The Passion of the Christ (2004)

March 31st, 2024
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Mel Gibson | Cast: Jim Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci. | Drama 127’

Lives of the founder of Christianity had been a cinematic mainstay since the Passion Play of Oberammergau was first filmed in 1897; while during the century that followed many eminent filmmakers had expressed the desire to tackle the subject. But nobody could have dreamt that a version would be directed by Mel Gibson – whose metamorphosis from the personable young actor in films by Peter Weir to a standard bearer for the Right had been deeply dispiriting to contemplate – and displays a morbid fascination with the violence of his death rather any interest in his ideas (the sheer length of time it takes the Messiah to survive in the face of sustained torture and flagellation doubtless stemming from Gibson’s desire simply to prolong the bloodshed rather than to the indomitably of his spirt).

The version depicts Jesus of Nazareth’s final hours on the days of his crucifixion in Jerusalem based on a screenplay by the American writer Benedict Fitzgerald who is also credited as ‘translator’ on the Coen brother’s comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou?.

The status of Pasolini’s ‘Gospel According to St Matthew’ as the definitive cinematic life of Christ continues to remain unassailable; but it was certainly a canny move by Gibson to employ subtitled dialogue in Aramaic, since lines like “It’ll never catch on” when Christ demonstrates his new invention called “a table” (he’s a carpenter, geddit?) would otherwise have had audiences in fits. @RichardChatten

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