Good Friday is here and like a continuing tradition, Passion of the Christ will be aired on TV on this sacred day. This film by Mel Gibson, which released on 25 Feb 2004 (Ash Wednesday), has been surrounded with controversies from the time it has hit the screen. It depicts the last 12 hours of Jesus and contains sequences of serious graphic violence, because of which it was R-rated. So if you have watched the movie or haven’t, here are a few facts about the movie, which will leave you astounded.
1. Have you noticed that Jim Caviezel who plays Jesus, has the same initials as Jesus Christ, J.C., and he was 33 when he took on the role, the same age at which Jesus was crucified. This is as eerie as it gets.
2. Passion of the Christ continues to hold the all-time domestic gross total 12 years after its release with $370.78M. This is the highest grossing foreign language film in the US box office history. It is also the highest grossing religious film worldwide.
3. While Jim was filming the scene ‘Sermon on the Mount’, he was struck by lightning. Even an assistant on the set Jon Mikalini got hit by lightning the same day. What are the odds?
4. A softer version of the movie, "The Passion Recut" was released on 11 March 2005, with some of the graphic elements removed. But the film did not do very well and was withdrawn from the
theatres 3 weeks after its release.
5. The languages used in this film are Aramaic and Latin. Father Willian J. Fulco, who has studied these ancient languages and has 40 years of spiritual knowledge, was the translator.
Also, since the film was shot primarily at Cinecitta Studios in Rome, in the old city of Matera, and in the ghost town of Craco, Mel Gibson found filming with the native cast difficult. He literally had to use translated placards to convey his message to the huge number of side actors. While this happened most of the times, sometimes they just understood what he said with the emotion and passion he spoke with.
6. The grotesque scars and disfigurement that you see is all due to the 3D prosthestic make-up technique developed, which worked like a temporary tattoo, and it stuck to the body with water. This technique reduced make-up time from a tedious 8 hours to a mere 2 hours. Jim had a prosthetic nose on and a raised hairline at all times. His blue eyes were digitally changed to brown on film. A new type of fake blood with added viscosity was developed for Jesus’ scourging makeup, which contained red dyes suspended in glycerin, fatty gums and a stabilizing base, which made Jim’s skin smell very sweet.
7. The majority of the movie was shot with a speed above the normal 24 frames per second. This created a still painting-like effect, which gave the performances and events more weight and drama.
8. Each day before production began, Mel Gibson had a Canadian priest, Fr. Stephen Somerville, celebrate the Traditional Roman Catholic Latin Mass of the Apostolic Rite for the film crew.
9. Mel Gibson was labeled Anti-Semitic for making this movie. And this labeling became more pronounced when he abused a cop on 28 July 2006 in an inebriated state, calling him a Jew and blurting out that all the wars in the world were caused by Jews. Unfortunately, the cop actually turned out to be a Jew.
10. What is astonishing is that many of the cast and filming crew converted to Catholicism after the completion of the film. Among those who converted was an atheist who played Judas Iscariot, the guy who betrayed Jesus for thirty silver coins.
Although this movie had a lot of controversies, it has definitely touched millions of people and inspired them to return to their faith. Hope you too watch it if you haven’t (only if you can handle graphical violence) and have a blessed Good Friday.