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« on: May 14, 2006, 06:42:50 AM »

Damien's second coming is a bad omen for Church
By Dalya Alberge
First the Da Vinci Code and now this. The remake of a 1970s horror film presents another test of faith
JUST as the Church is fighting the fictional account of Jesus in The Da Vinci Code, it is now facing the onslaught of another supposed revelation. Film audiences are being asked to take as gospel a contemporary interpretation of the coming of the Antichrist in the Book of Revelation.

Thirty years after Gregory Peck and Lee Remick filmed the The Omen, Michael Gambon and Mia Farrow are starring in a remake by Twentieth Century Fox that links the biblical text’s prophecies on the beginning of Armageddon to modern-day disasters — notably September 11, the War on Terror and the tsunami.

Chapter 13 of the Book of Revelation warns of the coming of the “beast”, the Anti-christ, whose number is 666.

John Moore, the film’s director, told The Times yesterday that the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia had blocked plans to shoot part of the film there, including a scene in the Vatican where a cardinal convinces the Pope that there has never been a more ripe time for the Anti-christ to assert his power. The character refers to real-life disasters.

In Prague, the studio encountered difficulties in getting permission to shoot around and inside churches. Most of the filming was done in Italy.

The Omen tells the story of an American ambassador in Britain who, out of love for his wife, allows a hospital priest to replace their dead baby with another child whose mother has died in childbirth. The couple name him Damien and raise him as their own, only to find sinister events revolve around him — he is the Antichrist.

The new film will be “unnerving”, its director said. “David Seltzer’s script is very well-researched, so, when they pick up a Bible, people will realise that he didn’t make this up.”

The Omen’s worldwide release on June 6 (or 6.6.06) follows the world premiere next Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival of The Da Vinci Code. Catholics upset by the plot of Dan Brown’s novel have threatened to picket the film. Ron Howard, the director, also had problems in shooting it. Westminster Abbey refused to allow any filming there.

On being told about The Omen’s reinterpretation of the Book of Revelation, Timothy Bradshaw, a scholar of Christian doctrine at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, expressed concern, saying that young people were growing up unaware of the Bible and its teachings.

“Their main take on the figure of Christ is through The Da Vinci Code and films,” he said. “The Church has had a hiding to nothing from the film industry. Speculative twaddle is getting ingrained into the popular mind. It’s very worrying.”

But Moore, 36, argues that the entire Bible is open to interpretation. “The Book of Revelation is about revelation. It’s nothing but a premise to be interpreted,” he said.

Although brought up a Catholic, he is not a regular churchgoer. After making films such as Behind Enemy Lines, an adventure with Gene Hackman, he wanted to remake The Omen because he thought it relevant to today.

“There has never been a more salient time to remind people that evil is neither a concept nor a theory,” he said. “It has a human face. In just the past four years alone, the world has been hit with devastating events — political, natural and man-made. One can’t help but notice a certain momentum.”

But the Rev Lionel Fanthorpe, an Anglican priest and author of Mysteries and Secrets of the Templars: The Story Behind the Da Vinci Code, said of The Omen: “The fundamentalist wing will be very upset. My brotherly advice as a priest is, ‘Hold on tightly to your truth and it will stand like a rock in a stormy ocean’. ”

Damien's second coming is a bad omen for Church

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