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The Passion of Christ a must-see film

Special to Kalamalama by Rick Bernico, '01

All eyes were riveted to the screen. Hands covered mouths in disbelief or to hide silent screams. Some cowered in their seats while others clutched their partners in empathetic agony. Not a single eye was dry.

The Passion of the Christ debuted Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday, amidst a tumult of controversy and prejudgment. Religious groups, organizations, and people who hadn’t seen it claimed the movie was anti-Semitic. Even though the movie had not been released yet, and they could not have known. Mel Gibson, the film’s producer and director, was allegedly “blacklisted” by certain Hollywood elite.


Then it proceeds to bring in more than $125 million in its first five days, shattering records for a Wednesday off-season opening and for both a two-day and a five-day period, according to recent reports, bringing in more money than any other movie released midweek. So was all the hubbub just hype, or does the film have some serious flaws or raise some issues that viewers need to know about?

The Passion is the story of the last hours of Jesus Christ, from His torment in the Garden of Gethsemane to His crucifixion. It illustrated the tremendous torture inflicted upon Him in His final hours. It was brutal. It was bloody. It was demoniacally cruel. It was a worthy sacrifice to redeem all the sins of the world since Adam and Eve.

Many were horrified by the violence, but by today’s standards, Freddy Kruger or Michael Myers would be yawning in boredom.

What gives this movie its emotional power is the fact that Jesus Christ is a strong personal presence in many people’s lives. Passion gives his suffering such immediacy that watching it is like watching a beloved family member tortured right before our eyes. The film makes us realize that as Jesus sacrificed Himself for all of mankind, then the actual pain and agony of that sacrifice was of universal magnitude. The Passion personalizes the crucifixion of Christ for millions of people.

The film itself was masterfully created. Gibson’s use of lighting for mood and effect evoked and reinforced strong emotional responses from the audience. The scene composition (mis en scene), musical composition, segways of scene and sound, flashbacks, and the fact that the entire dialogue is Arabic— all add to the films power and mastery of its subject.

Gibson used the flashback technique to connect, to make relevant, the teachings of Jesus to the agony of his suffering and to the emotional reactions of his disciples and other witnesses to that agony. Each transition added to our horror at the brutality of Jesus’ torture.

The scourging of Christ lasted 10 minutes. It was the most horrific part of the entire movie, yet those in the audience could not turn their eyes away from the screen. The audience was compelled to follow each stroke. The Romans doing the whipping seemed to relish their job. Encouraged to greater efforts by the cheering and jeering of an equally cruel crowd, inspired to superhuman amorality by the silent figure of Temptation who appeared throughout the movie, they ceased to be human and became icons of cruelty and evil.

Try sitting for one minute, watching the clock, seeing how endlessly long a single minute can seem. Multiply that by 10 and add cruelty, brutality, and sorrow to it.

Mary, Jesus’ mother, and the unnamed harlot whom Jesus saved from being stoned, were significant characters in the movie. At particularly brutal moments, the scene shift to show Mary’s somber face, and our horror increases incrementally as we see and feel her pain by the look in her eyes. Sorrow is added to horror, yet we also sense her inner strength and sense of purpose.

As a photographer and an artist myself, I greatly appreciated of the beauty and artistry of the movie. Each scene was obviously well thought out and filmed with painstaking detail. The costumes and makeup were so well done that the audience does not even think about them. They seem natural. The music masterfully built and compounded emotions.

Whether Jesus is a big part of your life or not, The Passion of the Christ is a must see.



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