Film reviews

The Passion of the Christ, Dir; Mel Gibson, Cert; 18

This outing for Mel Gibson's Icon Productions is one that has already caused a great deal of comment, debate and protest amongst various religious groups, probably much to the delight of the producers given that the column inches in the press equate to free publicity.

It is not an easy film to categorise or review given its subject matter, content and style. I have had the best part of a week since seeing it and am still unsure as to my opinion of it.

The setting of the film, if you have managed to avoid the aforesaid press coverage, is the final twelve hours in the life of one Jesus of Nazareth, carpenter, prophet, heretic depending on your standpoint and also the possible designer of modern dining furniture if the film is to be believed!

...Gethsemane, where we first meet Jesus following the last supper and prior to his imminent arrest for alleged heresy, is strikingly similar to the valley of the Ia Drang in “We Were Soldiers Once.... and Young”.
... Judas’ betrayal of Jesus to the church elders for 30 pieces of silver is similarly disjointed, resembling as it does a scene from Monty Pythons “Life Of Brian”.

Throughout the character portrayal struck me as rather two dimensional, verging on stereo-typing in a simplistic and insulting manner. The Temple Elders come across as rabble rousing manipulators, whilst the Romans are, on the whole, rather vicious minded simpletons banally doing as instructed. Meanwhile Pilate is apparently your average middle-management type, caught between the bosses in Rome and the rabble acting on the instruction of the Elders. An example is the period following his arrest where Jesus is taken to the temple to be judged by the elders, in true “Kangaroo Court” style, before being whisked off to the Roman governor for sentencing as their religion precludes the death penalty they desire for his alleged crimes. In the ensuing game of “Pass The Buck” the Roman Governor, Temple Elders and King Herod (who looks unnervingly like a cross between “George Doors” from TV’s “Shooting Fish” and David Hemmings’ character from Gladiator.) all keep trying to avoid responsibility, the result being the Governor sending Jesus off to be punished as the crowd wish whilst absolving himself of accountability.

Having said the above, I feel that I should point out that none of this is the fault of the cast - largely unknowns from Italy and Eastern Europe, headed by Jim Caviezel (Jesus) and Monica Berlucci (Mary Magdelene), they give a distinguished ensemble performance with Jim Caviezel being both reserved and noble in his role.

We then come to the most unrelenting period of torture I know of in a film. Fully three-quarters of the film, with brief interludes of flashback for respite (including the furniture design section!), are taken up with the torture, flogging en route to Golgotha and crucifixion of Jesus.

I do not know whether the aims of the producers were to convey the suffering of Jesus, generate sympathy for a persecuted man, engender disgust for those that bestowed the suffering upon him or garner converts for the Christian faith, however one thing is clear - they didn’t know how or when to stop once they got going. There is less subcutaneous flesh visible in most hospital documentaries on fat reduction surgery! This is not a film for those susceptible to nightmares or who feel ill waiting in the dentists.

In summary this is a very well acted piece with some superb cinematography. Unfortunately the graphic nature of the final three-quarters left me ambivalent towards the subject, whilst feeling sorry for the production team in that they felt the need to portray things in such an unremitting manner. The lack of exploration or explanation for the arrest of Jesus or his alleged "crimes", or the reasons for the fear of the Temple elders or the Roman authorities, simply compounds the apparently narrow viewpoint taken in the writing and production of this work.

This isn’t a bad film, but neither is it particularly good or enjoyable. I had toyed with the idea of not grading it, however that felt similar to the hand washing of Pilate.....

Throughout the character portrayal struck me as rather two dimensional, verging on stereo-typing in a simplistic and insulting manner. The Temple Elders come across as rabble rousing manipulators, whilst the Romans are, on the whole, rather vicious minded simpletons banally doing as instructed. Meanwhile Pilate is apparently your average middle-management type, caught between the bosses in Rome and the rabble acting on the instruction of the Elders. An example is the period following his arrest where Jesus is taken to the temple to be judged by the elders, in true “Kangaroo Court” style, before being whisked off to the Roman governor for sentencing as their religion precludes the death penalty they desire for his alleged crimes. In the ensuing game of “Pass The Buck” the Roman Governor, Temple Elders and King Herod (who looks unnervingly like a cross between “George Doors” from TV’s “Shooting Fish” and David Hemmings’ character from Gladiator.) all keep trying to avoid responsibility, the result being the Governor sending Jesus off to be punished as the crowd wish whilst absolving himself of accountability.


Throughout the first quarter of the film, arguably the pleasant bit, I was struck by visual similarities to other films of a religious(ish) tilt or those involving Mr. Gibson....


8/10 for the cast and their achievements within the bounds of the screen play.
7/10 for the production - set, costume and photography.
1/10 for entertainment and enjoyment - or lack there-of.

There will be MUCH better ways to spend two hours at the cinema this year.



K.Soze


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