See, mother, I make all things new.“– Yeshua
I understand, recognize and appreciate the religious mythological and historical diversity of the extraordinary lore of one of the most popular, revered and loved men in history. This pilgrim is also familiar with, and emphatic towards the Synoptic Gospels and also Friday of Sorrows, Marian apparitions and St John’s Gospel from the New Testament from which, The Passion is mainly derived and whose accounts have been adapted to the screen by Mel Gibson and Benedict Fitzgerald. Additionally, the views expressed are in light of the Christian Gospels, since there is no other recollection of this event according to popular common and modern belief(s), none except in the Holy Book of the Muslims; however, for the sake of a non-confrontational approach, I have decided to keep the four sources mentioned above as reference points when needed; only when required will this sinnerman lean on the source material for support otherwise the even-handed opinion will simply be the bi-product of the film watched. In other words, this sinnerman will stick to the film that was watched a third time, without any bias or preconceived notions. I went in, as I had upon initial viewings, with a clean slate that did get bloody by the end, just like how the film does; wounded and bleeding, but the views expressed will remain unprejudiced.
There are other variations of the Immaculate Conception within Christian mythicism and what the conceived grew up to become and how the virgin birth changed history forever. It is rather moreish to include the Holy Books that have said to have been revealed to men who were sent to Earth, from the Heavens, for the singular purpose of spreading the word of God, not by their own faculties but by His Command, however if there’s one thing I took from the film is to not give in to temptation.
However, since The Passion is based on the New Testament Gospels, I will not digress even though ‘The Command‘ comes up in other popular religious texts, some with even more admiration and devotion to Christ, than the Christian exposition itself, sometimes replacing the word ‘Command‘ with ‘Authority‘. The ‘Sheep and the Shepard story’ is in abundance when Prophets are spoken of, except King David and his son Solomon. Those guys were true royalty, in every sense of the word including the etymology of it.
My Kingdom is not on this Earth“– Yeshua
Throughout history, men have depicted The Corpus in many forms, the image of Christ with angels, Christ with a halo, Christ looking up towards the sky as if he is comforted by his faith despite the life-threatening wounds and the asphyxiation, which the crucifixion causes as the subject is raised and the rib cage starts to contract.
Why have you forsaken me Elahi?”– Yeshua
Mel Gibson (Dragged Across Concrete, 2019) had made his intentions clear since he made The Man Without a Face, 1993, and then went all Mesoamerican on the keen viewer; complete to the decapitated head rolling and bouncing down the stairs leading up to the altar of sacrifice.
Gibson does not chew his words (no shit) nor does he shy away from showing what he thinks simply must be shown to the people even at the cost of a tidal backlash by religious and other groups, who felt struck even pounced upon by the film. So, what else is new?
Well, this time it is Jesus of Nazareth, The Gallien, the rebel in Bethlehem, emperor Pilate’s verdict in Judaea, Jerusalem and the Messiah’s Crucifixion in Golgotha.
(I) made damn sure that Pilate washed his hands and sealed his fate”– Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones
What makes this film hard to watch for anyone, believers or not, is the fierce brutality, the scathing indignation, with which, the viewers are repeatedly being assaulted, their senses ravished by the furor of it all.
Crippling visuals of a man being persecuted by a group of power-hungry High Priests and men of immense power. There’s a point to put across here and Gibson will go to any lengths to make certain that the suffering is not just shown, consumed but also felt and makes the viewer extremely uncomfortable. This is a cruel, vicious world we live in and Gibson holds a mirror up to it.
You betray the Son of Man with a Kiss… Judas“– Yeshua
The film inter-cuts a few times to a time when Jesus is preaching, having a light conversation with his mother, making her understand what the high table, he’s just finished building, is for. He says it is for the rich people. He goes around the table and lowers his body as if sitting on a chair. The table isn’t the only thing that the rich need, there’s the chair too.
It won’t catch on, and wash your hands before you eat your meal.”– Maia Morgenstern as Mary
Cut to the Roman guards flogging him for blasphemy. Flagellation at its most extreme (Scourging at the Pillar). The Romans used to stop at 39 swings; forty being the limit decreed by the Empire. In this case, the soldiers (their faces convoluted with projected hate and contorted to delineate the horrendous act), keep going even after the fortieth stroke, just because Jesus (a brave, unwavering, resolute and an absolute portrayal by Jim Caviezel) manages to get on his feet. Mother Mary, that sin from Irreversible, 2002, John the Apostle (Christo Jivkov) and Peter (Francesco De Vito) watch the monstrosity, hiding in a crowd that is hungry for blood, because the faith-mongers will not let it be without any bloodletting. The world may have changed in 2000 years, but the human impulses have only gotten even more pitiless even draconian.
Passion is not an easy film to watch, it is a blunt force head trauma, causing a concussion and confusion. Neither is it entertaining. However, it is more effective than both those things coupled together. It is the story of a holy man being showed on-screen to an audience for them to force them out of their comfort zone and to take the Aramaic/Latin very seriously.
We are shown as the Roman guards force the Crown of Thorns on Jesus’ head and press hard against his forehead until blood flows down the Messiah’s mutilated face. Caviezel is in deep anguish from the first frame, as the camera moves slowly, behind the trees in a thick, smoky forest. It creeps up on Jesus as he prays to God, his body trembling with anticipation of a harrowing end, to a beginning: “Father, You can do all things. If it is possible, let this chalice pass from me“. He says this as the Devil lurks in the shadows and tries to fill Man with doubt, “Do you really believe that one man can bear the full burden of sin?”. He speaks seductively in a velvety voice, after which, Jesus raises his head again and adds to his supplication: “but let Your will be done, not mine.”
The Devil, played by Rosalinda Celentano, looks like a transgender from the fashion shows in Paris. No, really; the ambiguity of conventional notions of male or female gender makes Celentano a truly fascinating Satan, with the Darth Maul-cloak and the disfigured pixie she carr… it carries, as Satan encircles the place, with a running ‘maggot’ nose, where Jesus is being torn to pieces on the inside, with anticipation and even doubt, brought upon by the whisperings of the devil, and soon abandoned, as the faith becomes stronger somehow.
Passion is an emotionally rattling film with flashbacks of Mary (Romanian stage actress Maia Morgenstern) running for her young son as he stumbles on uneven ground, immediately lifting him and inspecting his wounds. The cruel director immediately cuts to Jesus being crushed under the weight of the cross and bleeding profusely, his face and body filled with deep lacerations as Mary tries to touch him before a guard kicks her away.
“Who’s she?” He asks another Roman sentry.
“The Gallien’s mother.”
The guard keeps staring at Marry with a disquieting look until he is whisked away by another. We can see that he has changed in those few moments, his eyes are softer somehow, convinced of the truth among the chaos.
Jesus manages to convert non-believers, his persecutors, on the way to his crucifixion.
Morgenstern keeps it together, she keeps the boiling emotions from letting out even when her son is being subjected to the worst of medieval torture. Although the performance is such that we can almost feel her anguish (almost). She holds back, she wants to appear composed because her faith and her son have asked her not to mourn.
If I do not go, how will the promised one arrive?”– Yeshua referring to The One who once David sang about in the Book of Barnabas
Mel Gibson directs the film as if there is no stopping or a tomorrow. He makes a large number of people upset, both in film and in real life. Showing guilt on the Roman soldiers’ faces, doubt in Jesus’ eyes, the conundrum that the persecutors start to descend into after Jesus breaths his last. Gibson, like Detective Martin Riggs, has made the film with a gun to his head and ready to pull the trigger.
Ruthless and brutal in its execution, vicious in its imagery, Passion of the Christ is blood-curdling with intentions that come across as infernal. But they are far from that. The film and the circumstances are unbearable (even for the Roman Guards and some of the High Priests), after all, we are watching an adaptation of the parable of the one of the most venerated men in history. A sacred soul made to go through unbearable torment.
The Passion of the Christ is also a faith over matter film. I felt almost angry when Jesus prays for the men who hammer huge nails into his hands and feet, spit on him, kick him, almost beat him to death, mock him, treat him like a mad man; I should’ve known better. A dangerous (for ideologies being followed at the time) and a mad man (for those who profited from the pagan beliefs). A man who does not acknowledge Cesare (Kaizer Tiberius) as his King and speaks the truth.
Tell me Claudia, what is truth?”– Pontius Pilate
“Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do”, shouts Jesus while strung from a wooden cross, erected high, and his body trying to build oxygen through the squeezed ribs and stretched torso.
“Don’t you see he prays for you?” Shouts another man from one of the three crosses. A man who has been crucified for his crimes, with Jesus and another.
Passion is unwatchably violent and a severe, drastic film that is themed on an extremely popular belief system, and the man who preached the message of God; The Passion of the Christ is an angry film, it is angry with everyone who was responsible for the crucifixion. Everyone is remarkably furious while watching the trial of Jesus being played in front of them, drenched in Holy Blood, everyone but Jesus himself.
The bitter and brilliant direction by Braveheart and the scalding screenplay by Benedict Fitzgerald (Wise Blood, 1979) make Passion a difficult experience, rather the film is such that the keen viewer (of any belief) can actually feel the suffering that changed to a message of peace for all mankind and (the keen viewer) cannot help from getting up and shouting: “ENOUGH you pigs”. However, that’s the idea.
With grand production value, period-accurate set-pieces, brilliant costumes, impeccable make-up, solid performances from Jim Caviezel to the Bulgarian Pontius Pilate (Hristo Shopov), a popular game for controversies, inaccurate by many accounts, accused of being antisemitic, emotionally draining, intellectually visceral, violently damning and spiritually uplifting (if not reassuring) in its grim telling of a Messiah and the politics and greed and betrayal, and the power struggle, The Passion of The Christ, delivers even if it flustered a whole lot of people and ruined Gibson’s career forever.
I think I saw Monica Bellucci in there somewhere. Anyway.
However, wasn’t it meant that it be such? I mean Gibson was on a one-man crusade to make a film based on a story that no one dare tell the way it was meant to be told; in all its staggering bloody glory.
“My Son… when, where, how… will you choose to be delivered of this?”
That one line forges the love of a mother for her son even though fate is sealed and the question to her answer lies in her son’s prayers and cries of anguish.
It is accomplished.”
A sullen, misunderstood, conflicting, maddening, cruel & an unsparing, unflinching masterpiece.
Please click here to watch on Netflix. I don’t suppose you’d want a Blu-ray?