Spirit Daily


Gibson Saw 'Big Dark, Palpable, Force' While Filming The Passion

By Michael H. Brown

This is not just the story of a movie. If it were, we wouldn't be covering it so regularly. No, this matter with Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ and the extraordinary hoopla is a religious event that can be classed only as major spiritual warfare.

It comes at a time when there is an infusion of grace and also a step-up in the battle with evil.

So intense is the battle that Gibson has raised the prospect that for him the movie will be a "career-breaker." We think he will come out fine. We know the devil will lose. But we also know that winning means knowing where evil is, and Gibson seems fully cognizant of that.

"We had a service every morning," Gibson told the Catholic network, EWTN. "Jim and I were both sticklers about not going to work until we were armored up, all tooled up, we had to slip the armor on and go for it, because we were vulnerable. There's a big dark force that didn't want us to make the film. It's completely palpable while you're doing it, and if you don't venture into these areas, you never notice it. These things start coming into play big-time."

Consider what the crew went through. During the filming there were obstacles like cold and sickness and (according to widespread reports) even lightning that struck the actor -- Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus. No doubt, there are many such stories. Gibson himself was ill through much of the filming. They weren't even done editing when a reporter from The New York Times -- no great friend to Catholicism -- began snooping around, eventually writing a piece for the powerful Sunday Magazine that focused on Gibson's traditionalist Catholicism and its potential problems with Rome.

It was the involvement of The Times that spurred Gibson into a dramatic appearance on a TV program, the Bill O'Reilly Show, where the controversy first took real root.

That was before the article even ran, and it kicked off all kinds of commotion -- as did the article itself (not really that bad a story, but one creating fears within the Jewish community) the following March 9.

Soon, some Jewish organizations (by no means all) were screaming that in portraying the role of Jews in the Crucifixion -- and in so vividly recreating the scene at Golgotha -- Gibson was acting in a way that was anti-Semitic.

Chalk that up as another spiritual attack. The hallmarks of Satan include confusion, division, fear, and the devil's specialty of false accusation. None of which is surprising: If he is not going to attack a realistic portrayal of the Passion by a major celebrity -- right there in Hollywood, the belly of the beast, in a way that may actually begin to reverse some of the cinematic evil, and is bound to open many eyes to what Jesus went through -- he is going to attack nothing.

Gibson, who produced the film and spent a reported $25 to $30 million of his own money to make it, believes a group of scholars comprised of Christians and Jews stole a script and used it as the basis for their attacks, according to other reports. When he approached studios for financing or distribution, they wanted nothing to do with it -- even though there were early indications that it was an extraordinary movie. That was all followed by other attacks in major newspapers like The Los Angeles Times and The New York Post. Most recently, there was the unfortunate flap over whether the Pope had endorsed it. The devil used this in an effort to besmirch both the Vatican and Gibson.

As for that strange lightning: according to "VLife," a supplement to the entertainment magazine Variety, the assistant director, Jan Michelini, was dubbed "Lightning Boy" after lightning struck his umbrella during filming on a hilltop in Matera, Italy. "He suffered light burns on the tips of his fingers," reported Associated Press. "A few months later, while the crew was on a remote location a few hours from Rome, a storm rolled in and Michelini, again carrying an umbrella, was standing beside star Jim Caviezel on top of a hill, the publication said. 'I'm about a hundred feet away from them,' producer Steve McEveety was quoted as saying, 'when I glance over and see lightning coming out of Caviezel's ears. Both Caviezel and Michelini got struck this time. The main bolt hit Caviezel and one of its forks hit Michelini's umbrella.'"

According to the National Catholic Reporter, one lightning strike occurred "on December 5, the day the Pope saw the first part of the film."

Ah, yes: spiritual warfare. Did not Satan fall as lightning?

And does he not come in our own time under various, often pleasant guises?

Satan is a key figure in the movie. Gibson himself realizes the devil's guiles in a way that's extraordinary for someone in Hollywood.

"If you're going to see the devil, then it's going to come in the form of a sort of symmetrically beautiful woman's face with a man's voice and if you look at it the wrong way a little bit, there's something diabolical about it," Gibson said in an interview with EWTN's Raymond Arroyo. "But on the surface, no. That's how the devil is, to me. It'll come that way, or it will come in the form of a child. And then turn all of a sudden. It's frightening that it can be deception itself -- that it takes the form of something harmless, but there is a ravenous beast underneath. I didn't want it to be the thing with the horn with the steam coming out its nose, because I don't believe that's how the devil comes on you. I believe there is a devil and I believe when he or she or it comes, it's in a form that has to be the most seductive and that it doesn't necessarily signal -- I'm evil!

"The devil is often called the great ape of God. He likes to imitate in a way that is just a little off. But he's not capable of being original -- he can only imitate. It can be quite pleasing on the surface, but there's something a little wrong which you find out if you rip back the surface: maggots. It's not about us. It's about principalities, the big war that's going on. The dark and the light realms are sort of battling over us and the battle happens. We can't see it, but it's there."

Janurary 2004

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