Now that the film is out, it finally can speak for itself. And as it turns out, some of the arguments are valid. Passion, which arduously depicts the final hours of Jesus Christ, contains brutal scenes of torture that linger for an eternity. And Gibson does limit his narrative to Jesus' conviction and crucifixion, with occasional fleeting reminders of significant events such as the last supper or the Sermon on the Mount.
If you want a movie about Jesus' influential teachings, though, you're encouraged to look elsewhere. Gibson's movie is about Christ's sacrifice and little else. His dedication to Christ's final journey, though, has produced an exquisite spiritual masterpiece, an uncompromising statement of religious conviction that's unflinching in its hardened approach yet never untrue to its faith.
Is it complete? Not exactly. Gibson's Passion (in Aramaic and Latin with English subtitles, contrary to what you might have heard) is the cinematic equivalent of only attending mass during Easter week and ignoring the remaining Gospel readings. You get Jesus' death but beg for more of his life. Gibson assumes his audience arrives with a prior knowledge of Christ's teachings, and doesn't feel compelled to rehash the man's work.
Then there are the creative liberties Gibson exercises that stray from the literal translation of God's word. It's here, in the grey areas, where religious representatives might find offense. The most predominant is an ever-present feminine figure of evil - slithering serpent and all - that haunts multiple scenes. There's no proof such a being existed, and Gibson's placement of the character in select scenes might provoke his attackers.
What's missing, however, is this much-debated element of anti-Semitism. Yes, it's the Jewish high priests who push for Jesus' crucifixion, but Gibson's film posits Christ was railroaded through a corrupt judicial system and suffered only when religion and politics met at an unfortunate crossroads.
Emphasis should be taken off the unconfirmed anti-Semitic angle and placed on Jim Caviezel, who gives a mighty performance as Christ. The gaunt actor's brave turn keeps a human face on Jesus' suffering, no matter how clouded the director's view gets with crimson blood.
Gibson's Passion certainly isn't for everyone. Christians should use it as a reminder of their faith, and capitalize on the need for discussion that such a film presents. It's harsh but predominantly accurate, an unquestionable work of conviction that should outlast the controversy and trigger constructive dialogue for years to come.
Run time: 127 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 25th February 2004
Box Office USA: $370.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $611.9M
Distributed by: Newmarket Film Group
Production compaines: Icon Productions
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 49%
Fresh: 131 Rotten: 136
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Jim Caviezel as Jesus, Maia Morgenstern as Maria, Christo Jivkov as Johannes, Francesco De Vito as Simon Peter, Monica Bellucci as Maria Magdalena, Mattia Sbragia as Kaiphas, Luca Lionello as Judas Ischarioth, Hristo Shopov as Pontius Pilatus, Claudia Gerini as Claudia Procula, Fabio Sartor as Abenader, Rosalinda Celentano as Satan, Toni Bertorelli as Hannas
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