Passionate. Overzealous. Faith-affirming. Offensive. Whatever you have heard about the new Mel Gibson movie, The Passion of the Christ, is probably true, depending on how you look at it.
In all the controversy of the past few weeks, and especially after Ash Wednesday, some people have forgotten that all this drama was centered on a film. Someone looking on from the outside would see the fervor of a holy war.
Nevertheless, The Passion opened to audiences nationwide last week, leaving in its wake confirmation for its supporters, but few appeasements for its critics.
Gibson’s vision, a graphic depiction of the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life, is a testament to the human spirit and the message of love that the entire Christian doctrine is based upon.
Gibson’s drive is so singular, so truly dedicated, that he spent more than $25 million of his own money funding the project. Talk about being faithful.
One of the most powerful films ever made, The Passion follows Christ’s journey from his arrest in Gethsemane to His brutal sacrifice on the cross. Jim Caviezel’s depiction of Jesus is the most convincing ever put on screen because we actually forget he is acting.
The story is told through historical sources, including the Four Gospels of John, Luke, Mark and Matthew. One of the most extensive uses ever of Aramaic, a virtually dead language, and Latin, is one of the reasons the film is so real. We feel as if we are actually there as He endures whippings, almost as if we could touch Him through His words.
The physical brutality, and drawn-out sequences of violence that pummel our senses throughout the course of the film are sometimes so real, so intense and so truly moving, that it makes even the hardest of hearts break.
For the faithful, The Passion reaffirms their beliefs in one foul swoop, exquisitely illustrating the sacrifice Christ made for them. Even those who don’t believe will be hard-pressed not to reexamine their faith after witnessing this incredible film.
But one of the main criticisms of the film has been its branding of being Anti-Semitic. And if you go into the film looking for this, you may find it. At the same time, if you went into the film looking to see the Romans as particularly brutal (which in the present age is irrelevant), then you would find that too.
The truth is that the film spreads blame evenly, if you can call it blame. The real focus here is the enormity of the sacrifice, and the degree of importance this event had not only on the faith of Christianity, but the history of the world as well.
This movie is not only the best so far this year, it is one of the best in the last several years, as it makes us realize that film cannot only tell a story, but send an important message – and change people’s lives at the same time.
The Passion of the Christ is not for everyone, but for those willing to endure its power and grasp its significance. The film will make us think again about the world we live in, and the true meaning of the word faith.
Ross Bercik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org