Sunday, March 14, 2004

The Passion of the Christ

Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: James Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Maia Morgenstern, Hristo Shopov, Hristo Jivkov, Rosalinda Celentano, Luca Lionello, Mattia Sbragia
Premise: Shows the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ in a mortal body
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

I have to say that it was well-directed; flashbacks were well-placed throughout the movie in order to create context for what was happening. The acting was not bad, but no academy award stuff here. Out of all of them, Shopov perhaps would have the best chance at an award (best supporting actor), but I doubt it. Pilate's musings on justice and truth are quite intriguing, given his unique situation. He has to satisfy so many different interests, but all the parties have contradicting interests, and he's caught in the middle; it makes for a good acting part. Here's a question though. Why did Roman armour replicate buff bodies? I mean seriously, it must have driven up the production costs by at least 25%. I bet it would be much cheaper to produce thousands of these armour pieces if they were simply smooth.

Was a fair movie. As everyone would care more about the issues than the movie itself for its artistic merits...

1. Spirituality:
Yes, there were scenes in that movie that made me weep. In particular were scenes during the Last Supper (during flashbacks) wherein Jesus gave his last commandments to his disciples. They created a a powerful background for when Jesus was on the cross. The thief's realization while on the cross of his own wrongdoings was also emotional. On his deathbed, he realizes who he is and it seems too late for him to do anything about it. All he can do is depend on the guy next to him who seems to have a purpose in all this. The thief's ultimate surrender stood as a stark contrast to the other thief that continued to deride Jesus and refused to look within himself; his folly-filled arrogance reflected many people who choose to point fingers and laugh or scream instead of take responsibility. It was a stark reminder to myself as to why taking responsibility for one's actions is the better path.

2. Bloodshed:
Yes, it was bloody. However, I seriously thought that it would be more bloody than it was. Given my knowledge of the torture tools that Romans used back in the day, I totally expected more blood. So this was actually sort of mild. I was more grossed out by seeing severed heads and whatnot in the movie Identity. But other people apparently want to throw up after seeing Passion, so this must be a subjective thing. Suffice it to say that the camera wasn't focused on the victim the whole time. For example, we got to see quite a bit of the Roman soldiers in action, rather than the scourges actually hitting the body of Jesus. You get to see the scourges hit too. However, the movie still drove home how painful the whole process must have been, especially considering how it all cumulated to the cross. One thing that the movie didn't explain was why crucifixion is painful. You see the soldiers break the legs of the two thieves and then the spear in Jesus's side. But it's not explicitly explained why that happens, it's only implied.

3. Anti-Semitism:
I honestly didn't really see it. The movie seemed to put most of its blame on the high priests (who were technically Jews, I guess, but not the general Jewish population). Even during the walk of Jesus up to the hill of Golgotha, you don't really see the Jews despising Jesus. It's more of a crowd mentality, where you have curious onlookers; some of them get excited and make judgments without figuring out exactly what's going on. But nowhere did I see outright hatred from the Jews. The Roman soldiers were a totally different story. They enjoyed torturing Jesus, mocked him throughout the movie until he died, and physically abused him throughout his walk up to Golgotha, while he was carrying the cross. I pretty much got the picture that if anyone should be disliked for the death of Jesus, it would be the sadistic Roman soldiers (there were a few, like Pilate and his immediate subordinate, that had honour). However, even if the Jews were responsible, one thing really struck me in the movie, that I had never thought about before. Jesus says, "Farther, forgive them, for they know not what they do." So let's figure this out. Whoever's doing this to him, he says to forgive them. Therefore, any anti-semitists who use the death of Christ as justification for their hatred against the Jews seriously have a fallacy in their thinking. IMHO, it would be much better for Jews and other groups to point out the fallacy in anti-semitic arguments based around the death of Christ and manifest their stupidity, rather than get caught up in what amounts to a cat-fight with disgusting implications. Of course, if such stupidity exists in the first place, you can't do much to make it disappear by using logic... like talking to a wall, you know? Plus, consider the fact that the whole purpose of Jesus's existence (according to the big book that's written about him) was to die. If anti-semists truly wanted him to not die by crucifixion or any other premature means, they're missing the point. Mind you, I doubt that anti-semists really actually care, they're probably just using anything they can to justify their behaviour. But a movie that doesn't promote anti-semitisim should not take the fall for the stupidity and irrationality of anti-semitic thought. Hit at the root cause of the problem, please.

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