Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Passion

Finally saw The Passion. I didn't see it in the theatres because I didn't want to go through such a harrowing experience in public, and thus waited for the DVD - which I thought would have extra goodies on it, but it didn't, alas.

As a film, it's directed, acted, photographed, and edited well. But, had I been the director, I would've laid off some of the slo-mo in the last half of the film. It's a nice, effective technique when used sparingly. When it's used for the majority of the shots, you (and least I) fall out of the film's spell and think, "The hell? Are we trapped near a 'Slow Children' sign or something?" I also am not a fan of the current trend - that appears to be dying - of monochromatic filters for set-pieces. By that I mean, a logical grouping of shots that comprise a theme in the movie being all blue, or all sepia. It can be used to help tell the story, as in Traffic (the American version of 2000), where, as stated in the AMG review "shifts in color and film stock indicate place, mood, and time." But other times it's just annoying. I felt here it was overused. Outside of those stylistic quibbles, though, I liked the execution (no pun intended) of the film. For instance, the "tear from heaven" when Jesus expires is masterful.

TLD: However, it occurred to me that it would be fun to construct the ultimate "life of Jesus" film from all the past attempts to capture this story on celluloid. All of them (save for Scorsese's effort, which was based on a fictional reworking of the story and not the Gospels themselves) have something they did really well, such as a scene the actor playing Jesus just nailed, and so on. So, in the spirit of the "Grey Album" where Dangermouse mixed together rapper Jay-Z's "Black Album" and the Beatle's "White Album" to create a whole new work, it would be a blast to construct a complete film of his entire life from those many pieces. If I have the time and the money and the lawyers someday, I just might do it.

As for the story, well, as a Christian, let's just say there weren't any surprises lurking in the plot for me. It was much like watching something fall from a cliff; you watch the arc of descent, merely waiting for the collision at the end. I was disturbed by the artistic choice to include shots of Satan because Mr. Hope You Guessed My Name only appears in the Gospels at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. In my opinion, since I believe the Gospels report historical fact, embellishing them with such things changes a narrative that's already perfect; any deviation from the strict truth of the events as is counterproductive. The dwelling on Mary (as Mel is Catholic) was almost an issue for me, but she was there for the whole terrible time, and certainly a mother's grief is part of the events. However, I can see where someone who's Christian, but not familiar with Catholic perspectives, would begin to wonder why Mary is so prominent in the film. (Fun fact: All the actresses who've played Mary in films have been pregnant at the time of filming.)

As for the hoopla, even though I understand it, I find it some of it annoying and misguided.

Initially I was mystified by the cries of anti-Semitism, because hey, this story's been around for 2000 years now - not to mention the victim himself was Jewish. But then the unstated reason dawned on me (which was never stated in the mainstream media because political correctness does not allow such things anymore): The people in the Jewish community who leveled those accusations are coming from the perspective that Christianity is false. To them, the story is a complete fiction, or if they believe Christ did exist, he committed extreme blasphemy in their eyes by claiming he was God incarnate. Which, by the way, was the reason various Jewish sects at the time wanted him crucified: He claimed things that were as blasphemous as you could get. So, the complaint, which couldn't be said outright, was, in essence: "Why should we have to deal with any fallout from what we view as a fiction (or someone who was properly punished for blasphemy - take your pick)*?"

Plus, it needs to be acknowledged that there has been anti-Semitism in the past that was dubiously justified by blaming all Jews for the death of Christ - an idiocy and direct contradiction to anything Jesus was or had taught. And also, we feel more "empowered" {gag} to whine about things these days, for some reason. A similar example would be the "Godfather" films and "The Sopranos." Italians didn't bat an eye when the films came out, but when the TV show aired, there was some complaining about stereotypes.

Therefore, in my eyes, some of the whining was justified. However, those same folks need to realize that we Christians view this story as fact. And most of us understand that those who had Christ put to death felt justified in doing so. That doesn't mean they were innocent of the act, but it does mean that what happened was understandable - or at least forgivable. Besides, imagine what would happen if someone came along here in American and claimed what Christ did? The Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons of our day would want him strung up, too. It's a universal and consistent problem, which was part of the point of it all. And, in the end, because of that, we are all guilty for what happened that day. Anyone pointing the finger at anyone for that act is really pointing at himself or herself.

So, let the Jews kvetch a little on this one, I say.

That aside, it did point out in full bas-relief the animosity that Hollywood in general has towards Christianity. THAT to me was the really disturbing part of it all. In the first "X-Men" movie, the only deleted scenes were those where the character of Storm was teaching Christianity during a lesson. Knowing that those in power in Hollywood overtly suppress any expression of Christianity, I only shook my head and sighed when I saw what was excised. Of course, had it been Buddhism, Hinduism, Kabala, mainstream Judaism, some Native American belief system, or especially witchcraft/Wiccanism, it would still be in the film. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised when the second film contained a character who was a devout Catholic, and they didn't mock him because of it (and they couldn't edit him out as he was central to the plot).

I don't have any clear suppositions as to why Hollywood is so anti-Christian. I could speculate that most who go there are forced to do a lot of things to get a toehold in the business that would create friction with Christian beliefs. Or that a lot of slimeballs get into the biz, and like it slimy, thank you very much. Or that the personality type that gets into showbiz typically feels constrained by the morality that is expected. It has been supposed by others that many studio heads and power players are Jewish, and thus suppress the religion they find the most objectionable, but I find that a little specious. After all, one of the most powerful men out there made Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and he's Jewish. So, I can't really put my finger on why it exists. But it's pretty clear that it does.

Anyway, I recommend The Passion for adults. Anyone younger than 14, or even 16 for the more sensitive, should not see this film. Go get one of the older, gentler versions for them. Even though the passion of the Christ is an essential, if not THE essential, part of the story, little ones would be better served by hearing "let the little children come unto me."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Help me Dude, I'm lost.

I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw Elvis in the supermarket yesterday.

No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender".

He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a shiny, new plasmatv to go with that blue suede sofa of yours.

But Elvis said I, In the Ghetto nobody has a plasma tv .

Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger then I'm gonna go home and ask Michael Jackson to come round and watch that waaaay cool surfing scene in Apocalypse Now on my new plasma tv .

And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . .

"You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on "

Strange day or what? :-)