The Passion of the Christ (DVD, 2004, Widescreen) Reviews
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The Passion of the Christ (DVD, 2004, Widescreen)

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Ecce Homo: Mel Gibson's Porno Christ

Mar 8, 2004 (Updated Jun 22, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:None that I can find.

Cons:Pornographic violence, bad writing, surrealism without purpose

The Bottom Line: Gibson has managed to create the first pornographic film about Jesus. This film fails to be art, or entertainment. It simply fails.


Biblical films have long been popular. Such classics as Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments and The Greatest Story Ever Told have been staples of Sunday afternoon television for decades. Films of this sort can serve as art, entertainment, or recruiting tools for a religion. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is none of these.

Gibson has chosen to focus only on the last twelve hours in the life of Jesus. He follows Jesus from his arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, until his death on the cross. In doing so he has chosen to ignore the bulk of this beautiful myth. Gibson gives us nothing of the message of Jesus (which is the heart of the Christian religion). Instead Gibson focuses on violence. The violence is unrelenting, and gruesome. It is abhorrent. It is woefully over the top. All of this violence is, in fact, pornographic. Since we have been given no plot, no story, no characterization (and no background, or reason) the violence becomes meaningless. It is gratuitous, and disgusting.

Jesus is played by Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line). Caviezel is a good actor, but here is dreadfully miscast. He brings a slow witted, simple-minded aura to Jesus. In the past the character of Jesus has been portrayed as strong, loving, bright, and cheerful. In Gibson’s film he is dull, quiet, and beaten.

The rest of the cast is fine. No performance truly stands out, but that is due more to bad writing than bad acting.

What is truly notable about this film is its tendency toward absurdism. Gibson has clearly seen Fellini Satyricon, but has not understood it. He deluges us with surreal images, and pointless moments. Among the strange things we see are: the androgynous devil girl, the giant, deformed evil infant (which looks a bit like Mini Me), strange evil children, some creature (a werewolf?) that flashes on screen for an instant, a stop motion dove, the world in a drop of rain, and a dead smiling *a*s*s (the animal, not the body part. Epinions thinks this is a dirty word. Go figure). The scene in Herod’s temple is odd. It seems to be loosely inspired by Jesus Christ Superstar, and the audience can be forgiven for expecting Herod to break into song. This scene evokes a bit of unintended humor.

The Passion of the Christ is a bad film. It is simpleminded, muddled, overly violent without reason, and strange. But, the question we must ask is: is it anti-Semitic? I can’t be sure. I don’t believe that it is purposefully anti-Semitic. But, that interpretation is certainly a valid one. I could see why some people think that the film is anti Jewish, but I can’t be clear on whether it is or not.

Gibson is certainly a film maker of some talent. His Braveheart was a good film. I hope that he again returns to making worthwhile movies. Or, perhaps, after this debacle he could make a movie about Jesus. One that actually addresses the story, and offers something of the message. But then, maybe that’s asking too much.



****************************************************************

A note in the interest of full disclosure:

I am not a Christian. I view this story as myth, and consider any film based on the Bible in the same way I view films inspired by Greek Mythology.

Nathan Tyree


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