The Passion of the Christ

I witnessed Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ tonight at a sneak preview presented by my church. I went into the movie expecting to be moved, but never to the extent that I actually was.
Let’s just clear the air on one point, before I go any further: I do not know how anyone could view this movie as anti-Semitic. The conniving of the high priests and Pharisees was (in my opinion) equalled by the vulgarity, the animal cruelty of the Romans. The culpability lay with both parties; Pilate and Caiaphas were equally to blame. I was interviewed on my way out of the theater by a reporterette from KYW – 1060 AM in Philly. I’m not exactly sure what I said, other than telling her that I was moved. She then asked if I thought it was anti-Semitic. When I answered with a flat-out “No”, she just held the mic in my face for a few seconds and gave me a “Really?” I don’t know if she actually saw the movie or if she simply was asking questions, but I don’t think she could have honestly viewed the movie and had the reaction she did.
Moving on, I came into the movie expecting to be able to make it through the scourging but to have trouble when the Romans actually nailed Jesus to the cross. I cannot describe how wrong I was. I was literally in tears through a good portion of the scourging. When we finally reached the nails, I almost sighed with relief; I had a “It’s almost over. His suffering is almost done.” reaction.
The emotion was intense throughout the movie; I repeatedly heard sobs escape from many of the ~425 other viewers in the theater. Mercifully, many of the most vivid scenes were broken up by flashbacks to times earlier in Jesus’ life.
Jim Caviezel (Jesus), Maia Morgenstern (Mary), Monica Bellucci (Mary Magdalene) and Hristo Jivkov (the apostle John) all put in amazing performances. I was particularly moved by Jivkov’s performance, as he had very, very few lines, but he was able to convey extreme emotion through his posture, demeanor and facial expressions.
Caviezel’s Jesus cut me deeply. I’m not sure why (perhaps it’s my Protestant upbrining), but I’ve always had a bit of a “wussy Christ” image in my head. The Gospels portray him as dying after a “mere” three hours on the cross. I’ve always jumped from “they convicted Him” to “they crucified Him” with nary a second thought given to the intervening hours. This movie has dramatically changed that for me. Even if Christ “only” experienced half of what Gibson portrayed on screen, it is no wonder that He died so “quickly”.
I am not expecting it, but this movie definitely deserves an Oscar nod for 2004. I cannot foresee any movie having anywhere close to the emotional impact, this year or in any year to come.
I would recommend that anyone with any interest in powerful moviemaking go see The Passion as soon as they can. I don’t think anyone, be they Christian, Jew, Hindu, atheist or otherwise, can come out of the theater and not be moved.
I doubt that I’ll be picking up the DVD, though. There’s only so much I can take. Good thing it wasn’t me up on the cross…
[UPDATE] Welcome Metafilter readers.

12 Comments

  1. Dang, you beat me to it. I hope to see it sometime but I can not find anyone else
    interested in it. I guess that’s just the discovery channel kid in me wanting to see
    the most debated documentary type movie and see what everyone in the christian
    world is talking about. From what I have heard from Christians and Jews alike your review is correct in saying that it is not anti semitic and that the media is going on what a few people had read in a partial script or a partial clip without seeing the whole film. I, of course, knew that you would be one of the first to see this movie and I was awaiting a reaction and here it is, now it is my turn to find a theater down here in the sawth that will carry it. On a side note, writing in this box is hard as the margins are not set to exactly the size of the box, you may want to look into that.

  2. I think we all underestimate the importance of the cross to early Christians. The resurrection certainly proves he was who he said he was but willingly going to a hideous public death outside his city was the Creators ultimate self revelation. When people ask us what God is like, our answer should be to point to the Cross. Mel Gibson has given us an opprtunity to do that so much better than before.

  3. I love the paradox that Christians are promoting a film that in the UK will be an 18! I am a bit sad that I cannot really wade into these discussions as in the UK we still await our opportunity to view it. But view it I will, and once all my blogging friends are bored of it I will no doubt decide which side of the fence I am on!

  4. I sent this to the Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas and I am passing it on to you.
    Did you guys who went out and purchased all those movie tickets to see The Passion of Christ know that the three main female characters in the movie were well known porn stars. If you did not, here is a bit of info for you. “The actors in this film may be unknown to American Christians who never darken the door of a movie theater, or frequent pornography websites, but they are quite well-known to the rest of the Western world which does. In fact, to say that the actors and actresses who perform in “The Passion” are well-known is an enormous understatement. Three of the actresses who have key roles in this film are not only internationally renowned actresses, but are hardcore pornography stars! Monica Bellucci, who plays Mary Magdalene in Gibson’s “Passion” movie, is quite the rage as a European porn queen as well as “one of the hottest actresses in Hollywood” (according to one fan site). Rosita Celentano, who is the androgynous character of Satan in “The Passion”, and Claudia Gerini, who plays the role of Pilate’s wife, are hardcore porn stars as well. A simple search on the internet for any one of these Italian actresses brings up numerous pornographic websites featuring photos of them posing in varying degrees of nudity, partial to full. Having said all this, we advise against viewing these websites. More information about this stunning cast is presented in an addendum to this report, Mel Gibson’s Hall of Porn. If you must verify our reporting, we recommend that only mature women view Bellucci’s Italian website. Ms. Bellucci is no ordinary porn star, but performs in hardcore films such as the 2002 production, Irreversible. “Premiered at last years Cannes Film Festival, ‘Irreversible’ proved so shocking that 250 people walked out, some needing medical attention… It is amazing how the clergy is tripping all over themselves to promote a vile, deceiving, and seductive movie such as this. Please be more discerning in the future. Thank you, Tom Martin

  5. I am by no means religious, yet this movie had me in tears. It is by far one of the best movies I have ever seen. As far as three of the actresses being porn stars….who cares? It’s sad the lengths that people will go to to pit others against this movie. If you don’t approve of what they have done, don’t watch ANY of their movies. But beyond that, let everyone else make their own choices. Most people don’t care about previous credits.

  6. Well l love all religions for different reasons all all have something good and the cruxifiction we shouldn’t dwell on the message is the resurrection that after sufferings we can get thru a message of hope Love Ron be in the now.

  7. Loved the movie but didn’t know who the woman was that gave christ a drink of water when he was carrying the cross. can anyone help me with this.

  8. […] Our church meets in a movie theater, which means it is in a bit of a unique situation at certain points. For instance, we were able to get an advance screening of The Passion of the Christ and, once again, we managed to get an advance screening of another "Christian-themed" movie: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The showing is tonight at 7pm and I will be attending with Aron and Heather as well as my nuclear family, including my brother's brand new fiance(!). […]

  9. Hey I was just surfing around and decided to post a short comment here. I run a movie review message board and am looking for people to write reviews and contribute at my forum. You can even post a link to your blog on your signature file at my forum. It’s all good! Take care.

Comments are closed.