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Monday, March 08, 2004
Jesus' Big Movie
The Passion of the Christ is a beautifully-shot film...
...but then so was Triumph of the Will and Birth of a Nation.
Sorry, I can't resist the temptation to jump on the soapbox (but I can resist the tempation to do a riff on a certain Scorcese film). How did a movie this vile and repugnant receive such wide distribution? To anyone who doubts the massive amount of anti-Semitism in Passion: did you see the same thing I did? Or were you not paying attention?
A council of crook-nosed clichés with the devil leering over their shoulders? A crowd of Jewish citizens howling for blood? A fang-toothed anti-Christ fueling their anger in the background? Folks, this is something straight out the most extreme examples of Nazi propaganda. Not only is the movie incredibly anti-Semitic, it isn't too keen on women and homosexuals either. The devil is personified as a bald mother and Herod is inexplicably portrayed as the gayest man who ever lived.
Meanwhile, the Romans are let off easy. Pontius Pilate, the man commonly blamed for the crucifixion, is given actual character development. He's just a poor guy in a tight spot. If he doesn't condemn Christ, he'll have a revolt to deal with. If he does, he'll be killing an innocent man. Meanwhile, the film's Jewish council is provided with the sort of depth usually reserved for non-speaking extras.
I can't imagine the mindset behind a train wreck like this. Simply put, The Passion of the Christ is two hours of offensive stereotypes beating a man to death. The level of extreme violence in this thing is on the same level of notorious cult films like I Spit on Your Grave. If you've read the press on the movie, you already know about the flogging scene. If you haven't, I'll spare you the details and just say the people in the audience were gagging.
In the film's final shot, a nude Jesus rises from the grave to the sound of war drums. There's fire in his eyes and he looks like he's prepping for Passion 2: Jesus' Revenge. Maybe I missed something in Sunday School. I thought Christ was a kind and gentle hippie with magical powers, not friggin' Mad Max.
If Mel Gibson's goal in this movie was to convey the sheer misery of JC's final hours, he succeeded. If he also sought to fan the flames of religious intolerance in this country, ditto. This isn't a film, it's a recruiting tool for bigots.
According to box office reports, the movie is well on its way to becoming the highest grossing R-rated American release ever made. 15 years ago, when The Last Temptation of Christ was released, it pulled in a paltry $7 million domestic. Temptation was thoughtful and poignant, whereas Passion is a hate-filled snuff flick. Makes you feel all warm and snuggly inside, doesn't it?