"Mel Gibson's The Passion defies expectations and opens to a flood of tears and ticket sales.
Did you like the movie? Was it as bloody/flawed/anti-Semitic "Hollywood" as they say? I've heard it was just Mel Gibson's interpretation of the crucifixion.
After spending two of the most intense hours of my life immersed in sorrow, suffering and unconditional love, hearing questions like this tells me more about the speaker than the answers they seek. In fact, they're not questions at all, but remarks parroted from the rumor mill which they already believe are true no matter what I say. But from those who have seen the much-publicized The Passion of the Christ, I've yet to hear more than a hint of criticism. An overwhelming personal encounter with the Christ supersedes both the curious and the judgmental for anyone who had even a nominal belief in Jesus before they saw the film.
Did I like the film? In a perfect world, by this time next year Passion would sweep the Oscars for best almost everything, including best picture and, overwhelmingly, best director. But like it? How could anyone "like" seeing such torture, especially of an innocent man who volunteered to die, so even those who put Jesus to death or criticize Gibson's portrayal of the last 12 hours of his life can live forever?
"No, Pilate," Jesus replies, when the governor reminds him he has the power to crucify him or set him free, "you would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above" (John 19:10-11).
Was Gibson mistaken, too, altering the Biblical account, filtering each scene through his own eyes? I suppose you could call it filtering to add chains to Christ's battered body as he trudges toward the crucifixion, include his mother's kiss as he hangs on the cross, and insert a visible presence of evil in the form of a serpent and the furtive figure of a woman. I saw nothing at all to contradict the Biblical account, and much to admire about Gibson, whose extra-Biblical, artistic touches profoundly increased the impact of the crucifixion for me.
First, from the moment the movie begins, comes the contrast between the real Jesus and the image his accusers have of him. He is in the Garden of Gethsemane praying for his beloved disciples, who can't even stay awake to pray with him. He's also agonizing about what he must soon endure, asking God one last time if he really has to die, and accepting the answer when it comes.
Then, nothing quite delivers the message of what Jesus went through like the blood. I couldn't help contrasting the sight of a bloody, pain-wracked Jesus on the cross with every picture or statue I've ever seen memorializing that event. If there is any inaccuracy about the crucifixion of Jesus it's in those decorative, sanitized images, not in Gibson's attempt to make it "as it was."
For Stephen, who has seen the film three times and still has as much difficulty choosing the highlights as I do, the words of Simon of Cyrene who was forced to carry the cross when Jesus was too weak to carry it alone made a deep impact. "I'll carry the cross," Simon said, "but remember: I'm an innocent man carrying the cross of a condemned man." That, Stephen summarized, is exactly what Jesus did for me.
For Amy, "The Passion was an incredible movie I wish the whole world could see. Even my skeptical husband thought it was better than Star Wars. It was no more violent than other historical films like Gladiator or Saving Private Ryan, and it wasn't anti-Semitic at all. As far as blame is concerned, God was the one with the plan. It would have happened no matter who was involved."
Like Amy, Doug wonders what all the fuss is about. "What are you (critics) afraid of, that the film is going to bring truth and dignity back to this country, that righteousness is going to be re-introduced into our land before you sink it?"
The comments, like the tears and the certain ticket sales, will go on. If you haven't seen the movie yet, by all means do so. If you want to brush up on the details of the crucifixion, read Mark 14-15 and John 17-19 before you go. Also, take plenty of Kleenex, and from my point of view, leave your small children at home.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.