The passion

The passion
: I have not seen Mel Gibson’s Passion and certainly don’t want to but probably will feel as if I need to so I can write about the film rather than write about those who are writing about it.

Today’s reviews are disturbing because Gibson wanted so badly to make his movie disturbing. He told Diane Sawyer last week that he wanted it to be shocking; he wants to emphasize the pain and sacrifice of Christ.

I’m not sure why.

Does making us 20 percent more disgusted make us 20 percent more holy? Does it make us 20 percent more angry? 20 percent more humble? 20 percent more grateful? Why revel in the violence so?

Judging by the reviews, it doesn’t seem to enlighten us more on the meaning of the crucifixion.

I’ve never fully bought the idea that Christ had to die for our sins. Had to? That would make it seem as if God planned and willed that; hard to believe a father would do that to his son (and that doesn’t speak well for our fraternal relationship, does it?). And I still can’t fathom the logic of dying for our sins — why, because God demanded some vengeance?

Only lately have I come to view the crucifixion in a new light: It is the ultimate guarantee of our free will. If God would not intervene in our murder of his son, then he would let us get away with anything. He would let us get away with the Holocaust, by the way. We are that free.

Whatever your interpretation of the crucifixion and the resurrection, I’m not sure how they are better served by recording and dramatizing and amplifying the violence of it (if not to make us angrier at those who perpetrated the act). Still, violence was Gibson’s goal and judging from the reviews, he succeeded. A.O. Scott’s review in tomorrow’s Times:

“The Passion of the Christ” is so relentlessly focused on the savagery of Jesus’ final hours that this film seems to arise less from love than from wrath, and to succeed more in assaulting the spirit than in uplifting it. Mr. Gibson has constructed an unnerving and painful spectacle that is also, in the end, a depressing one. It is disheartening to see a film made with evident and abundant religious conviction that is at the same time so utterly lacking in grace….

His version of the Gospels is harrowingly violent; the final hour of “The Passion of the Christ” essentially consists of a man being beaten, tortured and killed in graphic and lingering detail. Once he is taken into custody, Jesus (Jim Caviezel) is cuffed and kicked and then, much more systematically, flogged, first with stiff canes and then with leather whips tipped with sharp stones and glass shards. By the time the crown of thorns is pounded onto his head and the cross loaded onto his shoulders, he is all but unrecognizable, a mass of flayed and bloody flesh, barely able to stand, moaning and howling in pain.

And here’s Jonathan Foreman in the NY Post:

In “Passion,” the relish for pain and bloody cruelty that has marked his career as both a director and an actor – a relish that would almost be sensual in the hands of a less vulgar artist – boils over into a full-blown fetish.

The relentless whippings, beatings and scourgings (the latter is barely mentioned in the Gospels but takes up a whole reel of film) start early and then intensify, in slow-motion and close-up, with the impact of each blow amped up like in “Rocky.”

Eventually, “Passion” becomes a kind of pornographic catalog of Christ’s suffering. And like pornography, it’s initially powerful but eventually becomes numbing.

This would matter less if there was much else in the film besides blows and slashes accompanied by gasps of pain and ribbons of blood. (The procession to Calvary is a kind of orgy of savagery.)

What distinguishes the film from the long tradition of gruesome martyrology in religious art is its lack of any sense of the meaning or reason for Christ’s sacrifice.

The message of Jesus’ death is all but drowned in Gibson’s morbid enthusiasm for shots of metal tearing flesh, as if Christ was crucified so that Gibson – along with his hard-working make-up and sound people – could indulge his obsession with torture.

  • GCW

    How about checking out Ebert’s review?

  • Jeff-
    Why don’t you want to see this movie? IMO, we Christians tend to take Christ’s ultimate sacrifice too mildly. It has been a long time since any of us has had to personally face inhumanity.
    Yet Christ walked into a massive act of inhumanity, fully knowing how it would end.
    I want to see Mel’s movie to help me understand exactly what sort of sacrifice was made for my sins.
    Regards, Dann

  • According to the Gospels, Jesus compared himself to the Old Testament lamb offered up for sacrafice to reconcile God’s people with God.
    Gibson is showing how terrible Jesus’s suffering and death are so that we will realize how much our sinning hurts God and that we will be more concious of and therefore more likely to turn away from our sin.
    *Disclaimer* I am an atheist, but I was Catholic for 17 years before I stopped believing about two years ago. I went to Catholic schools, so I know what I am talking about.

  • Sounds like Gibson wanted to make it as close to reality as was humanly possible, without making an actual snuff movie. Real, historic crucifixion was a pretty savage way to end a human life. He wanted to make it as “truthful” as possible… as horrific as this movie might be, it’s not as nasty as the real thing.

  • Charlie (Colorado)

    I’m a Buddhist, and was brought up a Baptist, so this is logic rather than religious insight, but isn’t the underlying notion of Catholic Christianity that God screwed up by allowing original sin, and that Jesus was God accepting His own Justice so the books would balance? And thus the more Jesus suffered, the bigger the credit balance would be?
    If so, it would seem that the greater the horror and agony, the more holy, the more to be venerated, an act it would be.
    It would seem that a wussy crucifixion like in “The Greatest Story Ever Told” would be the more sacriligious.

  • Jeff B.

    I have to say, these reviews betray a fundamental lack of understanding of the gravity of Christ’s sacrifice and the centrality of his physical agony to Christian theology. (Keep in mind, I’m an atheist.) I personally have little desire to see the film – being neither Christian nor a fan of excessive violence – but I marvel at the ‘sophisticated simpletons’ who have reviewed an explicitly religious film without understanding the underlying Catholic theology which contextualizes it.

  • Well said Jeff B.
    It seems many in the media think that Jesus was all about kindness and forgiveness while forgetting that he was also about suffering and dying for our sins and splitting the wheat from the chaff.

  • Moira

    I’m not a Christian and don’t have much knowledge of Christianity, except when it has been used against me. How many more times am I going to have to explain to my children that “we didn’t kill anyone, even if someone says we did”. We usually get that one at least once a year. Guess when? But, honestly, I’m not a fan of violent movies and won’t see this one anyway. The last thing I’m interested in is more Christian proselytizing, as if we don’t get enough. The whole fetish of the crucifiction (sp?) seems creepy to me, but then I’m a ‘non-believer’ and I’ve never had anyone able to explain the whole ‘holy spirit’ thing. I’ll be glad when this thing just goes away. We (Jews) have enough problems with the everyday anti-semitism that doesn’t exist.

  • Here is Roger Ebert’s review. He does a good job of explaining why people are so upset about the violence and why it makes sense to have all the violence in there.
    The Passion Review
    If ever there was a film with the correct title, that film is Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” Although the word passion has become mixed up with romance, its Latin origins refer to suffering and pain; later Christian theology broadened that to include Christ’s love for mankind, which made him willing to suffer and die for us.
    The movie is 126 minutes long, and I would guess that at least 100 of those minutes, maybe more, are concerned specifically and graphically with the details of the torture and death of Jesus. This is the most violent film I have ever seen.
    I prefer to evaluate a film on the basis of what it intends to do, not on what I think it should have done. It is clear that Mel Gibson wanted to make graphic and inescapable the price that Jesus paid (as Christians believe) when he died for our sins. Anyone raised as a Catholic will be familiar with the stops along the way; the screenplay is inspired not so much by the Gospels as by the 14 Stations of the Cross. As an altar boy, serving during the Stations on Friday nights in Lent, I was encouraged to meditate on Christ’s suffering, and I remember the chants as the priest led the way from one station to another:
    At the Cross, her station keeping …
    Stood the mournful Mother weeping …
    Close to Jesus to the last.
    For we altar boys, this was not necessarily a deep spiritual experience. Christ suffered, Christ died, Christ rose again, we were redeemed, and let’s hope we can get home in time to watch the Illinois basketball game on TV. What Gibson has provided for me, for the first time in my life, is a visceral idea of what the Passion consisted of. That his film is superficial in terms of the surrounding message — that we get only a few passing references to the teachings of Jesus — is, I suppose, not the point. This is not a sermon or a homily, but a visualization of the central event in the Christian religion. Take it or leave it.
    David Ansen, a critic I respect, finds in Newsweek that Gibson has gone too far. “The relentless gore is self-defeating,” he writes. “Instead of being moved by Christ’s suffering or awed by his sacrifice, I felt abused by a filmmaker intent on punishing an audience, for who knows what sins.”
    This is a completely valid response to the film, and I quote Ansen because I suspect he speaks for many audience members, who will enter the theater in a devout or spiritual mood and emerge deeply disturbed. You must be prepared for whippings, flayings, beatings, the crunch of bones, the agony of screams, the cruelty of the sadistic centurions, the rivulets of blood that crisscross every inch of Jesus’ body. Some will leave before the end.
    This is not a Passion like any other ever filmed. Perhaps that is the best reason for it. I grew up on those pious Hollywood biblical epics of the 1950s, which looked like holy cards brought to life. I remember my grin when Time magazine noted that Jeffrey Hunter, starring as Christ in “King of Kings” (1961), had shaved his armpits. (Not Hunter’s fault; the film’s Crucifixion scene had to be re-shot because preview audiences objected to Jesus’ hairy chest.)
    If it does nothing else, Gibson’s film will break the tradition of turning Jesus and his disciples into neat, clean, well-barbered middle-class businessmen. They were poor men in a poor land. I debated Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” with commentator Michael Medved before an audience from a Christian college, and was told by an audience member that the characters were filthy and needed haircuts.
    The Middle East in biblical times was a Jewish community occupied against its will by the Roman Empire, and the message of Jesus was equally threatening to both sides: to the Romans, because he was a revolutionary, and to the establishment of Jewish priests, because he preached a new covenant and threatened the status quo.
    In the movie’s scenes showing Jesus being condemned to death, the two main players are Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, and Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest. Both men want to keep the lid on, and while neither is especially eager to see Jesus crucified, they live in a harsh time when such a man is dangerous.
    Pilate is seen going through his well-known doubts before finally washing his hands of the matter and turning Jesus over to the priests, but Caiaphas, who also had doubts, is not seen as sympathetically. The critic Steven D. Greydanus, in a useful analysis of the film, writes: “The film omits the canonical line from John’s gospel in which Caiaphas argues that it is better for one man to die for the people [so] that the nation be saved.
    “Had Gibson retained this line, perhaps giving Caiaphas a measure of the inner conflict he gave to Pilate, it could have underscored the similarities between Caiaphas and Pilate and helped defuse the issue of anti-Semitism.”
    This scene and others might justifiably be cited by anyone concerned that the movie contains anti-Semitism. My own feeling is that Gibson’s film is not anti-Semitic, but reflects a range of behavior on the part of its Jewish characters, on balance favorably. The Jews who seem to desire Jesus’ death are in the priesthood, and have political as well as theological reasons for acting; like today’s Catholic bishops who were slow to condemn abusive priests, Protestant TV preachers who confuse religion with politics, or Muslim clerics who are silent on terrorism, they have an investment in their positions and authority. The other Jews seen in the film are viewed positively; Simon helps Jesus to carry the cross, Veronica brings a cloth to wipe his face, Jews in the crowd cry out against his torture.
    A reasonable person, I believe, will reflect that in this story set in a Jewish land, there are many characters with many motives, some good, some not, each one representing himself, none representing his religion. The story involves a Jew who tried no less than to replace the established religion and set himself up as the Messiah. He was understandably greeted with a jaundiced eye by the Jewish establishment while at the same time finding his support, his disciples and the founders of his church entirely among his fellow Jews. The libel that the Jews “killed Christ” involves a willful misreading of testament and teaching: Jesus was made man and came to Earth in order to suffer and die in reparation for our sins. No race, no man, no priest, no governor, no executioner killed Jesus; he died by God’s will to fulfill his purpose, and with our sins we all killed him. That some Christian churches have historically been guilty of the sin of anti-Semitism is undeniable, but in committing it they violated their own beliefs.
    This discussion will seem beside the point for readers who want to know about the movie, not the theology. But “The Passion of the Christ,” more than any other film I can recall, depends upon theological considerations. Gibson has not made a movie that anyone would call “commercial,” and if it grosses millions, that will not be because anyone was entertained. It is a personal message movie of the most radical kind, attempting to re-create events of personal urgency to Gibson. The filmmaker has put his artistry and fortune at the service of his conviction and belief, and that doesn’t happen often.
    Is the film “good” or “great?” I imagine each person’s reaction (visceral, theological, artistic) will differ. I was moved by the depth of feeling, by the skill of the actors and technicians, by their desire to see this project through no matter what. To discuss individual performances, such as James Caviezel’s heroic depiction of the ordeal, is almost beside the point. This isn’t a movie about performances, although it has powerful ones, or about technique, although it is awesome, or about cinematography (although Caleb Deschanel paints with an artist’s eye), or music (although John Debney supports the content without distracting from it).
    It is a film about an idea. An idea that it is necessary to fully comprehend the Passion if Christianity is to make any sense. Gibson has communicated his idea with a singleminded urgency. Many will disagree. Some will agree, but be horrified by the graphic treatment. I myself am no longer religious in the sense that a long-ago altar boy thought he should be, but I can respond to the power of belief whether I agree or not, and when I find it in a film, I must respect it.
    Note: I said the film is the most violent I have ever seen. It will probably be the most violent you have ever seen. This is not a criticism but an observation; the film is unsuitable for younger viewers, but works powerfully for those who can endure it. The MPAA’s R rating is definitive proof that the organization either will never give the NC-17 rating for violence alone, or was intimidated by the subject matter. If it had been anyone other than Jesus up on that cross, I have a feeling that NC-17 would have been automatic.

  • Jeremy

    Let’s see, Jews are not supposed to be responsible for the actions of what long ago Jews did against Christians, but Christians are responsible for the actions of long ago Christians against Jews.
    Nice logic there, Moira.
    The movie isn’t going to start any anti-semitism. What risks anti-semitism are Jews saying that Christians are evil and vile and nasty for making a movie that happens to have characters that are Jewish doing some bad things (overlooking the fact that a) Jesus was Jewish, and b) there are Jews in the movie doing good things).

  • Dann enscribeth: “It has been a long time since any of us has had to personally face inhumanity.”
    Uhhhh… okay.

  • “The movie isn’t going to start any anti-semitism. What risks anti-semitism are Jews saying that Christians are evil and vile and nasty for making a movie that happens to have characters that are Jewish doing some bad things (overlooking the fact that a) Jesus was Jewish, and b) there are Jews in the movie doing good things).”
    Jeremy, Moira actually described some antisemitism she has repeatedly experienced related to the crucifixion. But you, patronizingly, didn’t hear her. You actually exemplified a mild form of the antisemitism we are telling you about: we aren’t quite real to you, you know better than us, you don’t have to listen.
    About the non-Gospel anti-Jewish stuff Mel incorporated into his movie, and its potential to inflame antisemitism, I’ll refer you to this post.
    Here’s a link roundup of articles listing not only the historical inaccuracies of the movie, but all the ways it deviates from the Gospels.

  • A number of reviewers agree that Gibson depicted the Jewish priests as more bloodthirsty than the Romans, bullying Pilate into having Jesus crucified. This is contrary to at least one of the Gospels and what we know of Pilate as a historical personage and the reality of Roman rule over Judea. They also point out that Gibson goes “beyond the call of duty” in depicting the Jews as more cruel to Jesus in general. (For example, the movie shows Jewish soldiers arresting and torturing Jesus, which is not in the Gospels and is not historically accurate – there were no Jewish guards.)
    How can you justify Gibson violating Holy Writ to depict Jews as worse than they are depicted in the Gospels?

  • Pele

    Blessed are the cheesemakers!!!

  • I like your point vis free will and the cross.

  • hudson

    In Deitrich Bonhoffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, the great theologain explores following Christ.
    “‘Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.’
    Real grace, in Bonhoeffer’s estimation, is a grace that will cost a man his life. It is the grace made dear by the life of Christ that was sacrificed to purchase man’s redemption. Cheap grace arose out of man’s desire to be saved, but to do so without becoming a disciple.”
    –Todd Kappelman
    What Gibson is evidentally expressing is the difficulty this poses to those enamoured with “cheap grace” versus the real thing.
    Christ’s suffering is key to understanding the path of discipleship. To dismiss it as somehow overblown is rather odd. It was awful. It was a cucifixion with a cross and nails and blood and stuff.
    (“What distinguishes the film from the long tradition of gruesome martyrology in religious art is its lack of any sense of the meaning or reason for Christ’s sacrifice.”…Ahem, well alrighty then.)
    To dismiss the role the Pharisees play in the death of Christ is again rather unusual as it is also a key element in the story of the redemption of man.
    I find the arguments in this thread against Mel Gibson’s film, including Jeff’s, unsatisfying. Three themes are apparent in the criticisms:
    1) Mel’s artistic vision should be subservient to hip and groovy interpretations of the gospels (i.e. cheap grace) If you missed that, you missed the point entirely.
    2) The vast uneducated masses will be unable to control their passions and anti-semitism will wax stronger. Would you please be more offensively patronizing in the future. I find your subtlety too nuanced for my poor and feeble mind to comprehend. (burp, Ethel bring me another beer, that Mel Gibson fella’s on TV again!) The inability of some to distinguish between modern Judiasm and the Pharasees of 2000 years ago does not seem to be Mel’s problem but rather that of his critics.
    3) The entire exercise is an artistic endeavour and therefore, is political. Most people don’t practice political art. That impenetrable extravagance is reserved for Manhattanites and Europeans.
    My impression is that most of us goofballs in the land of the unwashed use art to express that indefinable thing in our souls that is so difficult to articulate that it requires stuff like music and pictures to convey the full gist of the idea.
    Then it is converted by Gitane smoking urbanites to some kind of political statement of the inane.
    I could be wrong but I find most of the criticisms of the Passion somewhat ill-informed. Gruesome? I wonder what Foreman would think of the Apostle Thomas sticking his fingers into the holes made by the nails and the spear?
    Finally, I find it peculiar that some, who believe in the artistic merits of the Quintin Tarantino/Martin Scorsese Taxi Driver school of graphic blood spurting in slow motion would find offence in Gibson’s Passion. One could almost suspect their problem with the violence was disingenuous.

  • hudson,
    That was good.

  • KMK

    I heard Gibson based the movie on the Gospel of John. The graphic details of Jesus’ death are especially important in John’s record because he was an eyewitness. The age old question who was guilty of Jesus’ death? In reality, everyone was at fault. The disciples deserted him in terror. Peter denied that he ever knew Jesus. Judas betrayed him. The crowds who followed him stood by and did nothing. Pilate tried to blame the crowds. The religious leaders actively promoted Jesus’ death. The Roman soldiers tortured him. It was a collective effort. To say the Jews killed Jesus implies they acted alone. Why did Jesus have to die? We failed to obey God’s law and have been separated from God. Jesus wasn’t a man he was God’s son. He never disobeyed God and never sinned. Only he can bridge the gap between the sinless God and sinful mankind. Jesus took our past, present and future sins upon himself so that we could have new life all our wrongdoing is forgiven and we are reconciled to God.
    If the film didn’t convey these basic facts then it’s inaccurate.
    I’ve no desire to see the film, I read the Book.

  • Regarding ‘Moira’ and ‘Yehudit’…it never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which those most concerned with–and affected by–anti-semitism go in order to antagonize those Gentiles (evangelical Christians) most supportive of their Elder Brothers in the Faith and of Israel’s right to exist and defend itself.
    Really, Moira…Yehudit, don’t you think the Jewish people have enough enemies already, from benighted jihadis to sophisticated EuroTrash, without you, Abraham Foxman, et al going out and creating new ones?
    The Czar is gone, and the Cossacks long since deported to Kazakhstan by Stalin. I’d suggest that the Jewish people have more to worry about from Noam Chomsky or the BBC than from the congregation at First Baptist Church.

  • Ebb Tide

    For those interested, here is a link to the New Yorker magazine review by David Denby

  • Roger

    Why is it considered anti-Semitic to display some Jews negatively? Anyone even half familiar with the Old Testament is forced to admit that it, even more than the Gospel or the entire New Testament, portrays the Jewish people in what is a negative light – according to the OT, they turn away from God time after time, even killing prophets God sends to help correct them. But I’ve yet to see a Jewish person condemn the OT as anti-semitic.

  • Richard Aubrey

    Quick, somebody name the Franks’ landlord.
    If the dark times come again, it won’t be here in the US.
    But I don’t expect anybody to remember it any more than they remember the people who took horrid risks to hide the Franks. In the play, there’s a throwaway line to the effect that the &&&& family, who had been fiddling the ration cards for the Franks’ food, were arrested. End of mention. Anybody ever ask what happened to them?
    But it won’t happen here.

  • Catherine

    What Hudson said. People are going on and on about the violence in this film, yet I don’t recall the same kind of outrage at horror flicks, never Casino, Goodfellas and other mafia films.
    P.S. to Catholics here who posted, other Christians know the stations of the cross who attend services on Good Friday where the stations are marked. I know I am being sensitive, but I get really sick of the ignorance of Catholics towards non Catholic Christians.
    Jeff, you mention that you go to church, you mention that your sister is a minister, yet you don’t understand that Jesus died for our sins? The Nicene Creed says, “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate…” The creed is the underpinning of all Christian faith. So is the crucifix.
    Last, I have no idea what is in Mel’s movie as most people don’t here, not having seen it and how he portrays Jews. However, one piece of historical evidence is clear. Above the head of the crucified Jesus was the plaque that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Jesus was killed by the Romans with such ferocity because he was a Jew and they hated Jews and all aspects of life in Jerusalem. Not unlike the Nazis, the Romans delighted in the torture and most importantly, the humiliation of Jews. That’s why after so much torture he could needed help carrying the cross.

  • KMK

    When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, Otto made arrangements for his family to go into hiding in the building in where he had been employed. Mr. Koophius arranged for them to live in the annex. He was captured with the Franks but was released because of his poor health. Mr. Kraler also arranged for the family to live in the annex. He was arrested with the Franks and spent 8 months in a forced labor camp. Miep and Elli brought them food, clothes and all other goods and are responsible for saving the diary. I don’t know what became of them but they did get the diary back to Otto.
    I don’t think they technically had a landlord. The diary of Anne Frank is still required reading for 7th – 10th grade.

  • Jerry

    So to cut to the chase, Jews disagree about the central tenet of Christianity. What’s new?

  • Khan

    Let’s see…Jeff won’t see it, never seriously entertained the notion to do so (his exact sentiments when explaining the possibility for voting for Bush,) but nevertheless is committed to giving us a survey of negative reviews of ‘The Passion.’ More positive ones were available, but the negative ones prove the case, rationalize Jeff’s ‘feelings.’ His vaunted scepticism–maybe he’d prefer I’d use ‘cynicism’?–for Big Media and its transparent agenda disappears when speaking of the film. Suddenly, AO Scott (“HBO’s ‘Angels in America’ is going to be the highest rated show in the network’s history. A watershed event…an instant classic…”) speaks ex cathedra.
    Tired old leftie propaganda from the Times. Peddling divisive hate 24/7. Jeff is suddenly looking very old media himself. And this from the man who in his vast integrity–so sez his masthead–gave us Entertainment Weekly–the ‘film and tv’ magazine that merged celebrity idolatry with critical journalism…thanks Jeff. Quite a legacy.
    I hope you get your man elected. And then deal with the fact that your party hasn’t a clue on terror. Then we’ll see how important gay marriage was for our country’s safety. For a ‘critic’ of the media, you sure buy into its manufactured controversies and sure do hew the PC course on every single issue that is hysterically announced as ‘the most important of our lifetime.’ Aids…remember the pandemic…death of all sexually active heteros too…all this by year 1990. Or Erlich’s population bomb? Bet you bought that one hook, line and sinker. All of us dead by 2000. The Times did. Homeless? Five years of your authoratative and precious Times with endless front page stories. Millions dying on every street. Oops.
    Now the new most important issue of our Time(s)…Gay marriage! So important, we’ll sell our votes on national security. Good one, Jeff. Makes you very PC, but not very serious person. Cripes…even late night comedians, even Leno and Letterman get what’s happening in the world…even if you don’t. You’re the joke.

  • “The Romans hated the Jews”
    …about as much as they “hated” any of their subject peoples. Which is to say as long as they paid their taxes and maintained civil order the legions stayed in their barracks and left the Jews free to practice their odd, monotheistic religion.
    I recommend The Jewish War by Josephus, a contemporaneous account by a Romanized Jew of the Jewish rebellion against Rome and the sectarian violence which preceded it. One will find much that is depressingly familiar with the violence plaguing the Holy Land today.

  • “…it never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which those most concerned with–and affected by–anti-semitism go in order to antagonize those Gentiles (evangelical Christians) most supportive of their Elder Brothers in the Faith and of Israel’s right to exist and defend itself.. . . don’t you think the Jewish people have enough enemies already, from benighted jihadis to sophisticated EuroTrash, without you, Abraham Foxman, et al going out and creating new ones?”
    First of all, the threat in this post is despicable. What are you saying – you Jews better shut up about how we portray you in our movies or we won’t support Israel anymore? So if you don’t respect us Jews, why were you supporting Israel in the first place? And if your support is contingent on us Jews kissing your butt, you can take your “support” and shove it. Thus the moral character of the Mel Gibson supporter stands revealed: he’s a bully.
    Second, the concern about antisemitic violence as a result of the movie is not so much conern about America, but other countries where there is already some antisemitic bigotry and violence and Christian tropes are already used to portray Jews and Israel in a negative light. If you are such a supporter of Israel you might want to be concerned about that.
    Third, if I have to repeat this till I am blue in the face I will: The movie is not faithful to the Gospels. I repeat: The movie is not faithful to the Gospels. (2 different URLs.)
    Even if you believe the Gospels are the literal word of God, the movie is not faithful to the Gospels. And the ways in which it departs from the Gospels adds negative depictions of Jews that are NOT IN THE GOSPELS.
    How do you justify that? None of you have addressed this. You skip right over it. So much for your concerns about antisemitism. Gibson deliberately goes far beyond the Gospels to depict Jews badly, and you don’t want to acknowledge that.
    Finally, many of the reviewers have pointed out that the entire film is one long sadistic gorefest with precious little about Jesus’ actual life and message. It is very similar to Gibson’s other films with long sadistic torture scenes. So Gibson distorted the life and death of Jesus to satisfy his own emotional issues, rather than submitting his own ego and needs to the demands of telling the story of Jesus.
    Why are you all defending this crap? it doesn’t even serve your own religion, much less respect the parent religion it came from (of which your Jesus was a loyal member, not that you could tell that either from the film).

  • Jerry

    Take a deep breath, Yehudit. Now another. There, feel better?

  • Khan

    JJ cherry-picking negative reviews? Read below from largest entertainment mag in world which reports ‘Mostly positive reviews’
    From TV Guide today: verbatim–
    “In The News:

  • Catherine

    Yehudit – you miss the point.
    I am certainly not defending my religion in regards to Jeff’s post and I, having not seen “The Passion of the Christ,” am not saying his portrayal of the Gospels are true (then again, Yehudit, did you see it? Do you know the Gospels?).
    However, this is one thing I know: The media is going crazy over this movie because it’s about Christianity because Christians are suspect by the media elite. We are fanatical. Again, talk about Nannies, they are afraid we won’t be able to contain ourselves from wiping out Jews after seeing the movie. It might make me all nutty and full of religious zeal because….well…I am a Christian.
    Christian America is the boogeyman. IT IS OKEY DOKEY for “Piss Christ” art and other defamation of Christian symbols are art. It’s freedom of speech. Dollars to donuts, Jeff Jarvis and his ilk would be wetting themselves defending those who desecrate Christian symbols and NEVER question their sanity or wonder how we are “better served” by Mel Gibson’s “art.” In fact, above you find find Jeff wetting himself in defense of Howard Stern.
    Don’t you see the hypocrisy of Jeff and his media buddies? What bothers me is that it is always the SAME people defending those who love sinking a crucifix in urine and about how it “makes them think,” yet HERE IS JEFF and the others like him wondering if it seeing Christ suffer will have “any benefit.”
    Bullocks to all of those who think like Jeff. Hypocrites. All of you.

  • Richard Aubrey

    Thanks, KMK. It was slightly rhetorical, but I was making the point that there ought to be a play about the other folks. They had a choice to take a horrible risk or not.
    The Franks could only hide as long as they could.

  • Yehudit:
    Reckon if you look hard enough for enemies, you going to find them, or make them, as seems to be your intent. You insult and berate those who support you, they may eventually wonder if it’s worth the aggravation, and turn their faces.
    I mean, Geo. Bush got, what, 17% of the Jewish vote, but Yassir Arafat hasn’t darkened the White House door during his administration, has he?
    Roger Ebert says it isn’t airtight gospel, but it isn’t Oliver Stone, either. And he didn’t detect Mel trying to resolve any daddy issues. Say it ’til you’re purple in the face, for all I care.
    And for all you claim to know about Scripture, the fact that it’s about the Passion, the suffering and death (not the life and message) of Christ, seems to have escaped your notice.
    The immigrant jihadis, Eurottrash sophisticates, le Penistes, National Fronters, and EU apparatchiks don’t need this movie to hate Jews any more than they already do. I mean, didn’t the French ambassador to England refer to Israel as
    “that sh*tty little country”? Remember the synagogue torchings and school bus stonings in France, or the breathless, never-retracted BBC reportage of the “Jenin Massacre”?
    All of the above occurred at least two years before the leaked scripts hit the internet. Anti-semitism came back in vogue when the first suicide bomber stepped onto that first Israeli bus.
    Get over your pompous self, Yehudit. No one asked you to kiss anybody’s butt, just to acknowledge your friends where you find them.
    Or not, doesn’t make me no never mind.

  • Anonymous

    The NYTunes review of THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST in approx 1988.
    In the review by Janet Maslin, the New York Times lauds the directors bravery for including scenes of extreme violence:
    “The director does not seem constrained by the episodes setting forth Mr. Kazantzakis’s most daring constructs; if anything, it is these seemingly irreverent and sometimes very bloody sequences that generate the film’s most spontaneous and powerful scenes.”
    The review seems to go on to criticize the scenes that include miracles, but rave about the scenes that show Jesus’ human weakness, Mary’s prostitution,…
    In the end, the movie receives a coveted plug from the NY Times. “”The Last Temptation of Christ” finally exerts enormous power.

  • HH

    Unfortunately Maslin is no longer there so it’s hard to make the comparison… however the examples of reviewers who attacked this movie for violence who earlier praised extreme violence will come out.
    I’ve seen Denby on enough shows to know that he makes Paul Krugman look rational. Sorry, I’ll go with Ebert and Roeper… when these two are taking the “conservative” position, that tells you a lot about the film critics in this country.

  • BarneyL

    What I can never figure out is, why do people who disagree vehemently with Jeff on most if not all issues KEEP RETURNING TO THE BLOG? To get their blood pressure up? Because they like dumping on him? Is there a gun to their head, making them return?
    The way some people live their lives in such negative fashion amazes me more than any Mel Gibson flick;-)

  • Andrea,
    I’ve tried and failed to find the words sensitive enough to respect those who survived 9-11.
    IMO, there are differences between the act of inhumanity that brought three planes and two towers to the ground in a matter less than an hour and the act of inhumanity that was a 12 hour scourging and crucifixion of a single man.
    The former, while a great tragedy, is not known to 99.9% of us in any great detail. Nor did it require great physical effort on the part of the terrorists.
    The latter, (at the time), was witnessed in great detail by many people and required such an evil personal spirit on the part of those who administered it that they were able to maintain a high level of physical abuse for a much longer period of time.
    My apologies to any that misconstrue this comment to mean that 9-11 wasn’t a serious and significant act of inhumanity.

  • Omnibus Driver

    For a moderate viewpoint’s review of the movie, go here:
    “Since I am not a devout Christian, the film was not targeted at me. But what I discovered in watching it is that one does not need to be in order to appreciate one crucial fact: Whether or not one believes that Jesus of Nazareth was God made manifest who died to free the world from sin, Jesus believed it. Witnessing what he endured as a result of his conviction that he was doing it for all of his fellow men is a potent experience.”
    I’d like to see it, and go in with an open mind.

  • crouton

    Judging by the reviews, this movie sounds so abominable, so pornographically violent and perversely twisted – like a sweet confection made from pureed flesh – or Showgirls to the Nth degree –
    that I absolutely MUST see it, I’m going to save it for a special occasion.
    The whole premise of the movie is pointless and darkly ludicrous. Why make a movie fetishing the Christ’s execution? It is the least extraordinary thing about Him. Thousands of people are tortured and killed by governments every year.
    I’m going to make a movie about Milk turning into cheese, and spend $20 million on it.
    I’ll call it Emulsion.

  • andy obuoforibo

    Err, Jeff… christianity doesn’t teach that JC HAD to die. It teaches that he chose to die (hence his reward in heaven). Christ elected to be humanity’s “Designated Sufferer”.