The film portrays Jesus’ final hours before his crucifixion. It starts with Jesus praying and preparing himself, at Gethsemane, for the sacrifice ahead. Betrayed by Judas Iscariot, Jesus is beaten and taken inside the city walls of Jerusalem to the leaders of the Pharisees where he is accused of blasphemy. The Pharisees bring him to the Romans and demand his death but the Romans are unwilling to kill a man who doesn’t seem to have done anything wrong. Under pressure from the Jewish people and fearing an uprising, Jesus is severely flogged and scourged. The people are not satisfied with this and continue to demand his death, so Jesus is taken by the Roman soldiers to be crucified.
This film has caused a lot of controversy and debate, with some saying it is anti-Semitic and excessively violent. I disagree with it being anti-Semitic as it seems to follow what is stated in the bible and doesn’t dwell on who did what or try to apportion blame. With regard to it being excessively violent it’s certainly graphic and brutally real. Perhaps the anti-Semitic argument arises out of the fact that nobody would want to be connected with the grisly reality portrayed in the film.
I appreciate that the director was trying to show the suffering and pain that Jesus went through and also to explain that he suffered to save us; “he died for our sins”. To depict the reality of a man being savagely beaten and then nailed to a cross the film needed to be graphic but in this case it is excessive. The reality of the savage beating was clearly portrayed to the audience long before it stopped on screen. The result is that the violence detracts from the film and the talking point of this film has been whether the film is too violent. The real message loses some of its impact.
In spite of the excessive violence the film remains a powerful, heart wrenching film that will inspire a lot of viewers. There are plenty of parts that will move the audience as opposed to shocking them. The message that the suffering was to save mankind is there and the message of tolerance, love and forgiveness is powerfully delivered. The scenes with Jesus’ mother are poignant and it is as if he takes strength from her as he carries his cross to the crucifixion. Juxtaposed to this is the sinister presence of Satan who tempts Jesus and hopes that he fails.
The Passion of The Christ is beautifully filmed. At the start, in Gethsemane, the use of light and shadows create a foreboding atmosphere and the image of good and evil. During the film there are short flashback to events earlier in Jesus’ life that break the intensity of the final hours.
There are excellent performances from the main cast. Jim Caviezel plays Jesus, Maia Morgenstern is his mother Mary and Monica Bellucci is Mary Magdalene.
Bottom Line: A powerful, heart wrenching film that unnecessarily prolongs violent scenes to portray the savage reality.
Lasting Thought: How often, if at all, do we really think of what it would have been like for Jesus of Nazareth in his final hours.