people know better than to aspire to the honors of men. Good
thing, too, because watching The Passion of the Christ
might confuse you into thinking that Mel Gibson is bucking
for all kinds of accolades. It's epic, it's bombastic, and
it's extremely well-directed. It's also a clearly personal
film for Gibson, a statement of his belief so strong that
it feels like voyeurism sitting through the film.
it also feels a bit like a snuff film, so unrelenting is the
director in portraying the suffering of Jesus' (Jim Caviezel)
last twelve hours. Also like a film of dubious distinction,
The Passion of the Christ offers very little in the
way of character development or plot. This is a film designed
to appeal on a gut level, calling upon your emotions at the
price of letting you think. At that, it's very effective.
if you are a true believer, and think that testimonies of
faith are laudable in and of themselves, and should be supported
no matter what, read no further. Most of this review will
not make you happy. In fact, some of you should have left
after the first paragraph.
flaw with the movie is that despite its obvious meaning to
the filmmaker, it's meant for those who already know the story.
That's not everybody, and even if you do know it, you have
to know it really well in order to understand who's who and
why they're doing what they're doing. It also has, understandably,
an extremely Catholic perspective, hence the blood and focus
on the Crucifixion itself.
major points are here. Though the film follows the Gospel
narrative fairly closely, going from Gethsemane to the Resurrection
(sorry for ruining the ending), Gibson also flashes back to
some of the key moments of Jesus' adult life. But for the
most part, it's just light brushes with history, not helped
by all the dialogue being in Aramaic and "street" Latin, though,
man, it's a cool touch.
you see Judas (Luca Lionello) betray Jesus in the garden with
a kiss. It's a moment memorialized in metaphor, but for some
reason the screenplay, by Benedict Fitzgerald and Gibson,
has no time to explain what led up to this point. If you want
to understand why Jewish religious leaders of the time were
so upset, look elsewhere. Gibson wants to show you the histrionics,
but not the history.
the film has already garnered a reputation of being anti-Semitic.
Perhaps. Early on, a High Priest tries to dismiss the charges
against Jesus, but is shouted down by his fellows. Veronica
and Simon of Cyrene (Jarreth Merz) give some aid as the Christ
carries his cross up to Calvary.
it's going to be in the eye of the beholder. If you go in
looking for anti-Semitic statements, they could be pretty
easy to find. The film has only one source for adaptation
because we simply don't have any other points of view on these
events. The Romans get a better rap (according to the book);
in particular, Hristo Shopov gives a fine performance as the
conscience-stricken Pontius Pilate, unable to stand against
the will of the people.
it be noted that it's not all of the people, for all the good
it may do. Yes, Jewish leadership of the time gathered to
condemn Jesus, and at times in the chaos of the film, it seems
as if all of Israel is against him.
an angry mob itself, the film moves inexorably toward its
climax, scarcely giving the audience a chance to breathe.
Some will be moved by the constant violence, not content to
just know that Jesus suffered. At times, it veers into being
numbing. Certainly, The Passion of the Christ is the
bloodiest film of the year. Freddy and Jason have to work
awfully hard to top it, and yet many of this film's core audience
would never go to a horror film. Try to ignore that
pervasive smell of irony.
offer both quiet and real emotional depth. While in most of
those scenes, Caviezel ends up just quoting scripture, Gibson
throws in a moment of Jesus practicing his carpentry at home.
The real warmth Caviezel has as an actor glows in this sequence,
shared with Maia Morgenstern as Mary. Between the two, in
the span of a minute, we get the emotional high point we need
to carry through a lot of the gore.
also has another showcase moment watching Jesus fall, and
remembering him falling as a child. For all its bombast, the
film does paint a human portrait - if you can see it under
all the crimson.
much of it plays like an action film. When the Pharisees come
for Jesus in the garden, the fight that breaks out could easily
have been directed by Michael Bay, full of slow-motion moves
and replays from different angles. All the better, perhaps,
to point out that "he who lives by the sword, dies by
has also veered from the Gospels by adding in some scenes
with Satan (Rosalinda Celentano). While effective in context,
and making sure you understand the film's viewpoint relative
to Jesus' divinity, there is no doubt that Saturday Night
Live will be appropriating that imagery by the end of
Passion of Christ may horrify as many people as it enthralls.
It stands as a towering achievement, but like Babel, the film
reaches further than it can actually hold.
a side note, this seems as good a place as any to recommend
my new favorite interpretation of the story of Jesus, Lamb
: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
by Christopher Moore. Yeah, the title may sound a little blasphemous,
but that, too, is in the eye of the beholder. Truthfully,
as a Christian, I got more food for thought out of this book
than I did Gibson's flagellant film.