Monday, March 29, 2004

Movie Review(The Passion of the Christ)...

The Passion of the Christ

Directed by Mel Gibson, The Passion of The Christ is a graphic depiction of the final twelve hours of Jesus’ life. Opening in the Garden of Gethsemane, we are introduced to the main characters through the betrayal by Judas Iscariot and the arrest of Jesus of Nazareth. He is brought repeatedly before hesitant Roman governor Pontius Pilate who eventually gives the crowd of Pharisees a choice to release either Jesus or the convicted murderer Barabbas. The crowd chooses to have Barabbas freed and condemn Jesus, who they see as a dangerous blasphemer, to punishment by the Roman soldiers and death by crucifixion.

From here on in the movie is essentially an extended torture scene in which we watch Jesus’ body being reduced to a bloody pulp. Once he is taken into custody, Jesus is cuffed and kicked and then whipped, first with stiff canes and then with leather strips tipped with sharp stones, glass and bone. After the crown of thorns is forced onto his head he is barely recognizable as a heap of wounded and bloody flesh, barely conscious, moaning in pain.

Jim Caviezels portrayal of Christ is quite an achievement for the relatively unknown actor. Although largely a physical role, Caviezel brings a real emotional intensity to the screen. Maia Morgenstern as Mary and Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene are well cast if somewhat under used. The real standout though is Hristo Shopov whose performance as conflicted Pontius Pilate is superb. The stunning cinematograpy by Caleb Deschanel ensures that, at Gibsons request, the movie looks like a “caravaggio in motion”.

Gibson’s decision to introduce a supernatural element in the form of demonic children and indeed Satan herself, is inexcusable, completely contradicting the ‘realistic’ style he was striving for. The make up and special effects used to transform actress Rosalinda Celentano into an androgynous Satan are laughable and somewhat undermine the excellence of those used for the torture and crucifixion sequences.

In showing the pain and torture Jesus endured in such graphic detail, Gibson seems determined to draw a reaction from the audience, no matter what religious beliefs they embrace. The problem here though is that while the audience is being assaulted with such intense and violent imagery, the sacrifice central to the story becomes completely overshadowed.

3 out of 5