Comment On The Passion

1) It’s an excellent movie, a masterpiece of craft. 2) It’s hard to imagine that it will lead to many conversions to Christianity, because it focuses very intensely on the human suffering of Jesus (as opposed to his Divine/human glory)-and can thus be seen relatively easily as a graphic documentary of a human-rights atrocity, of the kind that has been all too common in every period of human history. An agnostic, an atheist, or a non-Christian religious believer can view this film as chiefly a description of man’s inhumanity to man. (Of course, the Spirit blows as it wills; conversions have in fact arisen from stranger circumstances than these.) 3) For me, as a Christian believer, what came through most vividly in the film was the disfiguring nature of sin. The Romans beat Jesus to a bloody, shredded pulp-barely recognizable as a human person. Many movies with torture scenes focus on the nobility of the sufferer; not this one. The Romans themselves, as they beat him, have their faces contorted with jeering glee at his suffering. I thought, looking at both him and them, that this is not how God created us, not what he intended us to be and to look like. This is the result of sin. 4) The film makes abundantly clear that great evils are often perpetrated in the name of good. The priests of the Temple are portrayed as defenders of religious tradition and the established social order. They think they are waging a culture war against a social and religious subversive; so they “do not,” in fact, “know what they do” in killing the Messiah. 5) The best performance in the film is not by the excellent Jim Caviezel, but by Maia Morgenstern as Jesus’ mother. What Caviezel’s Jesus suffers in the flesh-aided by very realistic makeup–Morgenstern’s Blessed Mother suffers in her soul, and shows, heartbreakingly, in voice, expression, and gesture.

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