Like many of my friends here at Hot Air, I’m preparing to celebrate the final days of Holy Week. Tonight, the First Mate and I will spend some time at church, and tomorrow we will welcome a good friend into Catholicism at an Easter Vigil service. Sunday we will spend the day with our Minnesota family, the family of our daughter-in-law, who have become great friends to us and include us in all their celebrations.
Last night, for Maunday Thursday, we decided to watch The Passion of the Christ. I had not seen it since its 2004 release, although I had bought the DVD shortly after its publication. My wife is blind, and therefore not inclined to watch subtitled films. A few weeks ago, her computer instructor sent her an MP3 that provides translation and narration for visually-impaired viewers of the movie, so we decided that it would make an appropriate way for us to contemplate the great mysteries of our faith.
I reviewed the film in 2004, and was curious to see whether my perspective would change, now that we’re five years distant from the controversial release. Actually, I think the review holds up rather well (spoilers):
In other words, The Passion of the Christ is not NBC’s Jesus of Nazareth (which I have on tape), nor is it meant to be. It’s meant to be a challenge, and like most challenges, it will cause some to accept it and some to reject it. In my opinion, there’s nothing in this movie that is excessive or over the top, or especially anti-Semitic. In fact, the only caricatures I saw in the entire film were of the Roman soldiers who took great glee in scourging, beating, and crucifying Jesus, and in general were protrayed as bloodlusting animals.
It’s not a perfect picture, though; the decision to make the film in Aramaic and Latin rather than the vernacular makes Passion an art-house film, albeit maybe the most successful one ever made. … As has been pointed out before, the dialect of Aramaic used is highly unlikely to be that spoken in Jesus’ time anyway, making the effort pointless from a historical perspective. Undoubtedly, though, the language in the film adds to the artistry of Passion, as well as its cinematography.
The use of Satan, especially in the beginning, and those demons in relation to Judas Iscariot also take the film from verite to vision, belying the notion of “It is as it was.” It still worked for me, although it definitely won’t for others. The one time it didn’t was the scene where Satan held an oddly aged baby, which symbolized, I suppose, the world to come. That to me was one reach too many, and almost a David Lynch moment in a film that did best when it stuck to hard reality. The crow attack at Golgotha almost felt like apocrypha to me; if that’s part of the Gospel, I must have missed it. Finally, Pilate as a weak functionary may not be the most historically accurate rendering of the Roman procurator, but it was an interesting and somewhat sympathetic choice.
If you have never seen Passion before now, I’d recommend it as a Holy Week movie. Meanwhile, The Anchoress has spent all week on spiritual matters, doing some marvelous and uplifting writing, while Pope Benedict warns about losing touch with the spiritual. I hope your Good Friday brings you closer to friends, family, and the Lord.