Animated icons: Narrative and Liturgy in The Passion of the Christ
Only slightly less surprising than Mel Gibson’s decision to make a Christian film about the Passion of Christ, using Aramaic and Latin dialogue with vernacular sub-titles, was the phenomenon of the film’s extraordinary success. The Passion of the Christ broke box office records, topped league tables, established itself with striking rapidity as one of the most popular religious films ever made, and even gave mainstream popular cinema a run for its money . Recent releases on video and DVD have sustained this popularity. But admiration of the film is by no means universal. There has been a huge gap between the film’s hospitable acceptance by popular audiences, and the critical reception it met in newspapers and magazines (see North 2004). A UK national daily contained two league tables in one edition: the Film Critic’s ‘Top Ten Choices’, and the ‘Top Ten Box Office Hits’. In terms of contents both lists were identical, expect for one variation. The Passion of the Christ topped the box office table, but failed to feature at all in the list of the film critic.