A passionate review of Gibson's Passion of the Christ
For months prior to its release, The Passion of the Christ has created a firestorm of controversy, with naysayers fearing it would be anti-Semitic and proponents hoping it would properly account for the end of Jesus's life.
Much criticism has come about from a religious rather than a cinematic analysis of the film, exemplifying the inherent controversy of religion. Nothing is more personal or more fiercely protected than religious and spiritual beliefs, so it is understandably almost impossible for many people to impartially approach the film.
But there is something that many people don't know about Passion. This is no Mel Gibson blockbuster, no religious Mad Max with cheap preaching. Passion is an artistically rendered chronicle of the last 12 hours of Jesus's life that presents a well-balanced and original vision of the most important event in Christianity.
Throughout this endeavor, Gibson displays incredible integrity in nearly every aspect of the film. The cinematography, costumes, and art design all contribute to the mystical, ancient feel of the film, and having all dialogue in Latin and Aramaic with subtitles greatly contributes to its authenticity.
The same must be said of the acting in Passion. James Caviezel, who plays Jesus, just may have catapulted himself to international stardom with this performance, and rightly so. The torture that Jesus endures on screen had to be torturous to act, but Caviezel does so phenomenally. Maia Morgenstern also shines in a central emotional performance as Jesus's mother Mary. Caviezel and Morgenstern have few lines of dialogue and instead act with nuanced facial expressions which express much more than dialogue ever could.
Speaking of Jesus's torture, Passion is full of it; it is rated "R" for a reason. But this violence is not gratuitous. Gibson is not merely showing Jesus's torture before his crucifixion; he is also demonstrating the internal turmoil Jesus was feeling. The turmoil is also a theme of the film: no one could ever bear or come close to feeling what he felt.
I will not deny that the depiction could have been achieved with less violence, and many viewers will have to look away for portions of the most brutal torture scenes. But a film should be viewed only in comparison with what it is trying to accomplish, and an account of Jesus's violent last 12 hours was the goal of this endeavor.
The film is bound to attract the most attention for its portrayal of the Jewish priests who condemn Jesus. But again Gibson succeeds, and impressively so. Sermonizing, which would have been so easy to do, is simply nonexistent.
Other than Jesus and Satan (fiercely acted by Rosalinda Celentano, she lurks about tempting Jesus at his low points), no characters can be considered completely good or evil. All other characters possess common human emotions which can be understood by the audience members. The Roman soldiers are obnoxious and lewd, but for them this was simply another execution. The crowds are controlled by an intoxicating mob mentality. The Jewish rabbis, the most ardent supporters of Jesus's crucifixion, were scared and threatened by him. These are recognizable, human emotions.
Also, Jesus makes two important declarations towards the end of the film. In a flashback he tells his followers to "love thine enemy" and when on the cross he says, "Forgive them father, they know not what they do." In light of this information, no intelligent viewing of the film could produce feelings of hatred towards any particular group.
The Passion of the Christ is full of its titled emotion, an incredible life force, and indelible images that resound, leaving this reviewer in awe and unable to speak when leaving the theater.
Don't let all the hype fool you. When you see this film, draw your own conclusions; Gibson and the film ask nothing more.
4 polar bears out of 4
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