The Passion

I saw Mel Gibson's new movie, The Passion of the Christ, last night.  It's incredibly violent, so much so that I'm forced to agree with Roger Ebert when he questions the MPAA's rating in his spot-on review of this film.  If this movie doesn't deserve the NC-17 rating for violence, I don't know what movie ever will.  It is by far the most gore-filled, violent, and disturbing movie I have ever seen.  My wife got up and left the theatre at one point, when she couldn't watch anymore, and she wasn't alone in doing so.  People in the theatre didn't just cry, they were sobbing and weeping.  I think the two college girls behind us cried for the better part of an hour and a half.

That said, it is a good movie, even a great movie, but make no mistake about it, this is not a movie for children, and certainly not for young teens either.  Since the MPAA refused to give this an NC-17 rating, either they'll never give that rating for violence, only for sex, or they shied away from putting that rating on a film about Jesus.  The NC-17 is the kiss of death for many movies, which is absurd, as there's a place for a rating above R, but below X-rated pornography, and a film like The Passion of The Christ is an example of such a film.  I'm disturbed that somewhere in America, a parent will take their child into this movie, and the child will be traumatized.  Most adults will be traumatized by this movie.

As for the supposed "Anti-Semitism" of this movie, it's all knee-jerk reaction, as the movie is even more so Anti-Roman (Anti-Romanic? Anti-Romantic?) but that's part of the historic story, and the movie is not attempting to incite or blame anyone for Jesus' death.  In fact, it makes it pretty clear that Jesus could have put a stop to it all if he'd chosen to do so, both Pontius Pilate and Herod almost beg him to stand up for himself so that they can set him free, and he refuses to do so.

As for the violence, so you're fore-warned, take the evisceration scene in Braveheart, and make it last about 2 hours, and you'll have a sense of what you're in store for.  But, unlike Braveheart, Gibson doesn't shy away from showing the violence.  While William Wallace was eviscerated, we only saw his face.  While Jesus has the skin flayed off him, we see it. The same with the spikes being driven through his limbs, the spear piercing his side, and numerous other atrocities that will shock you.  I'm not a prude, I'm not squeamish, and I've never had to turn my head away from gore in a movie before, and I had to do it in this movie.

Keep in mind, I'm not a church-goer, and while I was baptised and confirmed a Missouri Synod Lutheran (mostly to please my grandmother), I'm really an Agnostic at heart.  I can't quote you any scripture, and I don't pray unless I'm stuck in a situation where I can't get out of it.  With that disclaimer, I found this to be a very powerful film, to the point of being overpowering, so that by the end of the movie, you're relieved when Jesus finally dies, just so that his suffering (and yours) is finally over, and you don't have to watch it anymore.

If you are a strong Christian, you will be moved, and inspired by this movie.  It is a good film, and makes apparent Christ's suffering on behalf of mankind.  It's inspiring, and it's meant to show his love for his fellow human, and it accomplishes all of that.  The violence is just overwhelming at times.

If you don't have a strong stomach, I'd suggest waiting for video/DVD to see this film, as in the theatre it's overpowering, and you can't pause it when you need a break.  If you do go to see it, I think you'll find it's a good movie, but just be prepared for what you're going to see, and don't bring the kids.