Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Following the Korean language service at the Salvation Army, I elected to miss heading over to my English church (Edge City Church in Ponsonby) in order to stay behind and rewatch Mel Gibson's film The Passion Of the Christ on their video-projector.

I first saw the most exhausting movie ever made a year ago in Rotorua, when I gave it 10 out of 10, even despite the trying circumstances that I'd watched it in. (I'd been up for 20 hours straight, and the previous day I'd been up for 40 hours, 26 of which had been spent sitting on an aeroplane!)

This time I hoped that my eyes would not be sliding closed during the opening credits. They didn't, but to my surprise there was an intermission in the middle, (I guess they had to turn the DVD over or something) so I did stretch out on the pew and miss the start of part 2.

The Passion Of The Christ
I don't know if this was the recut version I saw today or not, but it's just come out, and the flogging scene seemed shorter.

Make no mistake, this is a great film because it is so uncompromising, but there are 3 things that I don't like about it. I list these points here, not to attack the film (I do give it 10 out of 10 after all!), but purely because, as a film-maker, I have never met anyone who agreed with me on these:


We are never introduced to the main players. It seems assumed that we already know them.


It is very cinematic, and therefore unreal.

Despite this, I have spoken to many people who, overwhelmed by its colourful lighting, music and slow-motion, felt as though they were watching something real. The truth is, when these events actually took place, Gethsemane was almost certainly not bathed in a lonely blue. There was no constant music accompanying events. Things did not happen in slow-motion.

Look around you. Is everything bathed in just one colour? Can you hear music? If so, does it match the feelings you should have at this moment? Is everyone moving slowly enough for you to take in how they are feeling?

No? That's because they're real. You only get the lighting, music, slow-motion etc. in the emotionally-charged movieworld.

Satan and his demons, whilst disturbing, subtract credibility from the film, as they look, quite understandably, like characters in a horror movie. I'd just hate for viewers of this film to, thinking that Satan is not real, place it in the same genre as Nightmare On Elm Street. Its genre is historical.

A factual historical portrayal of these events should not need to employ such manipulative cinematic techniques. The Gospels are more concerned with providing factual accounts of what happened, than with using loads of adjectives to control the reader's feelings.

The facts themselves are strong enough on their own to illicit an emotional response, without opening ourselves up to accusations of invention and manipulation.


The ending is ambiguous. Jesus' suffering and crucifixion are quite uncompromising, whilst his ressurection is covered in a single closing shot. I'm sure there are sound creative reasons for this decision, but, like Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell, we really REALLY need to show this.

I know, I know, "Everyone knows what happened next", "It's up to the audience to decide what they believe", "If they're not sure, they can ask someone at church or read the Bible." I hear all those arguments, but don't understand why they should apply to His ressurection, but not His suffering.

No-one seems brave enough to film the resurrection with the same fearless attitude of "this actually happened." Maybe they're afraid it will look silly. Well all right, the film is only about His passion. But the ending is still ambiguous. The light entering the cave - is that Heaven outside?

The Passion Of The Christ is a truly great film. A classic that will still be a giant classic in 50 years time, and rightfully so. It takes Christ's suffering and puts it into an extremely strong, and entirely right, emotional context.

But it does seem to be about conveying the huge emotion of these events, rather than the events themselves. And if that was director Mel Gibson's intention, then he has admirably succeeded.

But it is a movie. Not a doco.

Labels: ,

0 comment(s):

Post a Comment

<< Back to Steve's home page

** Click here for preceding post(s) **

** Click here for following post(s) **