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
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
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
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
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
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.