March 3, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 79  

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

A trinity of critics review that Jesus movie

Holy. Gory. Anti-Semitic? Mel Gibson’s self-financed Jesus biopic The Passion of The Christ has been dividing audiences while making a killing at the box office since its release on Ash Wednesday. And so, The Gazette has divided the work of reviewing this blockbuster among three critics — one Jewish, one Christian and one atheist — to get a better idea of whether this Passion is really worth getting passionate about.

Directed by: Mel Gibson
Starring: James Caviezel (Jesus), Monica Belucci (Mary Magdalene), Maia Morgenstern (Mary) and Rosalinda Celentano (Satan)

 

By Laura Kobetz
Gazette Staff

If a friend tells you a movie is funny, you tend to look for those humorous elements when you watch it yourself. The media has told us about the controversy surrounding The Passion of the Christ for its negative depiction of Jews, and one does not have to look very hard in order to see why.

From the beginning, the Jewish Priests are paralleled to beasts, as they snarl and growl at people who oppose Christ’s arrest. Then again, nearly every character, except for Mary, Jesus, and his followers, is shown in a bad light. The depiction of the Jews as unfeeling and unpleasant characters is unjust when compared to the romanticized view of the ruling Roman Pontius Pilate and his wife Claudia. Even the Roman soldiers, portrayed as idiotic ogres, become understanding and sympathetic in the end.

It should be noted that the anti-Jewish sentiment is not entirely to blame for the film’s offensive disposition. The gore is worse than any B-horror movie; at least 90 per cent of the film is dedicated to showing Jesus tortured in slow-motion. There are horrifying special effects that contort human faces into demonic visages, close-ups of diseased faces and a dead, rotting horse.

Furthermore, Gibson detestably juxtaposes scenes of the calm Last Supper with the bloody crucifixion, so the audience is forced to behold the violence of the nails breaking into Jesus’s wrists and ankles, while attempting to read the Supper dialogue in between.

It has been said this film may fuel religious problems and stereotypes in the world, possibly leading to conflicts. Hopefully, this will not be the case.

If you really wish to spend $13 to watch 127 minutes of unnecessary beatings, whippings, wounded flesh and blood-gushing sound effects, go ahead. But save your money if you’re squeamish, unless you want to pay for an evening of shielding your eyes.

 

By Gabriella Barillari
Gazette Staff

One will not regret experiencing The Passion of the Christ. It is a riveting account of the life of Jesus and is currently transforming the lives of individuals worldwide.

Many have labelled The Passion an anti-Semitic film. But how can this be when Jesus was a Jew, and although a Galilean, claimed to be the Messiah of all people? What about the drunkenly depicted Roman soldiers who incessantly tortured and persecuted him? Surely, if someone today claimed to be the Son of God, people would likely deem him insane. Therefore, the vigourous reaction to the movie by many groups is no surprise.

From a Catholic perspective, The Passion will inspire. Marvelously directed, the film urges you to further investigate the story; though the main points are appropriately depicted, many believers could find several errors. For example, Jesus was nailed to the cross through his wrists — as was recently discovered by the Vatican — not his hands. In The Passion, the viewer is not unconsciously assimilated with the villain, rather, they feel punished; they can feel Christ’s pain.

Overhearing a post-film conversation, a woman said, “I sort of wish that Jesus did not even exist, because I don’t want to imagine someone going through all that pain for us.”

Many complain that the portrayal of Christ’s suffering is overwhelmingly graphic and unnecessary. Yet, this reflects religious beliefs and is made to accurately illustrate Jesus’ life. Why is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is also extremely violent and based on truth, deemed acceptable by Hollywood?

The sound of Jesus’ rattling chains, the whipping, the lashing, the beating, the spitting and the blood-shedding seems gruesome, but is in no way overdone.

The flashbacks of Jesus at the Last Supper are extremely well done and the English subtitles translated from Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic are easy to follow.

By far, the most creative and accurately depicted character is Satan. In the opening scene, a maggot crawls up the devil’s nose as he whispers to Jesus that no one can take on the sins of everyone. He reappears throughout the film, constantly tormenting those who betray Jesus.

However, Pontius Pilate is not properly represented; he seems far too contemplative and easy-going, while in fact he was a ruthless individual who allowed Jesus to be crucified — even though he “washed his hands” of the act.

The Passion is both impressive and effective, deserving a five-star rating for its characters, directing, picture, message and above all, its hype. Maybe it’s time we see the light and allow The Passion to impact our lives, allowing us to open our hearts not only to God, but to each other.

 

By Chris Sinal
Gazette Staff

If you go see Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ expecting a normal movie that’s really violent, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The movie is spectacularly violent, which one should expect walking in, as violence is at the heart of this tale. With that in mind, viewers must approach this film with many expectations and a certain understanding — Gibson expects a lot of his audience.

The Passion is didactic, lacking context (historical or otherwise) and is bereft of character development. That being said, so is much of The Bible.

Gibson’s film is a faithful adaptation of the New Testament Gospel of John. To those who didn’t attend Catholic school, read all four Gospels concerning The Passion before entering the theatre. As an Anglican priest friend of mine put it, this movie does not indulge in character development because those with faith are already intimately familiar with Christ et al.

Which is the whole point of the movie — this film is firmly rooted in faith. If one isn’t big on that — and I’ll take this opportunity to point out that I’m an atheist — the least one can do is attempt to be familiar with the subject matter; an understanding of both the contemporary environment of the story and the faith it spawned enhances the movie immeasurably.

As for the controversy surrounding The Passion, the film places the responsibility for Christ’s crucifixion solely on the Jewish High Priests and their accompanying mob, and not on the Roman Governor of Palestine, Pontius Pilate.

What is often lost, however, is that everyone in the film is Jewish (save, obviously, the Romans); women and children who lament Jesus’s suffering, Simon of Cyrene who helps Jesus bear his cross, as well as Jesus himself.

In the film, as in the Gospel of John, Jewish authorities are responsible for the death of Christ (I will leave out the history lesson on the political nvironment of Roman-occupied Jerusalem — needless to say, a knowledge of that makes the Gospel of John seem more politically pragmatic than simply racist).

Does this mean that “Jewish People” today are responsible for the death of Christ? Only if one holds Germans today responsible for Hitler, or Christians for the actions of Urban II against the Muslims.

In the end, The Passionwill be a different movie depending on how viewers enter the theatre. For the faithful, it can be horrifying and uplifting, moving and hurtful. For the rest of us, it’s a study in faith — it’s not often one gets the chance to see into someone’s belief.

While you ought not see this film for its cinematic attributes, those of us going straight to hell should see it for what it means to so many, and perhaps understand them a little better ourselves.

 

 

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