Saturday, April 07, 2007

Art & Passion

Tonight, I watched The Passion of the Christ again, in recognition of the approach of Easter tomorrow morning. It's an ugly film... not ugly in its artistic accomplishment, mind you, but intentionally ugly in its depiction of the basest cruelty inherent in humanity. It disturbs me on a visceral level--and that's exactly what Mel Gibson intended. He constructed a film that would offer an unflinching depiction of the suffering of Jesus, because he wanted to communicate an inherent element of his faith: Jesus withstood more than any mere human could be expected to, because he was more than a mere human. However, in order to communicate that, Gibson showed us only the human aspect of the crucifixion--the pain, the suffering, the ripping away of the mortality in gobbets of flesh. Gibson wanted to show the destruction of the flesh in order to make us consider what would motivate a man to undergo such torment. And he does it almost entirely from a third-person point of view, failing to take us into Jesus' mind because the Gospels on which he based his film were told from a point of view other than Jesus'.

I'm not religious, although like many my ethos has been influenced by the teachings of Jesus. However, I see in The Passion of the Christ an amazing accomplishment: Gibson has given his spirituality a very physical form, and he has used his skills as a filmmaker to communicate the core concept of his faith in such a way that those who don't believe as he believes may nonetheless be moved by the intensity of the experience. What Gibson has done here still impresses me--and it impresses me even more that he did it by turning his back on Hollywood and its modus operandi.

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