Thursday, April 15, 2004

So I finally went and saw “The Passion of the Christ.” And as you know, it is the duty of all bloggers to publish pretentious reviews of movies we see, because we’re all still operating under the delusion that, somehow, our opinions matter.

I’ll be the first to admit, I was prepared to dislike this movie. You see, I used to go out with this girl named Sherry who was really into the whole crucifixion thing. We argued a lot, and slightly more than 100% of these arguments would end with us standing in a parking lot while she screamed at me about Christ’s agony on the cross. “And then they whipped him until the skin came off of his back, with a whip that had hooks on it!!!”

It didn’t matter what we’d been arguing about before. It could have been money, my latest speeding ticket, or which of the Little Rascals was gay. But somehow, she’d inevitably turn it into a religious discussion, and then I’d get the full forensic report on just how ghastly the crucifixion had been.

I was afraid “The Passion of the Christ” would be pretty much the same thing.

When my mom asked me to go see it with her, I agreed. My motive was pretty selfish, I admit. I have no patience for people who trash movies without seeing them, and I was really eager to start trashing this one. So I braced myself for two hours of gut-wrenching horror and bravely made my way to the multiplex.

And it was violent. Horribly, offensively, graphically violent. About three-quarters of the movie are devoted to scenes of utter cringe-worthy brutality. The Gospel According to Mel seems to be that Jesus was born and said some stuff and then he was arrested and bound and beaten and beaten and beaten and then turned over to the Romans, who scourged him and flayed the flesh from his bones and then marched him through the streets with his cross while kicking and beating him and then took their sweet time driving nails into his hands and feet and then raised the cross with such force that it snapped some bones and then a bird ate somebody’s eye and then Jesus died and a guard stabbed him with a spear. Oh, and then he came back to life or something.

But I found it hard to simply disregard this movie, because of the smaller scenes that were lost amidst the carnage. There’s one scene early on, in which we discover that Jesus invented formal dining. We also see Jesus and his mom acting like a mother and son, laughing and joking and being very human. I really liked that scene.

There’s another scene where Jesus is bearing his cross, and he stumbles and falls. Mary then flashes back to a memory of Jesus as a child, stumbling and falling as he played. We see Mary running over to the crying child, comforting him. And as cynical as I pretend to be about this stuff, I had to wipe the tears out of my eyes.

For me, those two scenes elevated the movie to something other than an ecclesiastical snuff film. Those two scenes made me realize just how powerful this movie could have been, if only Gipson and Company were willing to focus on the whole story, rather than just the bloody parts.

But that’s just my opinion. I’m sure Sherry LOVED it.