March 09, 2005

the passion, part deux

on morning television, I saw a preview for "The Passion Recut". I thought to myself, "so what happens now, Mel made the film a bit more Catholic?" I don't mean to rip on the original, but I think a lot of my protestant brethren missed some very Marian imagery that we haven't had around since John and Martin turned the church on it's ear.

not to be ignorant, I went online and found the recut version of the film is a less gory version, hopefully allowing it to be viewed by a younger audience. the film was still given an R rating, so the producers of the film are releasing it without a rating to give movie houses the option to allow younger viewers if they choose to.

I didn't think that the gore was uncalled for. If you're really going to portray the crucifixion truthfully, then go ahead and spray blood at the camera and have the actor flogged senselessly.

But that's the point... Christ's death was senseless, if you merely understand it from the earthly perspective. A man, who no one denies lived a perfect life and whose teaching has now influenced people for over 2,000 years, is publicly mutilated and the crowds were cheering for it. Imagine if that happened today. Human rights activists would be all up in arms.

From the eternal/redemptive/heavenly perspective, the whole process makes total sense. Christ died for the sins of those he came to save. He took the death that we deserved for our sins.

I applaud Gibson for his excellent piece of filmmaking. I think Roger Ebert sums it up the best at the end of his review:

Is the film "good" or "great?" I imagine each person's reaction (visceral, theological, artistic) will differ. I was moved by the depth of feeling, by the skill of the actors and technicians, by their desire to see this project through no matter what. To discuss individual performances, such as James Caviezel's heroic depiction of the ordeal, is almost beside the point. This isn't a movie about performances, although it has powerful ones, or about technique, although it is awesome, or about cinematography (although Caleb Deschanel paints with an artist's eye), or music (although John Debney supports the content without distracting from it).

It is a film about an idea. An idea that it is necessary to fully comprehend the Passion if Christianity is to make any sense. Gibson has communicated his idea with a singleminded urgency. Many will disagree. Some will agree, but be horrified by the graphic treatment. I myself am no longer religious in the sense that a long-ago altar boy thought he should be, but I can respond to the power of belief whether I agree or not, and when I find it in a film, I must respect it.

I do hope that the film's success does not go to the heads of its owners, Gibson and Icon Productions. Should we be reminded of Christ's death on a regular basis? Yes, daily. Is Easter a glorious day? Yes. Does it take watching a movie every year at Easter to convince us of this? No. If you read the Bible (and not just the Gospels and the New Testment, I mean the whole thing), you should be able to understand the passion of Christ, and probably more fully than the vision of Mel Gibson can give you.

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