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Filmgoers see 'Passion' as a powerful lesson

February 26, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Amazing, powerful and life-changing were among the words stunned local moviegoers used to describe "The Passion of the Christ" Wednesday on its official day of release.

It was as if the two theaters inside Valley Mall Movie 16 were turned into mini-cathedrals for 127-minute blocks, as people said the movie itself was a moving religious experience

Many coming out of showings of "The Passion of the Christ" Wednesday were still in tears several minutes after the movie ended.

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Darla Shingler, who attended with her husband Tony Shingler, said only the coldest person could watch the movie without being deeply affected.

"As you can see, I cried a lot," Shingler said while holding up a box of tissues. "It made me sick to my stomach when they beat him with the whip."

"You can read the Bible, but I'm more of a person that needs to see something," said Dawn Folley of Greencastle, Pa. "This puts the Bible into a whole new perspective."

Sarah Webster, of Greencastle, Pa., said Mel Gibson did not deviate from the scripture in making the film. Webster, one of many who had the smudge of ashes on their foreheads from Ash Wednesday services earlier in the day, said it was the perfect time to view the film.

"It's Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent," Webster said. "The meaning of Lent is all about penance. Obviously, Jesus died for our sins."

Peggy Rager, of Falling Waters, W.Va., said she believes Christianity will become more of a priority to Christians who see the film.

"What 9/11 did for patriotism, this movie will do for Christianity," Rager said.

Tony Shingler agreed, saying the powerful film will have the ability to reach a large number of people and begin a widespread revival.

"More people are going to opt to go to a movie than church," he said. "And this is the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit."

Shingler said he believed the movie was more accurate than others he has seen in depicting the severe beating Christ took.

"Movies I've seen in the past did not do the crucifixion justice at all," Shingler said.

Shingler said he had no problem letting his 12-year-old daughter, Britney, watch the graphic film. She called it an inspiring film that was "interesting but sad."

Jessica Woodyard, 14, who attended with her mother Cindy Woodyard, said the film was hard to watch, but she wanted to go back in to see it a second time Wednesday.

"It was very touching, very emotional," Jessica said. "You almost felt like you were there."

Sharon Green, of Hagerstown, said she planned to see the movie again soon and bring her 14-year-old son. She said it is a good movie for children who are developed enough to understand the basic concepts of Christianity because they will be less likely to stray from religion as they get older.

"If they can watch 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre,' they can see this," Green said.

Not everyone was convinced it was appropriate for all audiences.

Mike Stambaugh, an employee at the mall theater, said the graphic images left silent the audience with which he saw it.

"Some of it is really gruesome," said Stambaugh, who said he was impressed by the film's powerful message. "I don't think young kids should see it."

Those questioned after the showings said they believed concerns about the movie voiced by many Jewish groups fearing the film will incite an anti-Semitic backlash, were not warranted.

"It does say the Jews ordered him to be crucified, but they're not going out of their way to point that out in the movie," said Kevin Grolton, another employee. "All the brutality is coming from the Romans."

Although several said it was the closest thing they've seen to a perfect movie, a few said it ended without telling some key parts of the story of Christ.

"We would have liked to see more of the Resurrection," said Cindy Woodyard, of Hagerstown. "It was brief, and really, that's what it's all about."

"I wish I could've seen the part when he spoke to the apostles after the Resurrection," Green said.

Green, in her first light-hearted moment since leaving the theater 10 minutes earlier, joked that maybe that would be in a sequel.

"I'd go see it," Green said with a smile on her face, but tears still in her eyes.

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