On the one hand, I've never had much interest in blood and gore, and I hear this film's as bloody and as gory as they come. On the other though, I have to admit to a certain fascination and fondness for films with a biblical subject, and Jesus movies in particular, esp. the ones from the 50s and 60s. They're -most of them- so deliciously saccharine, and I simply adore the doe-eye make up, ill-fitting big hair wigs, and soft pastel draperies used to fit enticingly around the corsetted bodies of actresses like Sophia Loren or Gina Lollobrigida. King of Kings, Quo Vadis?, and The Greatest Story Ever Told: to me, they're all so endearing in their overall preposterousness.
Then there are the more serious and consequently, more controversial, endeavours (and I'll lump Jesus Christ Superstar in with this category, even though it shares many of its qualities with the above) like Pasolini's 1964 Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo in which he used amateur actors to portray his marxist interpretation of Christ's life and teachings (the Spanish student who played him incidentally moving on to a career in chess computers afterward), or The Temptation of Christ that showed a Jesus that was all too human for some people to appreciate and endure. I remember seeing the picketers in front of American cinemas with their placards of 'Blasphemy!' on the news, and being struck by the fact that most of them hadn't even read the book or seen the film before deciding to make a nuisance of themselves. I had read Kazantzakis's book, and I'd found nothing blasphemous in it -- to me it was clear that the narrative was based on a premise of what if?
That brings me to another question: what is blasphemy, exactly? And who decides? And for whom? In our modern Western societies, should we allow for the sensitivities of minorities to dictate to the majority?
A year or so after the commotion around The Last Temptation, the ayatollah Khomeiny pronounced a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his The Satanic Verses, a book I personally found extremely yawn-worthy, but which led to book burnings (book burnings!) on the streets of Europe organised by radical muslims, none of whom had actually read it...and the (to me) surprising step of publishers refusing to bring out the book, and book sellers everywhere refusing to stock and sell it. This whole affair has made me extremely wary of any kind of radical religious thought.
But I'm straying from my original purpose: to decide whether or not I want to see Mel Gibson's film. Having recently been spammed by exhortations to go see it by people who I suspect of subscribing to a fundamentalist Christianity that has nothing in common with my own, I am inclined to say no, don't want to see it. But, all the hullaballoo created by militant Jews about the alleged anti-semitism of the picture has made me curious to see for myself whether there's any truth to that particular accusation.
What remains then, is whether I can set aside my usual aversion against any kind of film full of blood and gore and graphically detailed violence.
I'm a classical archaeologist. I know about the Roman practice of crucifixion, and what it did to the body of a slave or criminal so punished...in theory. I think I can imagine the severe unpleasantness of it perfectly well enough without the visual confirmation gallons of stage blood can invoke.