Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fact, Fiction, Irony, and a sweaty bunch o' Catholics

Some time ago, Mel Gibson wrote, directed, marketed and released a lil' film called "The Passion of The Christ." The film featured a fairly theatrical, violent depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and also went out of its way to indicate the Jewish people were mainly responsible for selling Jesus out to the Romans.

I didn't see that film, so I am going on the most commonly-agreed upon buzz surrounding same; among others, the main reason I didn't bother to see the film was that Mr. Gibson, who follows a special, atypical sect of Catholicism, based this movie on what he believes to be fact, and, as a result, this film was marketed and proclaimed as fact, at least according to him and the other anti-semites running around his movie set. Yep, I referred to Mr. Gibson and those who believe as he does as anti-semites; despite his assertions to the contrary, his failure to admonish or deny his father's anti-Holocaust tirade and to address the Jewish groups that knocked the film as anti-Semitic and incendiary pretty much confirmed for me that he was anti-Semitic. I didn't run out and sell off my copies of Lethal Weapon or Braveheart, but upon watching the controversy surround the film, I opted to never again watch a Mel Gibson film if it meant me having to pay for the experience. I decided that if Mr. Gibson felt that way and wasn't ashamed of his bias, and wanted to market his biased opinion as fact, that was his business and his right. My business and my right, of course, is to never waste another dime on the piece of shit in any way, shape or form.

Fast-forward to today. CNN featured an article discussing the soon-to-be released "The Da Vinci Code," which was directed by Ron Howard and stars Tom Hanks. The book, and the movie on which its based, is a murder mystery which, at its core, blames an ultra-religious sect of Catholicism known as Opus Dei for murder, theft and high-level financial chicanery. In plain English, the book establishes that Jesus and Mary had a child and the bloodline lives on to this very day. The book, as repeatedly claimed by Brown, was and is a work of fiction, and was simply an interesting take on what is, in actuality, complete bullshit.

Now, nevermind that a variety of critics panned the film; the main character of the film (depicted by Tom Hanks) is a cryptographer, which is slightly ahead of "mortician" in the list of jobs of people with whom you'd least like to party naked. The character in the book is fairly stiff but intellectually curious, and the french female detective he encounters (and who subsequently winds up helping him in his quest for the truth) is supposed to be a sexually-charged, well, french woman. So for critics to suggest Hanks plays the role in a wooden or almost sleepy way is not a shock. Personally, when I first heard there was going to be a movie made of this story, I was looking forward to it -- there's a lot of imagery and artwork which one cannot readily see in his/her mind unless the book includes same (the illustrated version of the book does so in excellent, thorough fashion). So the movie should be an interesting jaunt through this story. However, what really is killing the pre-movie buzz, for me, is not the critics saying the movie's crap but the Catholic Church and Opus Dei, who separately have decried the film and suggested it is blasphemous.

As indicated in the above-linked article, Opus Dei bashes the movie for encouraging people to form opinions about it as an organization as well as the factual claims it purports within the movie. Apparently they missed the part about the movie being based on a work of fiction with no real bearing on reality.

The Catholic Church dismisses the movie (and the book) as irresponsible because it encourages people to question whether the Church has lied to them about Jesus and about the religion. The film, like the book, does not encourage people to question whether the Church lied. It does, however, inspire people to question or research the origins of their religion, and to examine Christianity and Catholicism from perhaps a more unbiased, academic view. At the end of the day, I doubt this movie will inspire anyone to doubt the relevance of Jesus Christ's existence on this planet, and I highly doubt any current followers of His teachings will suddenly declare themselves atheists as a result of this film.

What bothers me about this entire situation is that this film, this commission of images to a moving image, are entirely fiction. The author of the book on which the film was based claims it is fiction, and the director and all of the participants claim it is fiction and nothing more. Yet the Catholic Church has come out swinging, pulpit-pounding and finger-pointing. Opus Dei, the main villain in this work of fiction, has done the same, if not more vigorously. All this has taken place as a result of a fictional story.

When Mel Gibson was marketing his film, which he claims is fact (but many discounted as an ultra-conservative, atypical branch of Catholicism), the main target of the film was the Jewish people. Jewish leaders and groups poo-poo'd the film and said it was inaccurate and would inspire anti-Semitism, and to a degree I would not be shocked if it did. However, it's interesting to note the contrast in which these two films were issued and received. One film which was largely fiction was marketed as fact, and the other which featured little if any fact but was marketed entirely as fiction; the one film, which pointed a finger at the Jews, was readily accepted by the Church and its followers; and the other, which is merely a created, non-factual story, is being decried as blasphemous and requiring a disclaimer suggesting it is a work of fiction and has no basis whatsoever in reality.

The hypocrisy, and the contrast between the two, is striking.

More importantly, so is the fact that both of these movies appear to be crap, and the only reason why they're going to have any longevity beyond the 12-hour period after they were released en masse is due to the tremendous surge of negative publicity surrounding each.

It's a shame that "The Da Vinci Code" appears as if it's a crappy movie; I like Tom Hanks and I've never seen a Ron Howard movie that left me disappointed or disgusted. However, in this case, when/if I do see "The Da Vinci Code" I'm not expecting very much. In fact, the only real memory I'll likely retain of this film is the hypocrisy that it inspired in the Church and in Opus Dei.

Now if only someone would make a movie about The Buddha and sign Dom Deluise to play the title character, we could all go home happy...


Anonymous said...

One more difference is how the movie industry treats the two movie. One is banned by Hollywood and this one is highly anticipated.

Boogie said...

I don't know if I'd use the term "banned," but the term "shunned" regarding TPOTC is definitely appropriate. Mel apparently funded the entire film on his own so he circumvented the Hollywood machine; is this because the subject matter was violent and disturbing, or was it because no studio in Hollywood wanted their logo stamped across a biased opinion piece? Or was it because the entire film was in a foreign language no one has spoken in 4,000 years? Or, perhaps, was it that none of the cast members had any notable roles prior to this film? Judging by the controversy that exploded well before the film was even released, it wouldn't shock me if all of these factors played a part in how Hollywood handled this film; but overall, my guess is that if no one said a word about this film and just let it come out on its own, no one would have bothered with it and it would have disappeared, and that would have been the end of Mr. Gibson's foray into forcing his views into our consciousness. To his credit, I suppose he decided he'd had enough of making successful, entertaining movies and instead opted to publicize his own biases and beliefs and ruin his career and his legacy in the process.

What's interesting, either way, is that this film won't really do much damage to Tom Hanks as an actor; he had a string of incredible, commercially- and critically-acclaimed films (Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, The Road to Perdition, etc.) and his legacy won't be tarnished even if TDVC is a dog, which it appears to be. The key, however, is the motivation behind these two films; Gibson's film -- in theory -- was to educate and show people the last hours of Jesus' life, but told from the perspective of an ultra-conservative, minority view thereon. TDVC, in contrast, was a murder mystery that, at least on paper, entertained and enthralled millions of people. Commercially, if TDVC loses money, it will be a disappointment, whether or not the film is awful; but at least the motivations behind each film should be clear, and whether the motivation for TDVC filmmakers is strictly to make shitloads of money or to commit a memorable story to film is irrelevant. They're not going after anyone and not making any points, nor are they posturing or lecturing or implicating anyone, except, time will tell, perhaps the sucker who forks over $12 for a ticket.

LisaBinDaCity said...

Lots of irony indeed.

Very well written post Boogs.