Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Passion

I just saw Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of The Christ.... two years late, I know, but I finally got around to it.

Let me start by saying that loved it, fully and absolutely. Awesome. One of those rare films, like JFK, Contact, or Schindler's List, that everyone should see. I wanted to watch it not because I'm christian (far from it), but that the man featured in the film has done more to shape our lives than perhaps any man to have ever lived. And I love a good martyr story - Jesus was the ultimate martyr.

Here are my first and briefly researched impressions on the film:

- The term "passion" apparently refers to "suffering and death" and is a legacy of middle ages "passion plays," where Jesus' death was portrayed on stage. During those times, one of the purposes of these plays was to incite hatred against Jews. Which brings me to my next point....

- After watching this movie, an objective an uneducated viewer (which I think I was) would have to conclude that Mel Gibson placed the murder of Jesus squarely on shoulders of the Jews. If you've seen the film, you'll remember that the Romans washed their hands (literally and figuratively) of his death, and Herod (I think) was too drunk to decide what to do with Jesus.

Early in the movie, the Jewish elders state that it is unlawful for them to condem any man to death. Later in the flick, however, the same elders are calling out for the Roman governor to crucify him. This is the most obvious and telling example of Gibson's view, but there are others. Simply, you could not watch the film without feeling that the Jews were responsible for Jesus' death.

From the Anti-Defamation League:

"Because much of Christian Scriptures were written in polemical style that often portrayed Jews and Jesus--and therefore Judaism and Christianity--as adversaries, a common interpretation of the crucifixion was that the Jewish people were responsible for killing Jesus. According to this interpretation, both the Jews at the time of Jesus and the Jewish people for all time bear a divine curse for the sin of deicide. "

And if this is a popular or accurately historical interpretation of the crucifiction, then it's easy to see why there is still christian-based anti-semetism still in the world. (Although Jesus forgave the Jews, and if christians are trying to follow the way of Jesus, they should forgive the Jews, too). Which brings me to my next point...

- Now, I'm no biblical scholar, but this movie struck me as Mel Gibson's attempt at an accurate historical portrayal of the Jesus' death. The Passion struck me as not an interpretation or a personal view, but simply as a retelling of the story. This could be because Gibson's bias was carefully hidden behind the awesome power of the film's style, but I tend to think this film was accurate (as accurate as can be based on sketchy, 2000 year old history).

What I absolutely loved about the film was that there was no event in the film (until the very end) that could be construed as anything other than historical fact: there were no miracles in the movie, no divine intervention, no messages from god, no angels flying down from the heavens. During the scenes where Jesus remembers back to happier times, Gibson resisted the temptation to portray any sort of miracle or divination. Even the appearance of Satan could be viewed as simply Judas' (or Jesus') own little schizophrenic delusion due to the stress he was under.

I thought this stylistic choice really added to the power of the film.

- The actors were absolutey brilliant. I'm sure there are linguists out there who criticized the accents used in the film, but to shoot the whole in Aramaic (I assume) was awesome.

- Yep, the film was graphic in its violence. It had to be done this way, though. Hey, if you're going to make a movie about how much Jesus suffered, then how can you not actually portray the suffering? I guess a lot of christians didn't like how explicit it was - then what do you think your messiah went through, people? If he can martyr himself for you, then the least you can do is watch what happened to him.

As I said, I'm no biblical scholar, and I've got a bunch of questions about the film. I'll be emailling my favourite internet buddy, Vic, soon so that he can clear up some of my confusion. I completely disagree with Vic on everything, but he's the most bible-smart person I (virtually) know, so I need his help.

In the mean time, if you've seen the Passion, post a comment and let me know what you thought about it.


Blogger Chimpo said...

Jesus Christ was a gangsta rapper. They killed him, then he came back and made a platinum album.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Vic3 said...

Andrew, I've answered your questions in a post here:

Regarding your review: well, now we DON'T disagree on everything!
--Jewish leaders did set Jesus up and convince Pilate to allow His execution (see my post for Biblical extracts). Truly, the Jewish people as a whole are not guilty of that. Christians (not including KKK types and other hate groups who defile the Christian name) do not hold Jews responsible for killing Jesus. The only so called "Christians" who ever held Jews responsible are people like Hitler and Stalin (yes, Jews also suffered in the Soviet Union) who used that as an excuse for their persecution. The truth is that He died FOR you and for me, BECAUSE OF our sin, by His own will. By MY OWN sin I have as much to do with killing Jesus as did the Jewish leaders.
--I agree that Mel Gibson did a great job of telling the story the right way: Biblically and historically.
--"If he can martyr himself for you, then the least you can do is watch what happened to him." I agree totally. Not to put it in the same league of importance, but "Saving Private Ryan" had a similar effect on me. I saw it once, better appreciated what our soldiers sacrificed, then and now, to protect our way of life, and that was enough. "The Passion" though, I will see again.
--I would love to see Mel make another movie about Paul, and then about David...and then... :-) Mel has his life's work cut out for him if he wants it.

10:40 PM  

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