I was not prepared for The Passion of the Christ. I was raised strictly Christian, with 12 years of parochial school under my belt, as well as myriad years of Sunday school and Bible study and such. No one ever minced words on the brutality of the crucifixion, not once we were old enough to handle such things. But I was not prepared. I was able to hold it in for a while, but when he fell after the beating, when the scourge caught in his flesh and was ripped away – the tears came streaming down my cheeks unabated. Nothing I could do. Nothing I knew could prepare me for that moment. Even the crucifixion itself wasn’t as bad.
The movie was, well, almost beyond words. Brutal, unrelenting, beautiful, heart-breaking. From the first shadowy moments in the Garden of Gethsemane, Gibson has you by the throat, and doesn’t let go until the last shadowy moments in the tomb. He plays you skillfully, patiently, carefully – letting it go almost too far, then pulling back. The story begins in the Garden, and ends with the resurrection – but takes you, through flashback, to the Sermon on the Mount, the Last Supper, and many other pivotal moments in Jesus’s life. Gibson’s timing is exquisite. Scenes of utter brutality are inter-cut with scenes from childhood, from Jesus’s ministry – tender moments with his friends, with his mother. This device also allows Gibson to do some cool things with gestures, with motion – Mary Magdalene on her knees in the dust watching Jesus’s torture becomes Mary Magdalene in the dust at Jesus’s feet as he saves her from the Pharisees – Pilate washing his hands in a gesture of resignation becomes Jesus washing his disciples’ feet in a gesture of humility. Gibson also uses Satan in really interesting ways – I’ll have to think on this a bit more. And the Pieta and the moment when Satan’s fate is sealed and Judas’s torment and how beautiful Monica Bellucci is and and so much more.
But yeah, wow. I would say “I’ll have to see it again to solidify my opinion”, but I don’t know if I can. It was – incredible. I’m glad we went.