film isnt only for Christians?
Gibson: "Gandhi" was a blockbuster hit, but it wasnt just for Hindus. This film is for everyone. For believers and nonbelievers, Jesus Christ is undoubtedly one of the most important historical figures of all time. Name one person who has had a greater impact on the course of history.
Q: But if this film is focused on bringing the Gospels to life, wont it be offensive to non-Christians? For example, the role of the Jewish leaders in Jesus death. If you depict that, wont it be offensive?
Gibson: This isnt a story about Jews vs. Christians. Jesus himself was a Jew, his mother was a Jew, and so were his Twelve Apostles. Its true that, as the Bible says, "He came unto his own and his own received him not"; I cant hide that.
But that doesnt mean that the sins of the past were any worse than the sins of the present. Christ paid the price for all our sins.
The struggle between good and evil, and the overwhelming power of love go beyond race and culture. This film is about faith, hope, love and forgiveness. These are things that the world could use more of, particularly in these turbulent times. This film is meant to inspire, not to offend.
Q: Even so, some people are going to think that you just want to "push your beliefs on others." Is that true?
Gibson: I didnt invent this story. I do happen to believe it. Its something that just gets inside of you and has to come out. Im just trying to tell it well, better than its ever been told before. When youre dealing with non-fiction, a directors responsibility is to make it as accurate as possible. Open-minded people will appreciate it for what it is.
Q: What about the violence? Wont people find some of the more graphic scenes inappropriate?
Gibson: Some people might, but, hey, thats the way it was. There is no gratuitous violence in this film. I dont think anyone under 12 should go see it unless theyre a very mature 12-year-old. Its pretty heavy.
I think we have gotten too used to seeing pretty crucifixes on the wall and we forget what really happened. I mean, we know that Jesus was scourged, that he carried his cross, that he had nails put through his hands and feet, but we rarely think about what this means.
Growing up I didnt realize what was involved in this. I didnt realize how hard it was. The full horror of what Jesus suffered for our redemption didnt really strike me. Understanding what he went through, even on a human level, makes me feel not only compassion, but also a debt: I want to repay him for the enormity of his sacrifice.
Q: What about the language barrier? Youre filming in two dead languages Latin and Aramaic and youre not planning to use subtitles. Wont that be a turnoff?
Gibson: Caravaggios paintings dont have subtitles, but people get the message. The Nutcracker Ballet doesnt have subtitles, but people get the message. I think that the image will overcome the language barrier. Thats my hope.
Im just trying to be as real as possible. There is something kind of startling about watching it in the original languages. The reality comes out and hits you. Full-contact. I know we are only re-creating, but we are doing the best we can to simulate an experience of really being there.
And I think its almost counterproductive to say some of these things in a modern language. It makes you want to stand up and shout out the next line, like when you hear "To be or not to be" and you instinctively say to yourself, "That is the question."
But if you hear the words spoken as they were spoken at the time, it can kind of stun you. Ive seen that happen when were working. It gets a clarity to it through the acting, through the nuances of the characters, the movement of the camera its the movement, its the timing, its everything. All of a sudden its very, very clear to me. Thats when I cut and move on.
Q: When you finish this project, will it be a letdown to go back to less sublime subject matter?
Gibson: No, it will be a relief to do something thats a little lighter. There is a tremendous burden of responsibility in this one, not to sell anything short. I just hope I can do justice to the story. You cant please everybody, but then again, thats not my goal.
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