Saturday, April 10, 2004


So I finally saw the movie. As I mentioned below, I went with a group from Mrs. Ref's office that included an almost graduated seminarian, the perceived "always proper" seminarian's wife, a Jewish woman and a Native American (not African American as I originally thought). The conversation after the movie was better than the movie.

What I Liked:
There were four spots that I thought were very well done. The first being the opening scene of Jesus in Gethsemane. The dialogue between Jesus and Satan was great, although I thought the crushing of the serpent (Gen. 3:15) was a little obvious (I don't know about anyone else, but I had that one figured out as soon as the snake peeked its little pointy head out of Satan's robes). Additionally, I thought the interaction between Jesus and the soldier who had his ear cut off was wonderful.

The second was the flash-back scene of Jesus working on the table and being called to lunch by his mom. That was a great scene that reflected the strong bond those two people [may have] had. As a son, I could relate to it very well.

The third was the close-up overhead shot of Jesus on the cross. I thought, "Man, if you could freeze that and paint it, you'd have a great icon." The way he looked right there was very powerful.

The fourth was after Jesus was pulled down from the cross and mother Mary looked directly into the camera -- directly at me. WOW. That was really amazing.

What I Didn't Like:
The perpetuation of the myth that Mary Magdalene was the woman caught in adultery. Mel could very easily have made that flashback a healing of Mary's demons, but instead chose to show her as an adulteress.

The destruction of the temple at Jesus' death was over the top. According to the gospels, it was the temple curtain that was torn in two, not the entire temple (Mark 15:38, Matt. 27:51, Luke 23:45). For you history buffs, the temple wasn't destroyed until 70 ce.

The tearing in half of Jesus' clothes by the Roman soldiers. Mel showed a group of soldiers playing dice, but if he's trying to at least be accurate about what's in the bible you would think he would have got this right. In Matt. 27:35, Luke 24:34b and John 19:24, the authors say that the soldiers cast lots for Jesus' clothes, and John mentions that they were careful not to tear it.

The final scene. I didn't time it, but I'm guessing 60 seconds. Sixty seconds for the resurrection? Are you kidding me? The resurrection, not the crucifixion, is the central tenet of Christianity. God is not god of the dead, but the God of the living (Matt. 22:31-32). The resurrection is about life. Jesus' death unites us to him because, eventually, we all die; but because Jesus lives again, we, as believers, will also live again and be reunited with him in everlasting LIFE.

Other Thoughts:
In our "debriefing" after the movie, I was asked if it inspired me. The answer is no. Whoever said that this was a stations of the cross on film was right. I think this is a good movie for Lent, and especially for Good Friday. But I don't like the fact that the resurrection is virtually ignored.

Did I think the flogging and other general beating scenes were too much? No. What Jesus experienced was torture, pure and simple. I think Mel got this right. And if you think it was too much, just think about other instances of how humans treat other humans: Nazi death camps; the Trail of Tears; Japanese POW camps; the Inquisition; the Hanoi Hilton; the Americans held captive in Afghanstan 444 days; the institution of slavery in the U.S.; the civil war in Rwanda; and on and on and on.

All in all, I thought it was a good movie. Not great, but good. However, based on the actual counting of the 39 lashes (again, not actually in scripture) and the soundtrack, I would recommend "Jesus Christ Superstar" over "The Passion."


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