by Sara Westhead
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I HAVE anticipated the launch of this film for nearly a year, when I first heard about Mel Gibson’s work. Then, I had to wait as local theatres vied for the right to show such a spectacular and controversial movie. Finally, after three weeks wait, I was forced to wait another two weeks to view the film, thanks to personal scheduling difficulties and the Bermuda International Film Festival.
No review of The Passion of Christ is without opinion. In fact, controversy surrounding the movie began long before it ever debuted in theatres. Questions arose over whether or not Gibson tries to cast blame (or not cast blame) on particular parties. Worry was made over whether the film was too bloody.
However anyone views the film, one thing is certain, Gibson did his very best to remain true not only to the New Testament account, but also taking into account many of the prophecies made in the Old Testament foretelling the death of the Messiah.
Even before the film begins, a verse from Isaiah is poured across the screen:
Gibson’s purpose for this film is made clear from the very beginning – he wants to share the story of the greatest man who has ever lived; the story of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, both God and man.
Filmed in both Aramaic and Latin, The Passion gives not only a clear picture of Christ’s final hours, beginning as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, but also the unique relationship between Israel and Rome – a relationship that hung in a very delicate balance and one that could have ultimately been changed quickly and drastically by simply allowing Christ to live.
The battle between good and evil is also vividly portrayed. One of the earliest characters we are introduced to is Satan, who, though only speaks a few words at the beginning, follows Christ through all of his final steps. While praying in the Garden, Gibson also vividly brings to life the passage in Genesis 3:15, in which God speaks to the serpent: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”
Without a doubt, the film is gruesome but, strange as this may sound, no more than can really be expected. The Romans were champions at torture and death.
Beatings and whippings were designed to leave the victim with both emotional and physical scars, if person even survived. It was said that 40 lashes from that cat-of-nine-tails would kill a man, so no one was ever given more than 39. Many did not even make it that far.
The crucifixion itself was considered the most debasing, horrible death a person of the times could endure. A man would be left near naked and exposed to the elements to be endure the final humiliation of cursing crowds. Often already the victim of torture, as was Christ, the person would struggle to push himself to standing to try and grasp a breath. Taking that breath was sure agony and the man would then drop again, pulling with all his weight on the nails in his hands. Only the breaking of the man’s legs by the guard would hasten death – by quick asphyxiation.
Christ endured all of these things. And Gibson showed the audience.
The last big complaint anyone has had about the movie was that it was “too much Good Friday and not enough Easter Sunday.”
While the story is certainly short when coming out on the far end of the Easter story, it really does grasp the beauty and wonder of Christ’s resurrection without carrying on into the next chapter of the Christian story.
Again, the film does an amazing job to show the risen Christ, healed of his stripes, resurrected from the dead with power over the grave. The Passion ends with the hope that Christ has the victory.
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This was a very fair review and for me Mel Gibson portrayed the happenings just right before it got overbearing and too gruesome. RD Kloosman
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