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Tuesday 17 September 2019

State Papers 1988: Fury over film censor's decision to allow 'Last Temptation of Christ'

  

Controversy: Willem Dafoe as Jesus in ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’
Controversy: Willem Dafoe as Jesus in ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’

Ralph Riegel

The then-attorney general was urged to take action against Irish film censor Sheamus Smith in 1988 over the decision to allow the controversial film 'The Last Temptation of Christ' to be shown.

Private correspondence received by then-attorney general John Murray indicated public outrage over the decision to allow the film to be screened.

One letter, dated October 22, 1988, and received from Frank O'Meara, of Quin, Co Clare, demanded action.

"The film 'The Last Temptation of Christ' has been declared blasphemous of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made Man by the Catholic Church authorities," Mr O'Meara wrote.

He pointed out that 100,000 signatures had been collected against the showing of the film.

"The presence of the film in Ireland has given great offence to Catholics and Christians generally but apparently not to the film censor.

"It seems to me that by his recent decision, Mr Sheamus Smith, the film censor, has taken it upon himself to break the law against public blasphemy enshrined in our Constitution.

"He has also ignored public opinion.

"Can something be done about this?

"How can the law be upheld if paid public servants who are Department of Justice officials can feel free to break it with impunity at the highest level?" he wrote.

Mr O'Meara said he would refrain from going public on the issue until the attorney general replied to him or took prompt action.

Filmed entirely in Morocco, 'The Last Temptation of Christ' sparked global controversy in 1988 over the way it depicted Jesus as having been tempted by lust.

In one scene it depicted Jesus as imagining himself engaging in sexual activity.

Those scenes sparked outrage in many Christian countries with boycotts and protests marking many showings of the film.

Ironically, the movie proved a major disappointment at the box office.

It grossed just over $8.8m, around $1.8m more than its filming and production budget.

However, 'The Last Temptation of Christ' was critically acclaimed.

Director Martin Scorsese was nominated for an Academy Award.

Barbara Hershey, who played Mary Magdalene, was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

Rock star Peter Gabriel, who wrote the music for the film, was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Score.

Irish Independent

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