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The Passion Of Jesus Christ

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Judy Thorburn

The Passion Of Jesus Christ

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Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

“THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST” ACCORDING TO MEL GIBSON

Unless you have been stuck on a desert island or have had your head in the sand, it is impossible not to be aware of the controversy surrounding Mel Gibson’s latest film, The Passion Of The Christ. Although he does not portray a character, Gibson is the man behind the making of this film in every aspect, as producer, co-writer (with Benedict Fitzgerald) to director.  He invested $25 million (or $30 million, depending on the information source) of his own money to make this project, and it is his “vision” of the final twelve hours of Jesus of Nazareth, who a great portion of humanity believe to be the savior of Mankind, the Lord who was born in the flesh and destined to die on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.

Gibson is a self proclaimed literal traditional Catholic, who based the movie on the four Gospels of the New Testament and draws a great deal from another book, The Dolores Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ written by a Catholic nun, Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824), who claimed to have visions and could see into the past events as they occurred.  But, The Passion is primarily Gibson’s interpretation of the last hours leading up to the crucifixion. Using Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin as the spoken dialogue, with English subtitles, Gibson creates an authenticity of the time and place and a sense of realism not seen in any other portrayal of the crucifixion in the history of motion pictures.  And, although he claims this film to be a literal, faithful adaptation of the Gospels, he has taken artistic and creative license to justify what is essentially his own passion. Gibson has stated that he is a devout Catholic and has rejected any reforms made by the Vatican Council since the 1960’s. Therefore, the Passion of Christ must be viewed with additional knowledge and background of where the filmmaker is coming from.

As a film critic who truly believes that movies are a powerful medium capable of creating influence and generating emotional impact on its audiences, I went into the screening with an open unbiased mind, but I left with enormous disappointment and deep anguish as a result of what I had just witnessed.  Mel Gibson has said on many talk shows that reenacting the torture, suffering and pain of Jesus was cathartic for him. In an interview with an Australian newspaper he stated “I had to use the passion of Christ to heal my wounds” referring to his many years of drug abuse and inner turmoil that led to contemplation of suicide. It is obvious that his obsession with human torture and pain has transcended to the utmost proportions with this film. It was visible in his violent, 1995 Oscar winning Braveheart and continues here. Does he feel that the making the Passion will finally absolve him of his sins and act as his redemption?

Let me make this very clear. The Passion of the Christ, according to Mel Gibson, is supposed to be a very religious experience, a sacrifice in the name of love that is no greater. But, what Gibson delivers is an almost unbearable two hours of excessive brutality, relentless cruelty, suffering and pain. Rated R, this is most definitely NOT for children or the faint of heart. Gibson’s Passion focuses entirely on two things. First and foremost, the horrific beatings are so graphically delivered, with blood and gore, that it is almost impossible to describe and emotionally gut wrenching. And, secondly there are strong implications of who is to blame for Jesus’ suffering and death, although according to the Divine Plan as written in the New Testament, each character’s role in this story was preordained in order for the ultimate price to be paid.

The Passion of Christ opens as Jesus is praying to his Father in the Garden at Gethsemani where he is challenged by an androgynous Satan as to why he must carry such a heavy burden, and proceeds on to his betrayal, arrest, conviction on trumped up charges, horrific flogging, procession to the cross, crucifixion, death, and a brief glimpse of resurrection.  We are witness to the savage scourging by muscular sadistic Roman centurions who used whips, canes and cat o nine tails that tear into Jesus’ skin and rip him apart beyond any extent that any human could have survived. This does not include the other violent acts of brutality that were inflicted upon him and shamelessly beat into us as if enough wasn’t ever enough to portray the extent of Jesus’ suffering. It is as though belief in Him can only be measured by the extent of how much we could endure. No matter what your religious faith is, it is impossible not to be moved to tears by the intense acts of violence inflicted on one man.

And who is to blame for delivering Jesus to his death? Gibson says he is not anti-Semitic but, his actions at the most proves otherwise, and at the least shows lack of sensitivity in fueling the fires of hatred.  This is especially significant with regard to the European and Arab nations who will be seeing a version of the movie that includes an inflammatory subtitle removed from the American screenings proclaiming that his blood be on us (implied as the Jewish people) and all our children.  Considering the political and religious climate of those regions this can easily ignite simmering prejudices that many will see as ammunition for their evil cause. I hope I am wrong.

The Jews in general, lead by the High Priest, Caiphas (Mattia Sbragia) with the exception of his followers, are clearly depicted as bloodthirsty, demanding Jesus be put to death for claiming to be the Messiah while Pontius Pilate, the historically brutal Roman Governor, who was criticized for gladly ordering excessive crucifixions, and oversaw the control of the Jews and authority in the region, was shown as sympathetic to Jesus. Unless a viewer is biblically educated and aware of the political and religious atmosphere of the time without knowing and understanding the pretext of events, they will walk away believing Gibson’s depiction of the Passion as absolutely accurate.

As a cinematic work Gibson has created a visually stunning and emotionally powerful epic that is in a class by itself.  The artful cinematography by Caleb Daschanel brilliantly captures the darkness as a metaphor to the evil surroundings.  Jim Caviezel (Frequency) heads the international cast of mostly unrecognizable faces to American audiences, and he embodies the inner fortitude and strength of Jesus with undeniable conviction. But, neither Maia Morgenstern as Mary, Jesus’ mother nor beautiful Monica Bellucci (The Matrix Reloaded) as Mary Magdalene evoke enough anguish and sorrow. They basically appear in shock with an occasional tear flowing down their face.  The audience in the theatre reacted with greater emotions.

Mel Gibson has accomplished what he set out to do in conveying the sacrifice and suffering of Jesus.  But, he failed to show the teachings and divine spirituality that led to the devotion of his disciples and followers.  The few flashbacks don’t convey enough about his life and message.  Agonizing visions of blood and gore does not inspire me. It is the love and ministry of the Master that makes me believe, in spite of how many times Gibson hit me over the head with his religious zealotry. But, if the movie does inspire people to become more loving, forgiving, tolerant and compassionate, that will be its saving grace.

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