I just watched The Passion. I felt detached from most of the movie, probably because people had been prepping me to expect much blood and violence. Also, the knowledge that there was a Resurrection at the end, filled me with hope, not desolation. I did not cry or run out of the theatre, nor get a heart attack or stroke. I also did not think it was particularly anti-Semitic as there were many other good and kind Jews who did not want Jesus to die.
I was unshaken enough to take some notes (gasp). Here are my thoughts, in chronological order. [spoilers ahoy]
Scene One: A shivering, shaking Jesus? Fearful? I felt He would be reluctant, but would also know that the prophecies had to be fulfilled. That was His Father’s wish.
Even worse, an androgynous Satan? Please. We know evil is at work. There’s no need to have him/her sashaying around making jibes. The evil one will take on any form so as to lead man astray, and can be more dangerous when you do not realise he’s around.
The snake that fell between Satan’s legs and slithered up to Christ made me remember the good ol’ days of Genesis when there were only two lovers in the world and they went about buck naked. Jesus stomping on the snake? Symbolic, no doubt – He vanquishes evil. Let’s give a little leeway to artistic licence here.
I can understand that Judas regretted his act of betrayal. But to be confronted by a ghoulish howler, then attacked by demonic children, then led out into the wilderness to find a tree with a noose beside a decomposing donkey with tonnes of maggots and flies? Once again, too much focus on the evil one. And waay too much artistic licence.
The trials however were a good demonstration of how blameless Jesus was. Pontius Pilate (urged by a wife who seemed more involved with His cause than some of His own disciples) was politically aware, but ultimately took the easy way out. It was interesting to know why he wanted Jesus flayed badly – he hoped that that would be enough to appease the crowd (good point). However Jesus ended up being hideously tortured AND the high priests still wanted him crucified, so obviously that didn’t quite work out – except to God’s plan. Herod was a reveller in the middle of an orgy – very much like the ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ musical’s depiction. Pilate and Herod couldn’t find anything wrong with Him, so the high priests looked really frustrated and turned it into a Christ-versus-Caesar issue. “We have no King but Caesar”, they said. Hmm. What exactly was the First Commandment all about?
Most gruesome part? You guessed it – Jesus’s skin and flesh being ripped out by the whips with the metal hooks at the end of them. (Not surprisingly, the credits rollout at the end of the show listed a nurse and chiropractor.) This movie is NOT for the faint-hearted as you have to sit through the entire whipping, which goes on for quite a while.
Other nasty incidents include putting the crown of thorns on his head, and having two soldiers press them into his forehead until his temples were oozing blood. I also agree with Maria that that squidgy sound produced when they nailed his hands to the cross, was a little overdone.
Ridiculous part? Pilate’s wife running down to give Mary and Magdalene some towels during the flaying. Then running off, sobbing. Big artistic licence. And what on earth was Ms Satan doing, walking around with a baby that looked like Mini-Me? (I thought about this again and realised that as Mel Gibson is Catholic, it could represent the anti-Madonna and Child, whatever effect that was intended to have).
Some kudos to Gibson’s attention to gory detail. By the time Jesus carried the cross (with the help of a kind Jew, Simon) to His destination, you could notice that the whip lashes on his back became a little swollen. Also, memory flashbacks were used to remind us of Jesus’s previous teachings (turning the other cheek, loving thy neighbour, serving people by washing feet, not casting the first stone, the symbolism of the bread equating with His body…), tied back to his behaviour under persecution, to show He really practised what He preached.
The scene that made me shed a tear, was when Jesus turned to the other man crucified beside him, saying today he’d be with Him in paradise (a Phil Collins song comes to mind). Blessed indeed are those who do not see, and yet believe.
Then there was another rotten scene: The vulture attack. ‘Nuff said. The dark skies and earthquake that ensued after His death, were effective enough.
Lastly, I wish they’d show more of the Resurrection rather than watching a flash of James Caviezel’s butt. Gibson showed so much of Satan; what about the Angels??
All in all, I appreciated the movie for its poignant moments, and understood better just how much Jesus had to suffer at the hands of men, only to forgive them all for they knew not what they were doing. Now that’s ‘passion’. However it is certainly not a movie that will convert many people to the faith, because if so it should have focussed more on His earlier teachings, as well as Acts and subsequent chapters of the Bible. I think it preaches to the converted and serves chiefly as a graphic portrayal of our Saviour’s last hours on earth. I could watch it again, but right now I’d much rather read the Bible.
Now… anyone up for The Gospel of John?