|Csíkné Józsa Eszter KRE-MA Levelező
Little focus on the main point
In the spring of 2004 preparations for the forthcoming Easter in both religious and atheist people’s minds were definitely different in a great part due to the American drama film The Passion of the Christ. Directed by the Hollywood movie star Mel Gibson, the film soon became a commercial hit but it has also been highly controversial and received mixed reviews. I am of the opinion that all the negative criticisms and ambiguous feelings even among believers result from the very fact that the film fails to explain – or at least does not highlight properly – why Jesus has to undergo so many tortures, so much suffering. Almost entirely, the production is about depicting in great detail how the main character is tortured without giving a sufficient explanation for what it is all for.
Being a devout Catholic I am quite familiar with the story of the Son of God, who was arrested, tried, and sentenced by Pontius Pilate to be scourged, and finally executed on a cross. In spite of that I was shocked, depressed and devastated when leaving the cinema, and I had the feeling that the aim and significance of Jesus’s Passion and crucifixion was not clarified as it should have been. Only a few seconds are devoted to show how he rises from the dead on „the third day”. It is not at all surprising that viewers who are atheist or simply believe in other Gods considered the film to be extremely violent and could not really determine what message it conveyed. They are the ones who can only look at Gibson’s movie as a series of dreadful horrifying actions. As David Edelstein, a top critic publishing in the Slate, observes „This is a two-hour-and-six-minute snuff movie – The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre – that thinks it is an act of faith.”
I was also possessed by a sense of déja vu. I could not help thinking of Mel Gibson’s Academy Awards winner epic historical drama film Braveheart in 1995, which met generally positive reviews but personally I found it too brutal to be enjoyable. The Passion of the Christ including so many immoderately violent pictures is simply another example to prove this director is keen on presenting violence. I share Gene Seymour’s views who thinks that „Mel Gibson shows once again that he is skilled at depicting violence. But you would be hard pressed to find evidence of ’tolerance, love and forgiveness’ that the producer-director-co-writer insists he is trying to communicate.”
When interviewed, Mel Gibson said: „I wanted it to be shocking; and I wanted it to be extreme ... So that they see the enormity – the enormity of that sacrifice; to see that someone could endure that and still come back with love and forgiveness, even through extreme pain and suffering and ridicule.” Personally, I have my doubts if he managed to make people understand why Jesus undertook all that suffering for mankind with dedicating only a few frames to His teachings and resurrection. More emphasis should have been put on explaining that Jesus’s death was a willing sacrifice so as to atone for humanity’s sin and make salvation possible. Michael O’Sullivan, who mostly publishes in Washington Post, also criticized the lack of explanation: [ the film] “Puts us in a situation where we cannot help but feel Jesus’s pains. If only Gibson had taken the time to tell more of us why it mattered.”
To sum up, I am convinced that The Passion of the Christ would have received fewer negative reviews and could have been more accepted and understood if the director had not been influenced so much by his earlier practice of making violent films, and he had tried to turn to faith with more attention, which would not have let him be misled by the superficial, physical and visual aspects of sacrifice and crucifixion but would have helped him to understand the joy of Easter.
David Edelstein (February 24, 2004)
Gene Seymour (February 23, 2004)
Michael O’Sullivan (February 27. 2004)