Wednesday, 28 April 2004

Having already had a religious rant today, I would much prefer to discuss the relative merits and problems of The Passion Of The Christ without reference to religion. However, this isn't possible. This is not to say that religious stories cannot be assessed without reference to their underlying belief systems, but that this particular one cannot. If one ignores its underpinnings, The Passion can be all too easily criticised. Its story arc is underdeveloped, and as such the characters in isolation are underdeveloped and almost incomprehensible in their actions and motivations. The villains, with some notable exceptions, such as Pilate, are too often caricatures, and are given little sympathy. This is especially true of many of the lesser roman soldiers, who exhibit too few signs of humanity. Sections of the film like the march with the cross, and the flogging, are drawn out for the apparent reason only of exhibiting more violence and pain. While this makes sense from the religious standpoint, it makes all sorts of trouble for the narrative structure.

Many or most of these factors could be overlooked by someone with sympathetic religious views to Gibson, perhaps. Personally, I hold cinema higher in my philosophy than the historical accuracy of the bible, and as such found them too difficult to ignore. Of course, the intention of the film is as an expression of Gibson's beliefs. As such, he has constructed it with great ability, and the film's violence is certainly visceral. The performance of Caviezel is commendable, given the paucity of dialogue that might have developed his character.

Finally, the dénouement is just crap, irrespective of theology. To me it felt like a bad ségue at the end of an 80s Hollywood action film, suggesting a sequel in which a buff and shirtless Jesus exacted bloody and gratuitous revenge on his sinners while uttering snappy one-liners in an Austrian accent. Had the film finished with Mary holding Jesus' body at the base of the cross, it would have had an extra point in the ratings that I don't give.

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