The Passion of the Christ

The Passion of the Christ
Released: February 25 2004
Cast: James Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Rosalinda Celentano, Sergio Rubini, Maia Morgenstern Luca Lionello, Mattia Sbragia, Hristo Naumov Shopov, Luca De Dominicis
Director: Mel Gibson
Writer: Benedict Fitzgerald and Mel Gibson
Genre: Drama
Rated: MA 15 +
Running Time: 127 Minutes

'The Passion of the Christ' is about the last 12 hours of Jesus of Nazareth's life.
The film opens in the Garden of the Olives (Gethsemane) where Jesus has gone to pray after the Last Supper. Jesus resists Satan's temptations. Betrayed by Judas Iscariot, Jesus is arrested and taken back to within the city walls of Jerusalem where the leaders of the Pharisees confront him with accusations of blasphemy and his trial results in a condemnation to death.

Jesus is brought before Pilate, the Roman Governor of Palestine, who listens to the accusations levelled at him by the Pharisees. Realizing he is confronting a political conflict, Pilate defers to King Herod in the matter. Herod returns Jesus to Pilate who gives the crowd a choice between Jesus and the criminal Barabbas. The crowd chooses to have Barabbas set free and to condemn Jesus.

Jesus is handed over to the Roman soldiers and flagellated. Unrecognisable now, he is brought back before Pilate, who presents him to the crowd as if to say "is this not enough?" It is not. Pilate washes his hands of the entire dilemma, ordering his men to do as the crowd wishes.

Jesus is presented with the cross and is ordered to carry it through the streets of Jerusalem all the way up to Golgotha. On Golgotha, Jesus is nailed to the cross and undergoes his last temptation - the fear that he has been abandoned by his Father. He overcomes his fear, looks at Mary, his Holy Mother, and makes his pronouncement which only she can fully understand "it is accomplished". He then dies "into Thy hands I commend my spirit.

At the moment of his death, nature itself overturns.

My Verdict:
Mel Gibson in collaboration with Benedict Fitzgerald adapted this film version of The Passion from a composite account assembled from the four Biblical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. All the characters in the film are heard speaking the languages they would actually have spoken at the time, meaning Aramaic and 'street Latin'. In some scenes, there are no English subtitles, for the scenes are so powerful that they speak for themselves. The entire movie was filmed in Italy, where attention to detail was uppermost.

The movie opens in the Garden of the Olives, reminiscent of a 'Lord Of The Rings' type lighting/setting - a very steely blue night. It is here that Jesus (a brilliant James Caviezel) encounters an androgynous Satan figure that will reappear throughout the movie, tempting him and trying to lure him. Later, after Jesus' death, in a very dramatic climatic scene, this figure releases the most blood-curdling scream of anger. It is hard not to feel the pain. It is also hard not to feel the pain of the brutal attack on Jesus' body, first at the public scourging and then at the crucifixion. The scourging scene is so graphic and so realistic that nothing is left to the imagination, as is the crucifixion. Both of these elements take up the bulk of the film with occasional flashback sequences. These scenes will test the strength of the most hardened flim lover such is their veracity. They are also very confronting and challenging. Some may find these scenes too much to bear, to the point of being physically and mentally disturbed by the images.

'The Passion of the Christ' is a most remarkable film. It is relentlessly brutal, bloody, horrific and very explicit but also very moving and poignant. If Mel Gibson wanted notoriety with the making of this movie, he has achieved it to the nth degree. It is also a movie that sets a new benchmark in terms of reaching an audience. In Mel Gibson's words: "My intention for this film was to create a lasting work of art and to stimulate serious thought and reflection among diverse audiences of all backgrounds". Indeed he has. Indeed he has.
Rating: A

- Christina Bruce