LowComDom Performances Presents
Film Review - Passion of the Christ, The
I love it when a movie that hasn't got a shot in hell blows the doors off the box office. It's the world's way of telling Hollywood, or in this case the distributors, that they don't know everything about film.
Such is the story behind Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. This film depicting the last twelve hours in the life of Jesus, is also a endurance test for the film maker. Let's face it, this isn't a feel-good movie. It's not some shallow ditsy tale you can pop your bubble gum to. Convincing people to back, and later to book this film was an endurance test on Gibson's part.
The film opens in the Garden of Gethsemane. The last supper is over. Christ is having a panic attack. He is fully aware of what is to come. Satin is also there telling Jesus that a single man can not bear the sins of all of humanity. As the soldiers of the high priest approach, Jesus makes his decision, rejects Satin, and composes himself.
The basic thread of this story is well known to most of us: the accusations, the politics within the priesthood itself, Pontius Pilate's desire to stay out of the matter, King Herod wanting to be entertained, and finally Pilate's capitulation. These are minor pieces of this picture.
The real emphasis is on the torture Jesus must endure. First, he is beaten by the high priest's soldiers. He is even tossed off a bridge in chains. The most gruesome scene is where Jesus is whipped by the Romans. First with canes, and then with barbed cat of nine tails. The Roman's are depicted as blood thirsty animals, exceeding their orders to punish the man before him. If they were not stopped by a Centurion who appears to be disgusted by the actions of his men, the Romans would have flogged Jesus to death.
This scene is graphic, and powerful. A woman, sitting three chairs from me, began to cry uncontrollably. The scene is too long. The point is made, and the flogging goes on and on, becoming a handbook for how to inflict pain on a man. This scene alone should have earned the film an NC-17 rating.
The final exhibition of torture is the crucifixion. This follows a very drawn out march from the prison to Golgotha. Like the flogging scene, this is the point of the film. Jesus knew this would happen, and it would be pain beyond belief. Even with help, Jesus is physically beaten, and almost doesn't make the journey.
By comparison, the crucifixion marches right along. This may be because once Jesus is up on the cross, there's not much cinematic action, although if you think about it, this point in the story is far more important than his condition to walk a third of a mile.
Many have speculated whether or not this is an anti-Semitic movie. I always find this an interesting question since Jesus was a Semite. I know, the real question everyone wants to know is, 'Who killed Jesus?' Was it the Jews or the Romans? I think this misses the point of the picture. Jesus was a political figure. He entered Jerusalem on a donkey because he knew this was going to un-settle the high priest. He turned over the tables for the same reason. Jesus preached a message that put sand in the temple's machinery.
The high priest told Pilate to execute Jesus many times. Is that the Jews killing Jesus? No. That's one man calling for the death penalty.
Pilate is depicted as a poor politician fearful of his own life. He doesn't want to crucify Jesus, but sees a rebellion if he doesn't. I have a hard time buying this. All accounts indicate that Pilate was a ruthless man who would have had no problem killing another Jew.
The Romans are, as I mentioned previously, a pack of dogs. They enjoy inflicting pain. But are they the real killers? No.
This story has no meaning if you do not realize that Jesus wanted to die. By enduring the humiliation, and torture, the sins of man were heaped onto his shoulders. This is the weight that continuously throws him to the ground during the march to Golgotha. The crucifixion is the focal point of Christianity. Without it Jesus was just another preacher who said how good it would be if everyone was nice to one another. With the conscience decision to take on the sins of man, renounce Satin, and sacrifice himself, Jesus provides validity to Christianity. So my decision is that Jesus killed Jesus. He manipulated the people around him to do what he needed.
Over-all, this is a disturbing picture. Perhaps that is the point. If a religious icon was not the focus of the movie, people would say this was a vile piece of trash with no socially redeeming value. I think the rating should have been stronger. Although the audience for this film was much older than the normal theater attendee, the torture scenes are not for children. I did not enjoy this film. I think anyone who does must like ripping the heads off puppies. But, again, that's the point. The film is trying to give the audience a feeling for the sacrifice that Jesus made. Here was a man who walked into a meat grinder for a purpose. That's not enjoyable to watch, but not all movies need to be.
Directed by Mel Gibson
Released in 2004
MPAA Rating: R
Reviewed by Mongo