24 February 2004

Gibson’s version of the Passion

From the Times‘ review of the film:

What makes the movie so grim and ugly is Mr. Gibson’s inability to
think beyond the conventional logic of movie narrative. In most movies
— certainly in most movies directed by or starring Mr. Gibson —
violence against the innocent demands righteous vengeance in the third
act, an expectation that Mr. Gibson in this case whips up and leaves

On its own, apart from whatever beliefs a viewer might bring to it,
“The Passion of the Christ” never provides a clear sense of what all of
this bloodshed was for, an inconclusiveness that is Mr. Gibson’s most
serious artistic failure. The Gospels, at least in some
interpretations, suggest that the story ends in forgiveness. But such
an ending seems beyond Mr. Gibson’s imaginative capacities. Perhaps he
suspects that his public prefers terror, fury and gore.

I do plan to see the film,
with a monk I know.  But not tomorrow.  I don’t know about
Mel Gibson, but tomorrow is a holy day of obligation, and I will be in
church, not at the movies….

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3 Responses to “Gibson’s version of the Passion”

  1. Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski Says:

    I saw the movie yesterday at a screening for local religious educators and clergy via my Boston College connections. Bottom line: a technically good movie but an abominable theological statement. Think Leni Riefenstahl. Two issues. One, although Jews and Romans come off as equally vicious, the figure of Satan is consistently priest among groupings of Jewish priests and the recognizably Jewish crowd, who are so bloodthirsty they have to be violently restrained by Romans. Not once is Satan portrayed as present when Pilate caves or just once when the Romans whip Jesus. Nevermind that Satan is not once mentioned in any passion narrative. Second, the thelogical message here is that the more Jesus physically suffers the more he loves us. This is not the Gospel message. Rather the atoning sacrifice [however that is defined] is made efficacious by the death *and* resurrection of Jesus. The movie ends with an ambiguous resurrection scene with no witnesses and no mention on how it is really the resurrection matters as the essence of Christianity [see I Corinthians 15]. If Gibson could spend 10 minutes on the scourging of Jesus, he could spend time minutes on the encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus from Luke. In the end, there is no hope in this film. The one good part in the movie, where there is some hope for humanity, is the moving interlude of Simon of Cyrene carrying the cross with Jesus. When they get to Golgotha and Simon is free to go, you know that Simon somehow understands that this poor man is somehow dying for him. This moving scene does not take away from the profound problems of the demonizing of the Jewish priesthood and the suspect theology of Gibson’s vision.

  2. Brian Says:

    This may be flip, and I haven’t seen the movie (I would very much like to, but I know my stomach well enough to know that I probably won’t be able to handle the on-screen violence.) Talking about the way Gibson portrays Satan…every article I’ve read discusses how Satan is described as vaguely effeminate, or not quite male or not quite female; am I reading too much into this, or is there a powerful yet not emphasized connection being made between the quasi-incarnation of evil and a crossing/blurring of gender lines? I’m not normally this paranoid, but in this year of years regarding how important people think it is to differentiate “same-sex” from “opposite-sex”, is there (as a sidebar to the obviously more central issues that are being addressed in most of the press) a marginal comment about gender occurring here? I’d be curious for reaction to his from anyone who has seen the film, to tell me I’m way off base if I am or nuance this if I’m not.

  3. Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski Says:

    Satan is definitly female in this movie. Those who do not see this do not have the eyes to see.