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:: The Passion Of The Christ

This has been a film that I’ve been eagerly awaiting since I first heard Mel Gibson was making it. Since that news, I have followed some of the progress through the Italian media that saw the southern Italian city of Matera come to prominence and the famous Cinecitta studios in Rome get rejuvenated. As a result, the film has been finished and I can say that ‘The Passion Of The Christ’ is something that I will never forget. For those that see it, the images of Jesus Christ’s last twelve hours alive will remain etched in the memory.

There is a “divide and conquer” scenario. Reactions to the graphic, eerie portrayal of how and why Jesus (Jim Caviezel) was crucified will be divided. It’s worth noting a few things. Some will think that it tips the blame on the Jewish religious hierarchy. The temple priests could not have been more callous. It may also see a less-than-harsh portrait of Pontius Pilate (Hristo Naumov Shopov) as agreeing with the Jewish mob to crucify Jesus, but only as a last resort. The Gospel does say that Pilate’s sin is less than that of the high priest Caiphas (Mattia Sbragia).

The film is spoken in Latin and Aramaic with English subtitles. Mel Gibson didn’t want any subtitles to keep that extra aspect of authenticity. In fact, the subtitles add absolutely nothing to the story and the way we should view it. The key moments all work well: the Agony in the Garden, the scourging, the crucifixion, and the characters around those moments. The dramatic music score also leaves a lasting impression.

Mel Gibson crafts this film wonderfully. He offers a collection of intense moments, complete with slow-motion shots, and the cinematography is chilling. There is extreme brutality and torture, and it takes some strength to watch scene after scene of the cruel punishment that Jesus Christ suffered. Gibson immerses us in this physical suffering; the brutal, unflinching manner in which the flesh is ripped apart. It’s tough and hard to stomach and is too much for children to view.

Gibson has everything he could have hoped for from the cast and deliberately cast relatively unknown actors, although followers of Italian films would have noticed some well-known people amongst them. Jim Caviezel is excellent as the brave Jesus Christ, especially in the flashback scenes that recall Jesus’ life and his relationship with his disciples. Monica Bellucci plays Mary Magdalene. She always looks stunningly beautiful, even when her face is splattered with dirt. Maia Morgenstern plays Mary and gives a heartfelt performance too. Bulgarian Hristo Naumov Shopov wonderfully plays Pontius Pilate. Gibson’s insistence that the actors learn the language of the period also works well.

From what I’ve read and observed, there isn’t too much that can be complained about in Gibson’s interpretation of this time. There will be much said, but there is nothing anti-Semitic about the film. Follow the story for what it contains. You will feel the pain of Jesus’ death. When Mary embraced the dead Jesus it is beautifully sad and there is a splendidly understated final moment too.

The film leaves an indelible imprint and will be remembered for all time. Even atheists should be moved by Gibson’s long-standing vision to inject something potent and vital into history. ‘The Passion Of The Christ’ works on its own terms. This is the gutsy and determined artistic achievement that Mel Gibson had longed for. He leaves us with a benchmark that will be long referred to.

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