The Passion of the Christ

Book cover: 'The Passion of the Christ'
Newmarket Films
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This is a powerful film; it made me weep, and turn away, and flinch. During much of the movie I was thinking, "I'm sorry, Lord, I'm sorry". My husband and I walked out of the theater barely able to speak, feeling raw and emotionally exhausted. It was absolutely the most intense movie I've ever seen, and every time I began to think, "It's only a movie", I also heard, "He really went through this."

For the most part, the story is just as we know it from the Bible and the Stations of the Cross (including a touching scene with Jesus and Veronica). Our Lady is portrayed beautifully, as a loving Mother to Jesus. Her love and faith are evident throughout. The affection of the apostles for Mary is also evident; Peter calls her "Mother" in one heartbreaking scene after the denial. Flashbacks during the horrific scourging bring blessed relief as we see peaceful moments in His life, including a scene from His childhood, a playful moment with Mary, the Last Supper, and more.

Mel Gibson has taken poetic license with certain elements of the story, but those things only made the larger Truth of the story even more compelling. For example, his portrayal of Satan is absolutely chilling, and while I couldn't say that the images he uses are necessarily Biblical (though some are), they are appropriate. The movie leaves no doubt about the supernatural element of the battle between good and evil. There is a great deal of literary symbolism, especially regarding eyes, and there is a running theme of Truth ("I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life", and a discussion of "Veritas" that Pilate has with his wife.)

As a work of art, it is superb. It is expertly directed, the cinematography is stunning, and the original soundtrack is hauntingly beautiful. I have only minor quibbles with a few things (for example, some of the costuming). Others have pointed out problems with the historicity of the languages used, or the length of hair of the characters. In no way, however, do these small things compromise the effect of the film overall.

Many have complained of possible anti-Semitism. Yes, some of the Jews come off very badly in the film; so do virtually all of the Romans. This film is no more anti-Semitic than it is anti-Italian. It is a story set in a particular place with particular ethnic groups. Jesus was a Jew; some of the Jews loved Him, others wanted Him dead. As Christians, we know that all of us are sinners; we all are responsible for the death of Christ.

One warning: I would not take young teens, and certainly not younger children, to see this movie. The sadistic cruelty displayed by the Roman soldiers would destroy the innocence of children who do not yet know the full extent of evil in the world, and the graphic, bloody scenes would be too shocking for them. Should any teens see it? Yes, older teens, if they are mature, and well-grounded in their Faith.

In spite of the violence and brutality pictured so vividly in the movie, the images that linger are the beautiful ones; His compassion, His strength, and above all His Love. This movie is certainly not entertainment. Instead, it is an opportunity for prayerful reflection on the sorrowful passion of our Savior and Redeemer, and His infinite Love and Mercy.

Additional notes: 

Rated R, 126 minutes

Director: Mel Gibson

Cast: James Caviezel, Monica Belluci, et al.

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