Last Friday I went to see The Passion of the Christ, deciding that anything this controversial would have to be interesting, if nothing else. I just had to write an article about this — not that I will be able to say anything different or novel, but just to get it out of my head. I’d just like to clarify that I’m not Christian, not Jewish, and no doubt this renders me unable to say anything about the movie without both sides of the controversy getting angry and offended.
The movie is violent and bloody, almost pornographic in its gross intensity. I have never seen another movie that went to so much effort to show, lovingly and with ultimate technical expertise, torture. It’s the closest thing to a religious snuff film that you’ll ever see. For example, it shows how the hooks from a whip can grab into a man’s flesh and rip it apart, done in slow motion and realistically as possible. Or take note of the efforts that the movie makers have put into making the crucifixion look as realistic as possible, including a minute or two with closeups on the hand as the spike is driven into the cross.
The ultimate irony, of course, is this is about Jesus: and what is meant to be the loving and forgiving nature of his philosophy has been turned into a two-hour bloodfest. Church groups are going to this movie in droves, and it has turned out to have more preticket sales than the Lord of the Rings. This seems amazing to me. Instead of spending Sunday drinking the metaphorical blood of Christ at sacrament, this movie forces them to watch buckets of fake blood spew onto the stony ground.
The movie presumes that you know the bible already — if you were not familiar with it, then you could easily miss that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, or that the old men persecuting Jesus were Jewish. For that matter, if you went out for popcorn at the wrong time you could easily miss the Resurrection… it’s been relegated to a 10 second spot at the end of the movie, no doubt to leave room for a sequel.
It’s ironic, really, that the reviews of this movie seem to so closely aligned to the viewer’s religious faith: that is, I keep reading reviews about people that are “moved” and think that the movie is great, and they always seem to be fairly religious. Yet, I would think that this movie would inflame the faithful more: they would know his teachings, why would they choose for his lesson to be taught in this way? I didn’t come out of the movie feeling awe for the sacrifice of Jesus, but instead came out feeling sick. This movie does not seem like good testimony if it only appeals to the believers.
I hear that Mel Gibson has decided to make a movie about Abraham Lincoln. It will portray the south as cackling, evil brutes; Lincoln as a complete saint; it will cover his accomplishments in about five minutes, with one or two lines from the Gettysburg address and maybe a mention of the Emancipation Proclamation; and the rest of the 110 minutes of movie will cover just Lincoln in Ford’s Theater, with over an hour devoted to showing the bullet slowly passing through Lincoln’s brain, spewing bone and flesh and blood all along.