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)