Thursday, March 11, 2004

The Passion of the Christ as a Revenge melodrama: "One of the film's only genuine moments of humanity comes when Mary, struggling to watch her son drag his cross to Golgotha, sees him fall with his burden and land on his knees, and she flashes back: To the moment when Jesus, as a small boy, falls on his face outside their home and lies there; Mary runs to him and picks him up, telling him she's there for him. And so she does the same now.

"Any parent who has run to pick up their fallen child knows this feeling, and they know the dread of seeing their child die before them. Anyone with a glint of human feeling will be struck by this scene. Yet Gibson's Mary is amazingly two-dimensional, a vessel for motherly suffering and little else. And when the film is over, we do not so much feel for her as we identify with her; and identifying with her, we want justice for her. Revenge, if you will."

The scene is a right little tearjerker to be sure but it seems to me the reviewer has missed the message of Jesus: love one another, forgive your enemies, turn the other cheek etc. Jesus' response to Mary effectively demonstrates the nobility of his spirit.

The 'Satan' character seemed entirely superflous if not confusing and could have been deleted. Much has been made of the violence but forewarned is forearmed and the main question is as to realism, whether such a flogging would leave a person capable of walking much less carrying a heavy cross.

Gibson does seem to have adopted a version of the story, not necesarily the most accurate version, which shows the High Priests in the worser light and Pontius Pilate (and his wife) in the better. This does not necessarily diminish the impact of the drama, except that the scene at the end where the Altar is broken betrays a misunderstanding of purpose, a misunderstanding which could indeed feed the anti-semitic spirit. The tiny sect's little battle with Judaism over the legacy of scripture and prophets has unfortunately imparted an enduring stain.

The High Priests were merely collaborators to an occupying power: the ultimate responsibility and the real target of the message was the Roman Empire. Remarkably, the Christians with their message of love and the brotherhood of man (doubtless unfortunately mixed from time to time with doses of resentment, hate, antisemitism, violence, powerlust etc) eventually succeeded in overthrowing the Empire with its shameless doctrines of fascism, war, violence, enslavement and perpetual domination.

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