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A few notes on The Passion of the Christ

I compiled these notes right after I saw a rough cut of the film in Dallas.

Anti-semitism.

My opinion is that it's not at all anti-semitic, but Gibson definitely portrays the Sanhedrin and other religious leaders as culpable (to say the least) and wicked men. He is no less sparing of the Romans, who are equally culpable, if not more so. That said, one leaves the film convinced that nobody TOOK the life of our Savior, but He offered it willingly.

Violence

This is not a film for the squeamish. It will receive an "R" rating, and deservedly so, for the extreme (think "Gladiator"/"Braveheart") violence. But then, the crucifixion of Christ was pretty gruesome. Some of the torture scenes, I believe could have been cut for length a bit, and probably will be in the final version.

Accuracy

There are momemts that are where artistic license imposes itself a bit (the evil crow scene at the cross; Jesus carrying the entire cross, while the thieves only carried the upper portion; and a few others), but these are hardly worthy of note in light of the magnificent portrayals and the mostly accurate rendering. Gibson takes one gospel's account of the passion rather than relating it as a compilation, i.e., the "event" so to speak. The result is that some material gets left out (e.g., the Roman cohort falling back when Jesus tells them "I am" the One you seek). They also include a late Isaiah date (5th century as I recall) on a quote that opens the film. We addressed that issue in the screening I attended.

Caricature

The Roman henchmen, Barrabas, and a few of the Jewish leaders are a little over the top in my opinion, but they certainly capture the brutality/barbarity of the culture.

Resurrection

The resurrection scene is brief (less than a minute in the version I saw) and understated. It does, however, exude a dignity and a sense of triumph that a lot of other flashier dramatized resurrections miss.

Mariolatry.

There are some portions where you get a whiff of worshipful portraiture and a bit of "posing", but on the whole, Gibson was quite restrained in his depiction of the mother of the Lord. The woman playing Mary is also, in my opinion, the best actor in the film. The camera loves this woman.

Concluding notes: I recommend The Passion of the Christ as a film that, for the most part, accurately represents the horror of our Lord's suffering, and that will inspire a response of reverence and appreciation for the voluntary sacrifice of Christ for us. One might argue that His spiritual anguish over becoming sin for us and being separated from the Father was even greater than his physical suffering. I agree, but how might Gibson have expressed that spiritual dimension on film any more effectively than through His physical suffering? The physical aspect of his passion serves, therefore, as a metonymy for the whole of his distress, which would have comprised spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical anguish. This is a film worthy of our support, and one that will prompt dialogue with those He died to save.

Related Topics: Christology, Cultural Issues