Passion of Christ Review

by Rose 'Bams' Cooper (bams AT 3blackchicks DOT com)
March 8th, 2004

'3BlackChicks Review...'


Rated R; running time 127 minutes
Studio: Newmarket Film Group
Genre: Historic/Religious
Seen at: Eastwood Neighborhood Cinema Group (Lansing, Michigan) Official site:
IMDB site: Language Latin and Aramaic, with English subtitles Cinematographer: Caleb Deschanel
Writer: Benedict Fitzgerald, Mel Gibson;
translated into Latin and Aramaic by Bill Fulco
Director: Mel Gibson
Cast: James Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci,
Mattia Sbragia, Hristo Naumov Shopov, Claudia Gerini,
Luca Lionello, Rosalinda Celentano

Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 2004
Review URL:

I watched this dramatized version of the final twelve hours of Jesus Christ's life, the day it came out - Ash Wednesday, 2004 - and days later, I am still stunned. So stunned, in fact, that it has taken me this long to get a grasp on writing about it. I find I cannot be objective about this film, or write about it with my usual flippant, irreverent style. My time in the theater that day was the most personally intense, and intensely personal, experience I have ever had while watching a movie. So if reading totally subjective observations on an experience while watching a film, written with built-in biases unassailed, and with very little actual "reviewing" done, isn't your bag, I totally understand. Stop reading at the end of this paragraph, and look for objectivity elsewhere, no worries. Take this as my greenlight rating, and see you in my next review.

It should've been simple; I had had a plan. I went into THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, armed with a quote that I had recently read--

    "In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,'
    and then they would actually change their minds and you
    never hear that old view from them again...I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or
    religion." -Carl Sagan

--but after I came out, I knew a different quote was more appropriate:
    "What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul."
    -Jewish proverb

If that last proverb is right, then my soul should be clean; I know it's not, but it should be. Because I cried as I've never cried before during THE PASSION. And just when I thought I was all cried out, I went home, talked to my husband about the movie and how it affected me - and cried even longer, and harder. The memory of that still amazes me, even now. I didn't know I had it in me to let go to that extent.
I've often said in my reviews of films and plays of a religious bent, that I am a "lapsed Baptist". It's not a boast - at least, I don't mean it to be - but it's definitely something I was cognizant of before I went to see THE PASSION. I haven't been to Church since I was 16; for context, I'm currently 41. Sure, I've visited the building from time to time for weddings and such; but memories of nasty Deacons who would make pedophile Priests look like saints, as well as a lack of understanding what I do or don't believe in, has kept me out of the whole religious chain. Because of all that, I didn't expect to be moved by this film, one way or another. I went in looking for signs of anti-semitism and director Mel Gibson's bent towards manipulation of the audience. Whether either aspect was there, is a topic for later debate; but what I did find *for myself*, was a reckoning of sorts.

There were two times when I was brought out of the moment: the brief period between the scourging and crucifixion scenes, and especially the rather amateurish look of the film directly after the crucifixion. Strangely enough, the ShakyCam(tm) and God's Tear moments, actually brought some needed "comic" relief at a time when the weight of the rest of the movie, threatened to be too heavy. In fact, without those two moments, I would've had a tougher time remembering that this was "just" a movie, told from a flawed, biased point of view, with no more factual knowledge that any of the events depicted actually happened, than anyone who says it didn't happen, has.

But that's not what I left the movie feeling, and it's not what I felt while watching it. My immediate reaction was that it was beautifully shot, and later, that Maia Morgenstern's eyes were so full of agony, it startled me. That reaction didn't last long; in fact, after the severe beatdown of Christ began...and kept on going, and going, and was hard for me to do anything but weep at first, then sob uncontrollably. And all those stories I'd heard during Sunday School, and the Easter plays at church, and even the most simple prayer ever ("Jesus wept"), started to make sense to me on a personal level, in a way that the mere rote and repetition of Bible verses, never could.
This, more than anything, is what the experience of watching THE PASSION boils down to for me: at its bare essence, it makes what was once shrouded in mystery and mumblings, and in hell and brimstone shoutings, accessible in an immediate way. It did this for me, anyway; I cannot say it can, will, or *should* do the same for anyone else, Christian or Atheist, Jew or Gentile, believer, doubter, or 'tweener like me. And though the more scholarly amongst us are debating these issues now, at least some of us are talking about it, and not just dismissing it outright (or conversely, accepting it as The Only Truth).

If Gibson set out to manipulate me, then he succeeded. Because I sat there, wanting to atone for sins I hadn't personally committed, for people I never knew, and for the ugliness of a world that would so heinously persecute an innocent man such as Christ. I can't tell you what The Bible says about this or that, because I don't know it very well. I can't denounce Jesus, because I believe He existed, though I'm still shaky on the details. I can't even say whether or not Jews should claim it's anti-semitic. I don't believe it to be, but I'm not Jewish, so the most I can do is give my reasons for why I don't believe that, to whomever asks. All I know is, that if that's how and why Jesus was killed - and I do believe He existed and was killed (and not in an very nice manner) - then wouldn't me trying to live a good life, be the least I could do to say thanks, JC? Seriously, what would it hurt for me to try to be a good person, after seeing all that? I can't say I've succeeded; but I am giving it an honest attempt.

I've previously mentioned that THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST gets my greenlight rating. Unlike most of my other greenlight reviews, I can tell you that I have absolutely no desire to see this movie again, because I was so emotionally drained by it the first time, and I Get It as far as anything I can get out of a film. I encourage others to watch it, with the knowledge that it can be a very painful thing to witness, and is, *of necessity*, very violent (I agree with Gibson's choice for this; far too many previous depictions of Christ's final hours would have you believe He was going on a midnight stroll, not being put to a brutal death For The Sins Of The World). See, and judge, for yourselves.

    THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST rating: greenlight

Rose "Bams" Cooper
Webchick and Editor,
3BlackChicks Review
Entertainment Reviews With Flava!
Copyright Rose Cooper, 2004
EMAIL: [email protected]

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