Truth Is Found in Gibson's Graphic Passion of the Christ
- Tuesday, February 24, 2004
The film's artistic quality is unsurpassed, with a sweeping musical score and haunting cinematography. The film should, although it probably will not, receive every award ever given, including Best Film, Best Direction, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Cinematography. Jim Caviezel, with his prosthetic nose and digitally-altered eyes (from blue to brown) is shockingly credible - and Semitic - as Jesus. Equally compelling is Maia Morgenstern, a Jewish descendant of a man killed at Auchswitz. As Mary, Morgenstern takes us into the anguish of a mother watching her son cruelly tortured and put to death. It is almost unspeakable.
Equally important to the film are Gibson's nuances - subtleties that add greatly to the cinematic value of the film yet accurately reflect the message of the Gospels and even the Old Testament. A snake slithers, and Jesus crushes its head, in a visual reference to Isaiah's prophecy. Mary recites a line from the Passover liturgy, "Why is this night different from all others?" foreshadowing the day's events. As he willingly lies upon the cross, Jesus tells his disciples (in flashback) that the "shepherd lays down his life for his sheep." During another flashback to the Upper Room, Jesus instructs the disciples to drink the wine, in memory of his blood, which was shed for them. The camera returns to the crucifixion, where Roman soldiers pass around a wineskin, getting drunk. So many details, all pregnant with meaning.
Gibson's greatest accomplishment is his masterful portrayal of how people are changed, again and again, simply by looking into the eyes of Jesus. Peter, after his betrayal. Simone of Cyrene. The thief on the cross. They are changed not by persuasion, Gibson seems to say, not by arguments, not even by good doctrine, but rather, by looking into the eyes of God Himself. As Jesus says to Mary during his beating, in an almost incomprehensible paradox, "See, Mother? I make all things new." One look - one soul-piercing gaze - and all is changed. It is a lesson we should all remember, when sharing our faith. When people see Jesus in us, He will change their hearts.
It is hard to criticize a film that is so beautiful, so moving and so faithful to the Gospel accounts. Although many will recoil from its graphic nature, the horror Gibson shows us is necessary for a true understanding of the sacrifice and the terrible cost that was paid when God sent his only Son to die. But that horror need not be in vain. Even as Jesus' crucifixion was replaced by the resurrection, so shall our horror be replaced by hope, as we look into the eyes of the Son of Man who was, and is and ever more shall be the way, the truth and the life.
And what shall we say to those who criticize this film, missing its ponderous message? Quid est veritas? As Pilate' wife responds, "If you will not hear the truth, no one can tell you."
- Adult Themes: Heavy
- Drugs/Alcohol Content: Mild
- Language/Profanity: None
- Sexual Content/Nudity: Mild
- Violence: Extreme
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