Passion of Christ Review

by Andrew Staker (mallowisious AT hotmail DOT com)
March 15th, 2004

The Passion Of The Christ

Mel Gibson's got the whole world talking Christ.

Personal beliefs and politics shouldn't come into a discussion about a film, especially a blockbuster, which sweeps across everyone with its own sense of inertia. Mel's Christ (James Caviezel) is definitely more human than God, and great pains are taken to illustrate this point. In some places, the suffering leaps off the screen and this has created some reactions: a woman in the US died of a heart-attack and others accuse him of creating a sadistic gore-fest.

That there is violence is indubitable. I would argue how much is shown is up to the filmmaker's reading of mytho-history. We should not hesitate to distinguish between his rendition and what really happened (which we may never know). We must not accept this Passion as the definitive one.

The performances from Maia Morgenstern as Mary and Monica Belluci as Magdalen work together with Caviezel's in producing most of the film's power. Certain surreal elements like the ever-tempting Satan (Rosalinda Celentano) add dimensionality to the look and feel, which in other places gets thin: for example, the clumsy costumes or claustrophobic set.

As far as the anti-Semitic claims go, I was searching hard for a justification. Saying that no one is demonised is silly. It's obvious that the Temple seniors are after the head of Jesus. After being passed between Herod and Pilate, the Romans let the Jews kill their own King—whom they welcomed five days prior. Romans and Jews share the burden, although the cruelty of the Romans reaches caricature levels by the end.

Personally speaking, the film's greatest achievement is managing to get everyone to talk Aramaic and street Latin in a thoroughly convincing way. I think even if Gibson had proceeded as originally intended—that is, no English subtitles—The Passion would have been viewable: almost everyone knows the story.

Given the huge fight taking place in America between the Religious Right and Gay Rights activists, it's difficult for our community not to turn on the Christian churches and dismiss its applied morality as discriminatory. Obviously most of this is true. However, the metaphysics that underlies the story of the Messiah is persuasive as drama even to an atheist, if for no other reason than its universal, bottom-up outlook and aspirations.

Andrew Staker

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