THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
Icon Productions, 2004
Reviewed by Susan Conatser
THE PASSION is Mel Gibson's controversial film of the twelve hours leading up to the death of Jesus Christ. This ancient story is moving in itself, but the visual depiction of the brutal historical details of death by crucifixion is powerful and searing.
The opening scenes begin with Jesus Christ (James Caviezel) praying in the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples, his arrest, the midnight trials, and the tortuous night that followed, at the hands of Pilate's (Hristo Naumov Shopov) soldiers. Mary, the mother of Jesus (Maia Morgenstern) , Mary Magdalene (Monica Bellucci), and John (Hristo Jivkov) stand nearby, the faithful witnesses to His brutal suffering. Following a savage beating, His mother and Mary Magdalene movingly try to mop up his blood with white linen cloths provided by Pilate's wife (Claudia Gerini). The scenes of Christ's last day are interspersed with flashbacks of Jesus as a boy with his mother Mary, of Mary Magdalene, the woman caught in adultery, and Jesus' last supper with His disciples. The villains of the story were portrayed by Mattia Sbragia as Caiaphas, Luca Lionello as Judas and Rosalinda Celentano as Satan.
THE PASSION relates the brutal hours of Christ's death, adding little of the filmmaker's commentary or interpretation of events. The one scene I found confusing was at Christ's sentencing when Satan slipped through the crowd carrying an infant in his arms. The symbolism of the infant escaped me. The dialogue of the movie is spoken in Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin with English subtitles. The scenes are graphic, violent, and somber, except for two scenes with Mary and Jesus as a child and as a young man, playfully teasing his mother.
James Caviezel gives an outstanding portrayal of Jesus Christ's suffering. His performance is clearly the most demanding role of the film, and is accomplished with a beautiful blend of gentle grace and fierce intensity.
My favorite scene followed the final words of Christ on the cross when He said, "It is accomplished." The filmmakers used a device to illustrate God's reaction to Christ's death that employed beautiful imagery, then shook the earth and destroyed the temple. However, the ending of the movie is abrupt and leaves the audience in stunned silence. I was deeply moved by this film, but it was difficult to watch. Gibson says he realizes the dramatic impact it will have on viewers, and intended it to effect viewers in a powerful way. It certainly does. The film is rated R for graphic violence, and I do not recommend this movie for young viewers.
Without doubt Jesus Christ is the most controversial figure in history. Gibson has produced an outstanding portrayal for contemporary audiences to see and judge for themselves. Running time: 2 hours and 6 minutes.
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