Controversy and movies: it seems that we can’t have one without the other


The Master, the new Paul Thomas Anderson’s religious movie is about to come out in theater and it has already made some controversy… But is it not always the case? Each time a movie about religion is made, some people get angry and are not happy about it. This time, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix are the ones who face accusations and critics about this new movie.

Let’s go back to the 60’s, Elmer Gantry was an all new kind of movie, critics were being made about ministers in it and a rather negative portrait was made of them. The movie had faced some difficulties to come out and once it did, religious groups kept protesting about it, their aim being to discourage people from watching it… Nonetheless, the film won critical acclaim and Academy Awards for Brooks, Burt Lancaster and Shirley Jones.

Later on, in 1971, The Devils made by British director Ken Russell gave him some troubles with the Catholic Church (which condemned the movie) and local authorities. The movie was too outrageous for the Church since it included depictions of exorcism rituals and sexual orgies involving nuns. It still became a box office hit in the U.K.!

Even though a lot of religious movies were made, the most famous one would be without any hesitation, The Exorcist made in 1973. Maybe because it was inspired by a true story, or maybe because a lot of tales of supposed real-life demon visitation during production spread all over the world, the movie was a huge success and is still nowadays a reference when you talk about horror movies. Some say moviegoers were quite ill while watching it… Personally, I did not look at stairs like I used to once I saw the movie…

On a more recent scene, The Passion of the Christ directed by Mel Gibson had a strange turn of event. The movie shows only the Passion that the Christ endures before dying. It was acclaimed and supported by the Pope himself, Christian groups helped to promote the movie and it resulted in huge box office returns worldwide even though the Jew community raised charges of anti-Semitism against Mel Gibson and his film…

Finally, everybody remembers The Da Vinci Code made in 2006 by Ron Howard and all the polemics it raised amongst the Roman Catholic Church. But it appeared that people ignored the criticisms of the Church and huge audiences were drawn to the movie. The fact that the movie was a bestseller book written by Dan Brown probably helped it to get noticed.

This last polemic shows how people nowadays tend more to watch movies that are “prohibited” or criticized. They want to see what all the fuss is about. Just do not forget to keep an open-mind about them!

Of course, those are only some of the controversial movies that were made. We can add to the list Dogma, Priest, Tender Mercies or even The Last Temptation of Christ… among others.  

Flavia Nicolò

(20 settembre 2012)

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