Mel Gibson's controversial religious film The Passion has been praised as the "best adaptation of THE BIBLE in Hollywood history" by an acclaimed American reviewer - who is also an orthodox Jew.

The epic has been condemned by a number of religious groups, but critic MICHAEL MEDVED spoke on television of his approval of the $25.6 million (GBP16 million) film, funded entirely by devout Roman Catholic Gibson.

Writer DAVID HOROWITZ, also an observant Jew, agreed, calling the film "an awesome artifact and an overpowering work".

These appraisals are wildly estranged from the ferocious criticism leveled at the production by certain religious groups who, after seeing a leaked copy of the script, branded the movie anti-Semitic.

A panel of three Jewish and six Roman Catholic scholars who studied the script concluded Jews were presented by Gibson as "bloodthirsty, vengeful and money-hungry".

However, a select group of film and literary critics have been shown a rough cut of The Passion - on the condition they did not write or speak about the contents without permission, because the picture is not released until next Easter (APR04).

06/08/2003 17:14