I have never heard a theater crowd so quiet after a movie as I did last night.
This is not an attempt at a full-fledged review. I’m not a regular movie-goer, and others can speak more authoritatively about the art than I. Here are my thoughts after last night’s screening:
- Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League and other critics who accuse Mel Gibson of fanning the flames of anti-Jewish prejudice are wrong. The Gentiles (Romans) come off worse in the film.
- Critics who charge that Mel went over the top in portraying the violence don’t know anything about the brutality the Romans used to keep subjugated peoples under control. Scourging and crucifixion were weapons in the Roman version of “shock and awe”.
- There were some scenes that were not recorded in the Bible, but they didn’t detract from the overall impact of the film. Mary was given more weight than in the gospel accounts, which isn’t surprising considering that Mel’s a devout Catholic. But the film stopped way short of venerating Mary, or anything else that contradicts the Bible.
The movie wears you down. Other violent films, liike Pulp Fiction or Gladiator, have moments where the hero gets in his licks. That never happens in The Passion, and the viewer is subjected to ninety minutes of watching brutal, sadistic punishment inflicted on a victim who never fights back. I cried during the scourging scene, and I eventually went numb.
But guess what? Based on research I’ve done for the classes I’ve taught on the historic Jesus, I believe Mel Gibson portrayed events more accurately than anyone ever has in a film.
That’s the point.