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The Passion review

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2004-03-26

The Passion of the Christ

The Passion of the Christ

Let's get one thing straight, The Passion of the Christ is a well crafted film. There's nothing wrong with the directing,  the acting is good and the sets are wonderfully put together to create an atmosphere of ye olde Jerusalem.

The much reported and written about plot looks at the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus and the various forms of torture he went through before ending up on the cross.
Through Mel Gibson's directing we are shown how Judas "sold" Jesus down the river for some silver. Later on in the film, we see Judas haunted by what he has done, hanging himself on a tree.
We see Jesus' friend Peter trying to save Jesus from the soldiers hell bent on bringing him from the woods into Jerusalem so the high priests can arrange his death. And despite the way that Peter seems able to fight off six people, Jesus tells him to not carry on fighting as those who live by the sword, die by the sword. Surely, this was a prime moment for Jesus and his friends to make a great escape, but no, Jesus tells Peter to stop fighting and let them take him away to his death. 
We see a lot of blood, we see a lot of hatred towards Jesus by the high priests. And this is my first and major criticism, we see much hatred coming from the high priest and the ensemble of others who want to see Jesus crucified. The image here of the Jewish crowd is akin to a lynch mob all out to get Jesus nailed to a cross. The look and image of the characters do portray the Jews in a stereotypical way. They don't seem to have any soul, they just want, for whatever reason, the death of this man Jesus.
We watch the screen which uses English sub-titles to get an idea of what is going on. Unless, you have a knowledge of Aramaic or Latin, you really won't understand the dialogue as the whole film uses these two languages. The Jewish characters speak Aramaic and the Romans speak Latin.
At first, I thought the language would be a barrier to the film, but strangely it creates atmosphere with the well staged and developed scenes.
Yes, there are those who will condemn the film for being anti-Semitic. But I do question that. The film is not anti-Semitic, it is based on the belief system of the director (Gibson). We have come a long way from blaming the Jews for the death of Jesus and I really don't believe that today, Christians will come out and blame Jews for the death of the man.
After all, if Christians believe in Jesus as the messiah and that in order for their sins to be atoned, Jesus had to die for them, then that is a central part of their belief.
As it was, Gibson shot the film showing perfectly clear that the actual torture and death of Jesus was not done by the Jews, but by the Romans and he did show Jews asking why, without a proper judging, Jesus should be killed.
We have to question though, how much influence did the Jews have at the time given they were being controlled by Rome.  And we also have to question the idea that it was just the high priests who wanted Jesus dead, there were of course others who wanted him gone. By just focusing on the Jews, Gibson does let himself down on that area.
The film is not without its flaws. It's not a film for everyone, but take away any pre-conceived ideas one may have of the film and it is what it is, a cinema release that is well made and put together.
The Passion of the Christ opens in the UK on 26 March 2004