film 6 of 7

The Passion of the Christ

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 10, 2015

This is a mad movie, a Folly of the first order. Little things in the film trouble you as being unseemly or misguided, and the same goes for many of its bigger patterns and strategies. Too many falls. An obsessiveness and relentlessness that borders on the ridiculous, if you want to look at it that way.

Or, you could not look at it that way. Gibson believes! And if he believes a bit madly, he also believes quite mightily. Further, his collaborators help him articulate his vision quite definitively, such that his vision, or the vision of the Catholic splinter-sect to which he subscribes, becomes much more than just his or their vision. If Christ’s Atonement didn’t really happen during the flaying, then the sorrowful and grateful mythological notion that it did still has considerable, enormous relevance and power.

(Are you thinking that Christ’s Atonement didn’t happen at all? My observation still stands.)

It’s also important to note that, in addition to this film’s much remarked-upon mayhem, there are all these tinily portentous counters. Their modesty is in disproportion to the blood and thunder that mostly prevails, which is why they register so effectively and powerfully. This isn’t madness, by the way, but a very calculated and effective cinematic strategy. Gibson is mad north-by-northwest, I guess. Look, for instance, at that wee lad, falling. It seems pure sentimentality, certainly reminiscent of the ridiculous C.B. De Mille.  Who made one of the two greatest Jesus movies ever. That fall also looks rooted in an actual parent’s real experience. Gibson knows about this part, and he has extended and extrapolated that deep and agonizing empathy to Cosmic proportions. God’s teardrop! The Satanic howl that follows that amazingly conceived and executed shot really means something. It really means everything!

In it’s own way The Passion of the Christ is as wrong-headed as Schrader/Scorcese, 1987. And its terse, terrifying conclusion is just as joyful and undeniable.

He has risen!