Alex's Outlook

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Thoughts on The Passion of The Christ 


I saw the Passion yesterday. It was pretty good, very well done given the subject matter. Most of the major complaints are bunk.

There is no anti-Semitism in the movie; the Passion is no more anti-Semitic than the Gospels are. In my ever so humble opinion, the anti-Semitism charge is the most baseless of them all.

The movie is very violent, but not as violent as I expected. It was nothing compared to Kill Bill, and in contrast to Bill the violence of the Passion was entirely appropriate. (Has anybody else noticed how much hell has been raised over the purposeful violence of The Passion compared to the 100+ decapitations, complete with neck stumps spouting blood, featured in Kill Bill?) The only place where Gibson employed license was when Jesus was mauled before being presented to the crowd. In the most gruesome scene in the movie, one of the torturers takes out a cat-o-nine-tails thing with a metal barb at the end of each tail. The barbs dig into Jesus' skin and take away a healthy chunk of flesh when they come back out, and Jesus' blood spatters the crowd. Many critics dismissed that as completely gratuitous, but it made a point--Jesus' blood is on everyone.

Another complaint bounced around the media echo chamber a lot was that the movie placed too much emphasis on Jesus' death, and not enough on his teachings. Firstly, I think the fact that Jesus went through infinite torture and crucifixion for what he believed in (and rejected all opportunity to recant) is much more inspiring than Jesus' beliefs themselves, which received plenty of play anyway. So that charge is bunk too. (Maybe the liberals were waiting for the line about the rich passing through the eye of a needle before getting to heaven and were infuriated when they didn't get it.) Or something.

The acting was quite good, although everyone except Jesus was pretty much a prop. There just wasn't a lot of room for nuanced Tom Hanks-style acting.

Satan was particularly well done imho--a silent, malignant presence moving through crowds, a pack of kids with the characteristic Satan mutations (a random deformity on someone supposedly indicated that he was a devil). You have to see it to understand it, but I liked the way Gibson did it.

The only thing I'd say was not as good as it should have been was the sadism (not violence). There was just too much laughing going on when Jesus was being tortured, it was weird. If something weird had happened while they were torturing him, and the torturers had then burst out laughing, that would have been ok. But laughing at the torture itself was over the top. However, considering how cheap life was and how "entertaining" taking life was, I can give Gibson the benefit of the doubt on this one. After all, this was an era when people were butchered and eaten by animals as entertainment, and when boxers wrapped spiked iron bands around their wrists to gouge their opponents' eyes out. One walks away from the movie amazed at how cheap life was before Jesus' time.

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