This weekend, among the other movies I watched in a low key “stay at home” weekend, I watched a Netflixed copy of Mel Gibson’s controversial Passion of the Christ.
It’s wrong, IMO, to judge something without experiencing it yourself. So, having heard much about it, I decided finally to do so.
I recommend it, but with strong reservations.
The movie depicts the last 12 hours of Jesus on Earth, from just before Judas’ betrayal through the Crucifixion. Within that time frame, Mel Gibson has focused mainly on just that time period, with a few flashbacks of Christ’s life thrown in for good measure.
Two of my favorite actors are in the movie, a motive for seeing it. Jim Caviezel’s Jesus is hard to get to know, for reasons I will soon explain. Mary Magdalene, as portrayed by Monica Bellucci, is a sympathetic strong character who makes the best of what she is given.
The movie is also not in English. Indeed, the dialogue is in Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic, with subtitles through much of it. In what has to be a directorial move, some of the dialogue, especially during some of the more brutal scenes, is not translated, adding to a sense of isolated and a focus on Jesus.
Pontius Pilate, in this version of the Passion story comes off as a much more sympathetic figure than as I have usually seen him characterized. It seems that with great reluctance does he give over to the will of the Sephardim, and put Jesus to the cross. His wife Claudia (I have no idea if there was such a historical figure) acts as Pilate’s conscience, to the end begging her husband not to do this.
As far as the actual cinematography, I have to mention the brutality and the violence. I do think its excessive, far beyond what is needed to establish the point of Jesus’ suffering. Unless Gibson intended his audience to turn away from the screen in revulsion, I think he goes too far with the corporal aspects of Jesus’ trial.
Other than that, I liked the film. Gibson is a decent director (cf. Braveheart, The Patriot) and he does well here…except for the damnable focus on turning his main lead into a bloody mess. There are ahistorical and apocryphal things thrown into this Passion–the fate of Judas, for example as well as the depiction of Satan. There is even a few daubs of humor, such as a flashback to Jesus creating a modern table and Mary doubting its utility.
Recommended, with STRONG reservations.