The most anticipated movie of 2004 finally debuted in 2,800 theaters on Wednesday, February 25, which was also Ash Wednesday. Swirls of controversy and publicity, both good and bad, surrounded the film and its director Mel Gibson. Some say that “The Passion” portrays the death of Jesus Christ accurately; others feel that it is anti-Semitic.
For those who have lived under a rock the past month, “The Passion” is a movie focusing only on the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life. The slashings with a cat-of-nine-tails, which is a whip that has shards of glass, wood, and stone in it. and his crucifixion are shown in realistic, bloody detail on the screen.
The film shows Jesus in the Garden of Olives (Gethsemane), flashbacks of the last supper with the 12 disciples, his death on the cross at Golgotha and, briefly, his resurrection.
Stars include James Caviezel as Jesus and Maia Morgenstern as Jesus’ mother Mary. Other stars include Monica Bellucci as a beautiful Mary Magdalene and Rosalinda Celentano as an incredibly demonic-looking Satan.
Some were not sure why the movie was titled “The Passion of the Christ.” Pas-sion plays have been around for decades and depict the final hours of Jesus’ life. The name has nothing to do with the modern-day use of the word passion. According to a Newsweek article, passion comes from the Latin word passus which means “having suffered” or “having undergone.”
Running just over two hours, this film is absolutely stunning. The editing and music are both phenomenal. Top notch acting, beautiful settings and costumes add to the effect of this movie. But, be warned. This movie is incredibly bloody and graphic. The final hour and 15 minutes of the film shows Jesus beaten, bloody, and battered. The whipping of Jesus is shown in incredible detail. We see the whips mutilate Jesus and we then see the nails pierce his hands on the cross.
The film is spoken in Latin and Aramaic (the language of Jesus’ time). Latin is a dead language, and Aramac is only spoken in a very small number of households today. The language choice makes “The Passion” more authentic. Subtitles are provided in English, and do not get in the way of watching the movie. Gibson keeps the subtitles short, and some are direct scripture taken from one of the four Gospels.
Mel Gibson, who co-wrote, directed, and co-produced the film, spent $25 million of his own money on the film. Gibson tried to stay as close to the biblical texts as he could, and primarily used the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but also talked with hundreds of scholars on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Pope said of the film, “It is as it was.” But, one has to remember that as with any passion play, elements have been added that did not actually happen. The four Gospels leave much to the imagination, and Gibson has tried to fill in those gaps as accurately as possible. But as director, Gibson took liberty in creating the play to be what he believes is truthful. One cannot take this film as 100 percent accurate, but rather a very close rendition of what the Gospels say has happened. Nothing in the movie is biblically incorrect.
The film was aptly rated ‘R’ for sequences of graphic violence. The ‘R’ rating stands not for raunchy and/or racy like so many other movies today, but rather for realistic and raw. The entire last part of the movie is a blood bath, and scenes are extremely brutal. It was said that 40 lashes could kill a man, so Jesus endured 39. The cruelty is centered on Jesus and no one else, causing the violence to magnify even more.
The movie serves as a reminder to all Christians what their savior did for them on the cross. The movie also shows an accurate retelling of a great man who lived in history- savior or not. We have yet to see if it will bring religions closer together or drive them further apart. What we do know is this movie is a powerful one, a masterpiece of visual and emotional excitement.