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The Passion of the Christ: Review

Mel Gibson's motive is clearly beyond doubt. He wants to traumatise his viewers by presenting a horribly graphic description of Jesus Christ's last 12 hours on earth in his film, "The Passion of the Christ".

As I sat watching Christ being brutalised beyond belief by Roman  soldiers, I could not help wondering what could have been  Gibson's purpose to show this kind of degradingly distressing  torture of a man, perfectly willing to love even his enemies and  forgive them for all that they wanted to perpetrate on him.

All that I can thin k of now is that the director wanted to  punish his audiences with scenes and scenes of sadistic violence.  Till, a time came for me when I grew detached from the motion of  madness that seemed to be ripping the very screen apart. There  was blood, there was raw flesh, and as the soldiers panted and  puffed and grew tired of whipping the frail man, the canvas cried  in such anguish that my mind blanked out.

The last frames of Christ's palms being nailed -- with the  camera watching it minutely -- broke on the screen with such  deafening thud that I grew sick with revulsion. Everybody knows  that Christ suffered, but nobody need to be shown in such  gruesome detail how it is to feel a giant nail entering a palm !

Or, was Gibson trying to preach through his volatile visuals the  greatness of forgiveness and the power of love ? If he was, he  has certainly chosen a futile path. For, this is no way -- not at  all -- of depicting the goodness of religion. Gibson ought to  have seen Lar Von Trier's "Breaking the Waves", a masterly movie  that underlines the depth of faith, the intensity of feeling.  Gibson's Passion will merely drive men and women away from their  belief in religion, even humanity, I would aver.

Gibson makes little effort to create an emotional bond between  Christ and the spectators in the auditorium. In his amorousness  to picturise the horrific events leading up to the crucifixion,  the director forgets that the bloody mess he fills his frames  with will merely repel humans. Cruelty, especially beyond a  point, is frightfully sickening. Gibson fails and falls here.

Now, as far as the historical authenticity of the story goes, it  is, given the distance of time, pointless to verify the accuracy  of Gibson's cinematic details. I do not even know whether "The  Passion of the Christ" is anti-Jew, one strong argument against  Gibson's work. At least, he does not clearly dispel this anywhere  in his narrative.

Which opens in the Garden of Olives, where Jesus has gone to  pray after the Last Supper. Betrayed by Judas, Christ is arrested  and taken to Jerusalem, where he is accused of blasphemy and  condemned to death. The torture unfolds in the next two hours,  where the only highlights appear to be pieces of remarkably good  acting. I loved Maia Morgenstern in an almost wordless  performance as Mary. Her moods and expressions suggest sheer  versatility. James Caviezel is Christ, and he plays the part with  conviction, revealing agony and serenity in a wonderful sort of  way.

"The Passion of the Christ" is certainly not a piece of  entertainment, but, rather, a portrayal of humiliating misery and  deplorable pain that is much too beyond comfort.

(This review appeared in The Hindu dated April 30 2004)

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