Sunday, April 11, 2004

The Passion of the Christ


Finally saw the controversial film.

Heard on the radio that Passion of Christ regained the top spot in dollars in the movie box office this weekend. I suspect I wasn't the only one with the idea of seeing it in the context of our remembrance and celebration of Easter. I saw it on Good Friday.

To sum up: if it was just 2 hrs of a man being beaten to a pulp than it is a waste of time.

However, it isn't.

There are flashbacks to Jesus teachings which provides a sense of the Christian message. These provide some of the context of WHY Jesus had to die: He died for all of us to pay for our sin.

Gibson has also tried to set the physical suffering into the wider cosmic battle of good and evil through the device of Satan appearing as the dark clad woman. I believe that is the power of "art" at work and I found it very effective and haunting.

We also see the struggle of good and evil within the human heart. As effecting as the physical violence is, the scenes that also moved me were those small moments when you see people struggle within their hearts about what they see happening to Jesus. Those who choose good are UNABLE to stop the death of Christ but in their own way they in small ways resist evil and those scenes just broke me up.

Because of Gibson's Catholicism there is a large role for Mary the Mother of Jesus. As a "good" Protestant I don't put Mary as beyond human and "semi-divine" but clearly the Scriptures say she was there at the foot of the Cross. It is speculative as to what she might have done on the road to Calvary. However, I find his surmises to be reasonable ones and effective to advance the message of the Cross.

To be honest I don't know if a Protestant making the film could have made as powerful a film because they would have relegated Mary to a minor player. Instead, Gibson utilizes the actress who plays Mary to powerful effect. She exhibits the best qualities of a Christian. She is a participant in the cosmic struggle. The contrast could not be more pointed: the disciples at the Garden at the beginning of the film could not stay awake and keep watch with Jesus and pray for him. But Mary is THERE. She WATCHES literally and you can imagine her in silent prayer for the mission Jesus was on and thus a participant of the spiritual war. And she is human, there are moments she weakens and it is only because she is with the other Mary and John that she is able to go on. Again, so properly Christian a message that our journey of faith is NEVER alone.

The theater was a PACKED sell out crowd. I happen to be sandwiched between two burly guys and I could not help but notice they were sobbing at various points in the film. I wisely put a few tissues in my pocket because I suspected I too would be moved and indeed I was. Some of the tears came during the flogging of Jesus as I thought: He is baring the strikes for MY sin and that thought was overwhelming. I was also moved by small moments like the interactions of Jesus with the man who helps him carry the Cross. There is another with the girl who brings him water. And the interactions with Mary, the mother were powerful.

After the film ended, only 1/4 of the audience left immediately. The rest were simply too moved to move. Eventually, at the end, about 1/2 of the audience was gone by the end of the credits. I've never seen that many people stay to watch the credits. And I wonder how many were really watching the credits and how many were thinking about the film and weren't ready to leave?

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