Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Faithful get early look
at powerful 'Passion'



By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Passion
An emotional Tara Ramsey and her aunt, Donna Thomas of Trenton, leave the AMC theater at Newport on the Levee after seeing an early preview of the movie, "The Passion of the Christ" Monday.
(Craig Ruttle/The
Cincinnati Enquirer)
Many people were emotionally moved by a special screening of Mel Gibson's film The Passion of The Christ on Monday night, but none more visibly than 21-year-old Tara Ramsey, who left the theater in tears.

"You read about it in the Bible, but you just don't know until you see that," said Ramsey, of Milford, who was comforted afterward by her grandmother and two aunts.

The film, which chronicles the last 12 hours of Jesus' life, officially opens Wednesday in thousands of theaters nationwide, but Ramsey and more than 400 guests of Harvest Pointe Christian Church were able to see an advance screening at the AMC theaters at Newport on the Levee.

THE PASSION
OF THE CHRIST

Enquirer coverage:
Faithful get early look at powerful 'Passion'
Is Christ film too violent for kids?
Controversial film stirring emotions

'Passion' big on Internet
Scholar takes Gibson to task
The greatest story ever told, and told, and told . . .

Talk about it:

For more:
Movie showtimes
Official trailer

"It was a powerful movie, but a little bit gory for my taste," said Patsy Morrison, 62, of Clifton, an Episcopalian.

Indeed, "powerful" was the word filmgoers used over and over as they exited the theater.

"I thought it was very good," said Sandy Lucas, 40, of Lebanon, a Catholic. She said the film drives home "what (Jesus) sacrificed for us."

Her husband, Brian Lucas, 37, said he was most moved by the Resurrection scene. "You hear the stories, but you don't envision how it really was. I think that was as close as you can get."

Don Beighle, 60, of Bethel, a member of Harvest Pointe Church, said, "I guess it's probably the best (film) about the life of Christ I've seen."

He was among several people who quibbled with portions of Gibson's interpretation of Scripture. Still, he was impressed.

"At the Crucifixion scene, I had tears in my eyes. It was really powerful. I had never seen anything that powerful in a motion picture before."

Some people were still sorting out their feelings as they left the theater.

"I don't know whether I feel sad or uplifted," said Joseph Beck, 37. The Owensville man is Catholic.

The film has generated a tremendous amount of interest in Greater Cincinnati and nationally. Churches are buying out theaters, encouraging the churched and unchurched to see the film.

Hope Church in Mason will bring about 1,000 people to screenings Wednesday and Thursday at Rave West Chester. Florence Baptist Temple in Burlington has reserved four screens - more than 900 seats - at Great Escape in Wilder for Sunday.

Faith Fellowship Church in Bridgetown this week will place 20,000 inserts in a west-side community newspaper to encourage people to see the film, then come to the church with questions. For five Sundays beginning the second week in March, the church will devote its message to issues raised by the film.

Certainly Gibson's interview on ABC-TV's 20/20 did nothing to hurt booming advance ticket sales.

"I wanted it to be shocking," Gibson told Diane Sawyer. "And I also wanted it to be extreme. I wanted to push the viewer over the edge. And it does that."

He also said he wanted people to see "the enormity of Christ's sacrifice."

Mission accomplished, those leaving the theater said.

John Robinson, minister at Harvest Pointe, said, "Most people don't consider everything that happened to people when they were crucified, with all the beatings. A lot of people didn't survive the beatings. For (Jesus) to go as far as he did was amazing.

"Hearing someone speak and tell the story doesn't stick with you like visualizing it. I think that's what Mel Gibson has done here, with the visual effects, is (present it) where you feel it on a gut level."

E-mail jjohnston@enquirer.com




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