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Audience reacts to Gibson film

Crowd reaction to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ” brought mostly words of praise for the film and its director following an advance showing Monday night at the Regal Cinema in Farragut.

More than 600 people turned out to view the film during day one of a two day showing, which was underwritten by Dr. Pete Sulack of Exodus Chiropractic in Farragut.

Sulack said, after the showing, that the seats were all filled and that 100 people were on a waiting list to get in.

Moviegoer Stephen Defur of Knoxville said, “I think it’s pretty right-on. It was absolutely incredible. It’s probably one of the most powerful movies I’ve ever seen.”

Michael Case concurred with Defur and added that the film came close to making him speechless. “It was an astonishing movie. Whether you believe one way or another, you’ll leave not being able to say anything. Whether you believe one way or another, it touches you somewhere. It’s a remarkable film,” he said.

Case added that he attended the showing because of “the hype, the controversy, just the curiosity … to see how true it was (to the Bible).”

Renee Busse said that the hype was one of the things that attracted her to the picture. “All the comments about it,” she said. “I was curious and then I wanted to see what happened to Jesus, the way (Gibson) would portray it. The whole movie (Jesus) is suffering … it is very emotional. But, I think it’s quite accurate.”

Busse’s daughter, Arlene, also thought the film was an accurate portrayal of the last 12 hours of Christ’s life, but difficult to watch. “I thought it was very accurate to the Bible,” she said. “It was extremely moving. It’s one thing to learn it, learn the Bible and study the Bible and believe the Bible your whole life and then see that portrayed on the screen is difficult and emotional. It was graphic, very graphic.”

Frank Bealer agreed that the film was graphic, but praised Gibson for balancing the film. “It was an incredible picture of what Jesus did for us,” he said. “It basically showed his passion. It was balanced, though, by showing what (Jesus) did throughout his life. It constantly balanced out the graphics. It was a very bold statement and bold step. I don’t think it will hurt (Gibson’s) career.”

Bealer added that the film would challenge the “unchurched” moviegoers to ask some questions. “Hopefully, the churched will take some time and answer and have some great discussion. I think (the movie) will have more effect than the Super Bowl as far as discussion ‘around the water cooler,’” he said.

“(Gibson) had to make it so clear-cut, so strong, so people can recognize the difference between fun-and-games and something that’s true.”

John Smiley thought the movie was “very moving. As a Christian, I was interested in seeing and supporting a movie with a Christian theme.”

Dwayne Webster said that for him the movie helped bolster his vision of what happened during the crucifixion. “I’ve had dreams and visions of what might have happened (historically). I can’t imagine how anyone but Christ could carry the burden of our sins.”

Farragut resident Marian Breaux said she wished the beating of Christ would have stopped. “I knew it happened,” she said about the crucifixion, “but to see him so brutally beaten … I was getting nauseated. I didn’t realize it was so brutal. You wish (the Romans) would have stopped (beating Christ).”

Several students from Farragut High School were also in the audience.

Hope Tourville said the film “made me cry.” She added the film had good meaning and that it made her “feel good at the end.”

With Tourville was Caroline Hemeter, who said she thought the film was ‘really graphic,” but added, “that’s how (the crucifixion) happened.”

Daphne Lin, also in the FHS group, added that she “didn’t expect it to be that moving. It was pretty stirring.” Lin said, “I don’t know if it would have gone down that way. It gave me more perspective. I haven’t decided for myself if that’s what happened or not.”

Rounding out the FHS group was Kiely Concannon who said, “I’m a Christian, and I wanted to see (the movie) to see if that’s how I thought (the crucifixion) would be. Most of the things I could remember reading in the Bible.”

A general consensus of those interviewed following the first showing was that the film would be recommended to friends and family. The movie opened yesterday nationwide. Knoxville area theaters report that most showings are sold out through Saturday.

(Tracy K. Morgan contributed to this story.)

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