It Is as Some of Us Would Like It to Have Been

RECEIVED Tue., March 16, 2004

Dear Editor,
   I read with interest Michael Ventura's scourging of Mel Gibson's Passion ["Letters @ 3am," March 5], hoping for something new or revealing. Instead, Mr. Ventura has chosen to slam the indomitable filmmaker over the accuracy of his film according to his interpretation of the Gospels, writings that have more interpretations than they do translations, each one a spin on the one previous. Why can't Gibson, who bankrolled the film, directed it, and executed the most innovative marketing campaign since Barney the purple dinosaur, interpret the Scriptures through his faith, show the world his spiritually guided vision? Is that not what artists do?
   Ventura goes to great lengths to appear establishment and conformist with his accusatory diatribe. He says Matthew was written circa 75-85CE, or 45-55 years after Jesus was crucified. Why on Earth would a guy wait 45-55 years to write down what was undeniably the most significant event in his life, in anyone's life at the time? Why wouldn't he have written it down as it happened, or shortly thereafter while it was fresh in his mind? How many details could he have forgotten or could have been sanitized away from an accurate version, told and retold, edited and re-edited, by countless pontiffs, Caesars, and priests during the 45 years before the manuscript was "released" to the masses as a defining historical document and code of behavior?
   I thank Gibson for his vision that, at least, brings new relevance to the singularly most significant act in the history of Christianity, spoken in a visual vernacular designed to penetrate even the most jaded senses in an era of sensory overload. To compete with films like XXX, The Matrix, and Kill Bill, Gibson had to push the envelope. God forbid he push a sacred cow into St. Peters. It is as it was.
Banning K. Lary
   [Ventura responds: My objection wasn't to Gibson's right to make his film; I object to Gibson's claim that his film accurately reflects our primary sources, the Gospels. Gibson has said, and has let others say on his behalf, that, in effect, "it is as it was." No. It is as he imagined it to be, and his version often contradicts the Gospels. That's his right. But there should have been a brief notice at the beginning of the film – as there is at the beginning of Martin Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ – to the effect that this is Gibson's interpretation and that he departs from the Gospels considerably.]
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