The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Bartunek discusses ‘Passion’ experience

Churchgoers and curious members of the public gathered inside Highland Park United Methodist Church last night to hear Father John Bartunek speak about his role as a consultant to The Passion of the Christ.

Bartunek spent a two-year period with director Mel Gibson advising him and members of the film’s crew. During that time, he wrote about his experiences and interviewed Gibson and other cast and crew. Gibson finally gave approval for an authorized behind the scenes book in late 2004.

“It has been a truly graced experience,” said Bartunek, an ordained Catholic priest.

The book, Inside the Passion, details the filmmaking process in a way that Bartunek hopes viewers of the movie appreciate the story even more.

“I truly believe that this film will go down in history as one of the great works of Christian art.”

Bartunek said his role behind the scenes was comparable to watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.

“The more I saw what was going into the film, the more I realized this was going to have a great impact.”

His first day on set was when Gibson was filming the flagellation scene, where soldiers are whipping and beating Jesus. Bartunek said that the whips were added in digitally, but each time the actors motioned to hit actor Jim Caviezel, Gibson squirted red water into the frame of the camera to show the bloodiness.

“He was hands-on because he wanted to get everything right.”

Bartunek recapped how Gibson became involved with the project, and why it was so personal for him.

“During the height of fame about 15 years ago, Mel got to the point where he had nothing to live for. He had the money and everything else that is supposed to make you happy, but he felt like he had nothing.”

Gibson went to visit his father, who at the time was living outside

Houston, and sought out his advice. His father encouraged him to turn to his faith, and Gibson began to read the Bible, catechism of the church and other texts. Over the subsequent years, Gibson decided that he wanted to make a film of the passion and finally secured funding in 2002.

“There were powerful people trying to squelch this film,” Bartunek said.

In response to criticisms of the film, Bartunek said that American culture does not value life “for its meaning, it does it for its convenience. This film shook our culture because some people don’t want God to be back in the mainstream.”

Bartunek thought movie critics were uncomfortable because “this film showed the suffering of people in the movie instead of just random violence.”

Bartunek believes that Gibson found the right balance between the graphic moments and more tranquil ones.

“I don’t like the term violence – this film is graphic because the event was in reality.”

Bartunek is currently touring the country giving lectures and promoting his book. He was ordained in 2003 and has worked as a high school history teacher, a professional actor and was a member of the Legionaries of Christ before entering the priesthood.

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