An ‘R’-Rated Movie About Jesus Christ
Before I begin my review on ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ I want to make it clear that I am a Catholic. Even though I will discuss the film’s story, the actor’s performances and the controversy surrounding it, this will all come from the viewpoint of a Catholic believer.
Can anyone put a value on love? Perhaps the greatest sacrifice one can make is to give up his/her life for another. This is a difficult question for some while easier for others. There was never an ‘if’ when it came to whether Jesus Christ loved his people or not. He was ready to die for them not to prove a point but to show that his love and faith for humanity was and still is endless.
Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is a film about Jesus’ final 12 hours. It is based on the New Testament of the Bible and begins by an informer telling the Jewish High Priests of Jesus’ whereabouts. From that moment on, Christ is arrested and taken to face the judgment of the high priests, Pontius Pilate and King Herod. Finally, Jesus goes back to Pontius Pilate, who cannot decide his fate and so lays it in the hands of the Jewish people.
In turn, Christ is condemned for blasphemy by his people. Roman guards chain his hands to a boulder and begin to beat every inch of his body with sticks and whips with bits of sharp metal that literally take chunks of his skin out. This scene is the most graphic and can bring people to tears as they witness Jesus suffering under the brutality of the guards.
Throughout the film, Jesus, played by James Caviezel, drifts back to the past when he is at the last supper, talking to his disciples and when spreading the word of God. All of these flashbacks provide a glimpse of Jesus’ compassion for humankind and his unending obligation to love and serve the Lord.
Pontius Pilate makes the final decision to crucify Christ as he obeys the crowds’ loathing screams to crucify him. Lacerations cover Jesus’ body and blood continues to flow freely from his hair as he is forced to carry the huge wooden cross out of the city to a hilltop.
‘The Passion of the Christ’ is spoken in Latin and Aramaic with English subtitles. The special effects are impressive because they go unnoticed even in the most violent scenes.
Those affiliated with the Christian religion or denominations of it such as Catholicism may be the only ones who can come out of the theater with a deeper awareness of their love for Jesus and a greater understanding of his undying affection for them. ‘The Passion of the Christ’ vividly displays the violence done to Jesus Christ in a manner that no paintings or even the Bible itself can compete with.
The movie only covers the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life, but is filled with enough violence, sacrifice and love that it truly stands out among other movies. However, the gruesome scenes of cruelty can be too much to bear and believe.
A majority of ‘The Passion of the Christ’ centers on the violent acts committed against Jesus. Though a critical feature to the telling of the story, the audience is unable to hear the voice of Christ as much as they should.
Jesus does not speak a lot throughout the movie, perhaps because it is dedicated to showing rather than telling the last hours of his life. Nevertheless, the life of Christ could have been shown to a greater extent in the storyline than just a few quick flashbacks to memorable moments described in the Bible.
Each person ought to decide for themselves whether ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is anti-Semitic or not. However, the story comes directly from the New Testament and gospel.
James Caviezel gives a wonderful performance as Christ. He personifies him to the full extent both emotionally and physically. His portrayal is indeed heartbreaking at points, specifically, from when he drops the cross and is forced to continue carrying it although he is close to death, to when he calls out to God while facing death on the cross.
The Virgin Mary is played by Maia Morgenstern who gives an equally worthy performance as a grieving mother who has to witness her son being beaten and crucified. Monica Bellucci depicted Mary Magdalene, a prostitute who Jesus helps and saves from being stoned. Mattia Sbragia plays Caiphas, a high priest who condemns Christ to blasphemy, and Hristo Naumov Shopov plays a tormented Pontius Pilate.
‘The Passion of the Christ’ successfully demonstrates the limits of compassion and love one man has towards both his enemies and friends alike.