The Passion of the Christ (USA, 2004)

the-passion-of-the-christ-movie-poster-2004-1020194251Directed by: Mel Gibson. So then: why would I watch this? I didn’t grow up Christian, I’ve only read a small fragment of the Bible, I don’t speak Aramaic. But as a cultural artifact, holy cow, are you kidding? Of course I was going to see this! Kids today only know Mel Gibson as that drunken old antisemitic Australian actor with an American accent who directs weird bloated movies in other languages and stars in weird offbeat comedies, but this movie was the starting point of that whole thing, the initial moment of Mel Gibson 2.0. And, looking back at this movie knowing about Mel Gibson’s underlying geyser of resentment towards Jewish people (obviously tied into what I’m learning is a very common Christian scapegoating that apparently goes all the way back to Saint Paul, but ANYWAY), it was really interesting to see how blatantly antisemitic this movie is, to the point that I’m amazed it got made. The Jewish elders are all depicted as slimy, hook-nosed, sneering, small-minded, greedy, violent, hateful idiots, too stupid and evil (and ultimately, too Jewish) to just suspend everything they’re doing and listen to this brilliant longhair that is so obviously the Messiah. I feel a bit silly even saying it out loud because it’s so obvious, but to me this just shows how deeply rooted that whole thing about how “the Jews killed Christ!” is. I’m no historian, but I think anyone with even a minor passing interest in world history might furrow their brows to see Jewish police, not Roman centurions, hauling Jesus away, and Jewish people baying for his blood to a compassionate Roman governor instead of, you know, the Roman governor sentencing him to death as he probably would have because, you know, the Romans were in charge of shit back then. YA know—that whole thing. History. Weird. But I guess I shouldn’t sidetrack this movie, which, when it isn’t just rehashing selective bits of the Bible, is entirely about simmering and festering in the negative torture-porn aspect of Jesus’ crucifixion, with such pesky and irrelevant concerns as history and fact. Before I go too far, I should just remind myself that you could not pay me enough money to enter into a debate about fact versus spirituality, so I’ll just end it by looking at the film aspects which were…okay. As a movie it was fine, the acting was fine, the dialogue was fine, but frankly (to bludgeon the open door with a battering ram), without the cultural baggage and global interest in Christianity, nobody would have given half a shit about this movie. This movie is interesting to the extent that Jesus and Christianity and history itself is interesting. And again, that’s only if you can get past the extremely uncomfortable and blatant antisemitism that Mel Gibson has squeegied across every square inch of the screen for virtually the entire running time. But if you’re into antisemitism and/or blatant and gratuitous depictions of torture, go for it.

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One response to “The Passion of the Christ (USA, 2004)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2014 | Offhand Reviews·

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