I’m not a religious person. In fact, I’m fairly anti-religious. However, I don’t want to be one of those people to be anti-anything without first having some kind of understanding of it. So, seeing this movie seemed to be a necessary thing for me to do.
First of all, I was impressed by a couple of things about this movie. All of the dialogue was spoken in the dialects that were native to the period and region. Roman characters spoke Latin, and Jewish characters spoke Western Aramaic. I felt that this immersed us in the space and time of the film, and added significantly to its realism. The effort that the cast put into learning to speak these ancient, “dead” languages convincingly paid off immensely.
I also liked the portrayal of Jesus as an olive-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed man. Western media has traditionally portrayed him as blonde and blue-eyed, which is rather unrealistic considering his Middle Eastern heritage. What I find interesting is that in some of the stills from www.thepassionofthechrist.com, Jesus has blue eyes. Maybe it was a last minute decision to digitally alter the color of the actor’s eyes to a more realistic hue.
Cinematography and music were fitting for the film. It had an epic sense. Lighting was dramatic and theatrical. Settings and costume were convincing too.
I believe that every film is a communication of some sort. Some films have a very simple communication: to tell a joke, to briefly entertain, to distract us from reality. But some films have a more complex communication: to lampoon a social flaw, to expose a conspiracy, to teach a lesson. The Passion of the Christ is obviously one of the latter.
Now, I understand that “passion” in this context is synonymous with “suffering,” but I think the film’s ultra-violent portrayal of Christ’s suffering is what will ultimately make it fail. I mean, this film was the most realistically and gut-wrenchingly violent that I’ve ever seen. To the credit of the filmmakers and James Caviezel’s acting, Christ’s suffering is truly tangible. It continues almost unabated for 75% of the movie. It’s broken up only by short flashback segments that illustrate relevant portions of scripture. If the film is meant to educate, it should be accessible to the greatest number of people possible. This level of violence is simply too much for the average moviegoer to tolerate. I think it was telling that the theatre only had about 30 people in it, on a Thursday night the week after the premiere of the film. And I’m certain that the word-of-mouth about the film’s violent content was what kept a lot of people away. Nonetheless, The Passion of the Christ is bound to be one of the most talked-about films of the year.