“You are my friends. And the greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them.”
Passion grossed 125 million dollars in just five days, and topped out over 600 million worldwide. Independent film, private distributor, and the entire catering company converted & formed their own monastery. OK, two outta three.
A far cry from Braveheart or Man Without a Face, Mel Gibson directed, produced, but had only a few cameos in this unique, if not gory, retelling of the last twelve hours of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. (Twelve hours compressed into 127 minutes). What you’ve heard is true: the beatings, torture, and crucifixion are brutal, lengthy, and difficult to watch. Not that it should be easy…. When watching it, you have to wonder, what kind of person could endure any of that, let alone all of it?
Not many trailers have much of any effect after the second or third viewing for me. This (powerful) trailer, which you can get here, gives me chills every time I watch it. Maybe it’s the soundtrack. Or that Satan needs some sun.
The story of the Gospel, literally “good message” or “good news”, is nothing new to many of us, especially those living in North America. The way it’s fractionally presented here is, in ways, unique and gripping. There’s a lot they got right in this one, and a lot they got wrong. I’m sorry, Jim Caviezel, although respectable in his performance, was inappropriately cast.
There are a number of performances in this that are more than noteworthy, (especially given the languages). Hristo Shopov was solid as Pilate. Maia Morgenstern was exceedingly good. I’m still uncertain about Luca Lionello as Judas. I have no idea why Monica Bellucci is in this, except that she’s gorgeous, with or without makeup.
Caviezel’s casting is so Hollywood stereotypical, though, it’s enormously disappointing. Perhaps the movie makers had to do what would sell, but I submit to you that a white European Jesus is nothing but a sellout. Most filmmakers still fail to acknowledge that Jesus wasn’t a six-foot-plus, white, Anglo-Saxon male model from Great Britain, with perfect cheekbones, teeth & a huge nose, but more accurately a short-to-average-height , middle-eastern Arimitheic Jew (think Arabian in appearance), with much darker skin, hair which was probably cut short, and calloused hands--a carpenter living in the middle East some two millennia ago. It’s been said a thousand times that we all paint God in our own image. However, adhering to this stereotypical tall, white, European, attractive Jesus is absurd.
Even more ridiculous is the casting of Satan. Don’t get me wrong, Rosalinda Celentano does an OK job, (Darth Maul OK). But the dark clothing and the (lack of) lighting is a bit cheesy. And the fact that Satan is anything over 40 pounds and three feet tall is ludicrous. After the robots find Sarah Conner and we all somehow end up on judgment day and finally see Satan, we’ll be like, “Oh hell no. That was the one who deceived us? Shit. He’s nothing. The Taco Bell Chihuahua craps bigger than that dude.”
Three different languages are apparent during the course of the film, which either distance the film from the viewer, or draw you in a bit closer. The bulk of it is Aramaic, appropriate for the time, but most of us will be grateful for the subtitles. There’s also some Latin and Hebrew. Given the nature of the languages (especially Latin, sheesh), hats off to the cast for pulling it off and making it real and almost believable. Almost, because, you watch the whole thing either going, “yeah, it must have been like that,” or, “what the $#@&?!”
Benedict Fitzgerald and Mel Gibson are both credited on the screenplay, which is supposed to be based on the four biblical Gospels and the diaries of Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824). Unquestionably, the film has a large Roman Catholic influence, but ultimately it doesn’t hurt the overall substance of the work. Shaila Rubin’s casting is otherwise fine. Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography is right-on, (I can’t believe this guy, who worked on The Black Stallion, The Right Stuff, The Natural, etc., would put his name on National Treasure). John Debney’s original score is incredibly moving. I have to wonder whether any of the tremendous efforts by cast and crew will be recognized on February 27, 2005.
Roger Ebert said “this is the most violent film I have ever seen.” Really. I guess he hasn’t seen Saw.
On a side note, it’s rare that when searching for a film, not to have IMDB the first hit back from Google.
Ultimately, this movie isn’t about entertainment or box office sellouts or what the filmmakers got right or wrong. It’s not about the amount of time we sit and watch the whipping, beating and torture, which is far better than participating. It’s not about being the highest grossing R-rated movie to date, or highest number of advance tickets, or being on the fewest screens with a top-ten ranking for a ridiculous number of weeks. It’s about a message. It’s about the good news, that forgiveness and salvation are available for anyone who would confess & believe. It’s about not losing sight of what really matters: mercy, salvation, eternity; the love, the passion it would take for someone to do what Jesus did. Everything else is crap.
While admittedly cynical, I’m not such a fool as to rate this film. absit. If you choose to, get the DVD & see it for yourself.
IMDB (check out the trivia)
Order from Amazon