An R-rated movie with a pervasive NC-17 level of gore, THE PASSION OF THE
CHRIST is simplistic and relentlessly pedantic but undeniably effective with
its single theme that Christ suffered. With little subtlety, the movie
features more realistic violence than JASON X.
Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is an awkward blend of BRAVEHEART level
of brutality, art house subtitling and a Sunday school level of storytelling.
Told exclusively in the original tongues, it was originally slated to be
released without any benefit of subtitles. The movie relies so exclusively on
the visuals that the English subtitles turn out to be almost superfluous.
(According to the Internet Movie Data Base, it's the fourth movie ever made in
Aramaic. Bet you can't name the other three.)
The movie does a good job of showing in great detail just how much Christ
suffered. No matter how unbearable the scenes become, Gibson never lets his
camera cut away from the violent cruelty. This could have worked so much
better, however, if he could have made the flashbacks more believable.
Instead, FREQUENCY'S James Caviezel, who plays Jesus with all the earnestness
he can muster, reads his lines of faith flatly in the flashbacks, which take
place before he is captured.
Most of the movie occurs in the last twelve hours of Jesus's life, beginning at
about the time when Judas Iscariot (Luca Lionello) betrays him for the infamous
thirty pieces of silver. In order to follow the narrative, you'll need to know
your New Testament fairly well. Otherwise you're going to be very confused
about the relationship of the two Marys, Mary (Maia Morgenstern) and Mary
Magdalene (Monica Bellucci), about who hangs himself -- many of characters are
very similar in appearance, about who hates Jesus and who doesn't and why and
about many other things. But needing to know the answers to these questions
all presupposes that the movie has more than one theme, which it doesn't. It
only wants to be a gorefest for a good cause. And at that it succeeds. But
where is its spirituality?
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST runs too long at 2:07. The film is in Aramaic and
Latin with English subtitles. It is rated R for "sequences of graphic
violence" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes