April 29, 2004

The Passion of the Christ

Any intellectual analysis of this film is less than worthless.

The Passion of the Christ is certainly the most powerful film ever made. No, I haven't seen every movie that's ever been made, but because of this starkest possible portrayal of this subject matter, I stand by my words. I cried. When the whip came down on his back, I felt it. I flinched in my seat. The film hits you on the most visceral of levels.

I am not a devout Christian. I'm not sure exactly where I stand on the scale of Christianness. When I was little my parents drug me to church, and I rejected it when I was about 12, refusing to go. This was probably just a form of youthful rebellion. I may have rejected the church, but I've never actually rejected Christ. I've taken my own spiritual path, neither inclusive nor exclusive of the Jesus guy. My knowledge of the gospels is limited, but I've usually thought that Christ's teaching is positive and beneficial. The subtle effectiveness of this film lies in the depiction of the fundamentals of Christ's teaching intertwined with his indescribable suffering.

I have to wonder how someone would respond or not respond to this film if they had no connection to or knowledge of the Christ. He or she probably just couldn't take it and would leave about 5 minutes into the punishment scene. (At the matinee I saw this afternoon a couple did get up and walk out during that scene.)

Naturally, a strong Christian would be completely blown away, seeing Christ's passion so graphically depicted. Here is the basic point, Mel Gibson did what he set out to do. I'm sure 99.5% of all Christians had no idea how much Christ truly suffered for them. And since Mel held nothing back, now Christians can experience this suffering firsthand, and their conviction can only be deepened.

I can hear somebody saying, "Hey, the Buddha didn't have to get the shit beat out of him." The Buddha didn't rise after three days either, but theological debate is not my thing so I'll let that go.

I am glad that Mel showed the rolling away of the stone. And he shows Christ completely renewed before ascension. No scars.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: I suppose I can see where Jews might get a little defensive if they saw The Passion of the Christ. But the fact that the Jews condemned Christ while the Roman governor wanted to let him go is absolutely NOT the point of the movie. What happened was Christ's destiny, and the particulars of how it came to pass is totally beside the point. Why hate Jews over it? If they hadn't gotten him crucified, he never would have arisen, and we wouldn't have a Christian religion. So, Christians should thank Jews if you ask me.

Another minor point: This film makes Jesus Christ Superstar look like an elementary school play. That thing was obviously just satire -- or at least it looks that way to me now.

A couple of days after this film was released, I saw Roger Ebert's review and was stunned when I read his words that "this is the most violent film I have ever seen." I thought, whoa, how many films has he seen? How many really violent films has he seen? Now I know what he was talking about. I don't know that I could bring myself to go again, but I am really glad that I saw it once. I was attracted by the controversy, but walked out of the theater in awe of the film's power.

Posted by Wayne at April 29, 2004 07:28 PM

Arthur C. Clarke once wrote a story about aliens finding a Disney cartoon film, and what they interpreted about the lost human race from that single remaining document.

Suppose that future alien visitors found a single undamaged DVD of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST and played the film. They would not be familiar with the context, so they'd see it without bias. What would they "read" from it?

The film, as it is (without advance knowledge) shows a frightened man being menaced, arrested, beaten up, questioned, then beaten up more, then killed... and then suddenly alive and unharmed in an unknown, undefined place... and the story ends before we get to know more.

If I were the alien audience, one POSSIBLE interpretation of the film's ending would be: "I see! It was just a bad dream, and the ending is when this being wakes up from the dream, with only two holes in its hands. The holes must have some profound meaning. Did the dream cause the holes?"

That's my problem with the film: it offers too little context. I'd like to see other Jesus films -- yes, more Jesus films, please -- which give more space to the teachings of Jesus.

Posted by: A.R. Yngve at April 30, 2004 09:15 AM

Yes I understand how more context could help, and this is a very just criticism of Passion. But I think that obviously Mel did this film for "believers." This film couldn't be used very well for evangelical purposes.

Perhaps he's got a follow up in mind? He can certainly afford to do one now.

Thanks for your comment! (Hey folks, click on his link. Mr. Yngve is a REAL writer. I need to put in these instructions: right-click on the link, and then select 'Open in New Window'.)

Posted by: Wayne at April 30, 2004 09:38 AM

Did you know the academy awards is not even considering The Passion of Christ for the awards.

Posted by: karen mitchell at January 7, 2005 10:25 PM

I saw that it was disqualified from nomination, basically due to some technicality regarding the fact that it is not in English. (I just tried to look this up and can't find anything however.) Since it's in Aramaic with English subtitles it's a foreign language film, and they aren't considered for best picture. That's okay so long as Fahrenheit 9/11 doesn't get nominated either, since it wasn't a documentary.

Posted by: Wayne at January 8, 2005 12:36 AM

"The Passion of the Christ" was only nominated for an award in Cinematography (see link below).


It seems that this was the only group in the Academy who was willing to get passed the content and politics and recognize excellence for what it was. There should have been nominations for acting, art direction, costume design, makeup, music, visual effects, writing, directing, etc. The Academy never ceases to disappoint year after year.

Posted by: Lee Balthazar at January 29, 2005 03:27 PM

Yes this film is quite excellent and is deserving of all the Oscars. But I didn't expect the academy to nominate something so controversial. The Last Temptation of Christ is one of the best movies I've ever seen and it got no nominations.

Posted by: Wayne at January 30, 2005 01:10 AM

what exactly was the purpose of this film? it was just inane torture, with no positive message, no inspiration, no education.

The only things shown in this film were things most people already know. Where is the insight? Where is the knowledge. Mel Gibson should be disgusted with this horror. Get an education and teach! Don't saturate society with more unsolicited violence.
Why did you make this film Mel?

Posted by: Terry treehorn at May 18, 2005 07:51 AM
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