IM this article to a friend!

April 16, 2004

Deaf talkabout: On equal terms, for a change, with the audience

From: Belfast Telegraph - Belfast,Nothern Ireland,UK - Apr 16, 2004

By Bob McCullough
16 April 2004

EVELYN and I saw The Passion of the Christ at a packed Strand cinema on the Holywood Road in Belfast.

It felt a bit strange taking our seats since we knew the film would be sub-titled because the dialogue being used was the Latin and Aramic of Bible times. For once, we were on equal terms with hearing members of the audience.

Very few people arrived after the start and nobody moved from their seats during the whole two hours of the film.

The subtitles were bold and clear and yet did not seem to interfere with viewers' enjoyment. It could be that modern audiences have become used to PowerPoint projection of hymns and other information during ordinary church services and increasingly in other public meetings.

It was our first visit to a cinema for years as, like most other deaf folk, we had long given up trying to follow the action on the big screen and had become spoiled by the abundance of subtitled TV programmes.

Deaf people are used to reading body language and, even without the subtitles, we would have been able to appreciate the pain and devotion of Jesus' mother, the abject fear and cowardice of Peter, the hatred and thirst for revenge of the spiritual leaders, and the quiet malevolence of the devil in the background.

But I was glad of the subtitles to help me understand the ambiguity of Pontius Pilate's position and the manner in which love and respect for his wife's warnings contrasted with his fear of Roman displeasure and the consequent danger to his reputation, and even his life, if he allowed a rebellion to develop over an obscure village preacher.

We watched horrified as the brutal beating and scourging went on. There has been some criticism of the prolonged savagery, but the text made it clear that cruelty was a way of life in the Roman Empire. Sentiment was something to be despised and the soldier in charge of the crucifixion seemed determined to make Jesus suffer as much as possible.

My wife and I exchanged no words on the way home. There seemed to be nothing to say. We had mixed feelings of awe, shock and revulsion at the horrible death. A little depressed and disappointed that the story had to end this way.

At home Evelyn referred to the lovely flashbacks in the film of Jesus at home with his mother as a child and young man - but, to me, it all felt so flat.

This was probably exactly what the disciples felt too - and Mel Gibson had brought home to us the excruciating pain and loneliness Jesus had to endure before the joy of Easter Day.

The film ended with an empty shroud fluttering to the ground in the darkness of the tomb and Jesus restored to life. No words were necessary.

Our congratulations to Barry Campbell and Susan Carroll on their engagement during the Easter break. Barry is top man in the Northern Ireland Deaf Youth Association and an active member of the deaf football team which has been doing so well in recent competitions."

© 2004 Independent News and Media (NI)