Thursday, April 22, 2004

The Passion of the Christ (article)


Everybody's talking about THE PASSION CHRIST. I'm also one of the many who is extremely anxious to see this film, directed by Mel Gibson, about the last moments of Jesus Christ's life, and the torment he went through before he was crucified. According to previews, this film is extremely violent. Understandably, when he was captured, Christ was indeed beaten up, lashed, spit at, mocked, tortured, and had been crowned with thorns that had further bloodied him up. This much is true. One can't just mellow down the violence factor of Christ's torment and claim to portray a realistic interpretation of his last hours alive. I mean this was in ancient times, you can imagine how animalistic violence can get during those days. In the US, the film was given a "Restricted" rating due to its violence. But here in the Philipppines, it was given only a "Parental Guidance" rating (Hardcore ta ya, Bord!). I think this may bedue to the fact that though this film may exhibit violence in extreme proportions, as long as it is within the reasonable context of Christ's history, it would still be educational, not only historically, but most of all, spiritually as well. Besides, we Filipinos are quite familiar with the degree of pain Jesus got during his capture. We never held back our children from learning the hard truth that Jesus has gone through the brutality of torture, for our salvation. This is exhibited through storybooks, statues, paintings, and murals. Ever since our elementary days, we already know of the "pasyon" and "penitensya", that old traditional religious practice, which is the lashing of oneself, inflicting pain upon oneself, even having oneself actually crucified in the cross, trying to "share" Christ's pain, all as forms of repentance. Actually I kind of miss seeing people actually practicing "self-lashing penitensya". Perhaps it is because it is now considered to be obscure that nobody takes time to practice it anymore.

Americans are very keen on guarding the violence in television and cinema that it sometimes borders to a kind of corny uneven censorship reminiscent of Morato's MTRCB days. That is why critics from the US regard the movie to be "gory and extremely violent" What do they expect? A Walt-Disney-type movie? Then there's the big anti-Semitic issue, wherein many Jews raised a fiery issue that the film is Anti-Jew. Well, isn't it already written in history? The writers and the director didn't change the "villains" of the film; previews indicate that this film was even done in the purest of adaptations and biographies ever. It was very much a "by-the-book" kind of movie. What would've these critics wanted? That Christ's story would be rewritten, so as to make it Jew-friendly? Perhaps they wanted the "villains" to be, say, The Yakuza or The Mafia? Okay, maybe Mel Gibson should get Joe Pesci and Ken Watanabe as the bosses who ordered Jesus' arrest. Would the critics be satisfied if that were to happen? Maybe they would want Judas to be portrayed as an ex-spetsnaz commando played by Dolph Lundgren. Would that be not anti-Semitic anymore? At least, here in the Philippines, this film would generally be appreciated without much of an issue.


It's nice because THE PASSION OF CHRIST would probably increase the interest of the movie-going public upon their spirituality. There was a time, around the years when TEN COMMANDMENTS was made, that a plethora of religious and specifically Christian movies came out. There was THE ROBE, KING OF KINGS, and some movie about ST. PETER (Although I find it disturbingly strange how Greek Mythology movies like VULCAN and CLASH OF THE TITANS similarly came out later on. Daw ka tayug lang gid ya, bord!).

Movies are usually the medium from which people that are lazy enough to pick up books, get their info from. And with such efficient medium, stories of Saints, martyrs, and religious figures can easily be shown to one and all.

I find it a bit funny though. Because I saw this satire (a highly recommended movie), entitled "DOGMA", which has some great deal of theology and a great deal of humor in it where, in one scene, an angel (portrayed by Diehard villain Alan Rickman) says in sarcasm "quote something out of a Charlton Heston movie, and all of a sudden, everybody's a theologian" Some kid might someday claim that he learned about Jesus Christ, not from paying attention to his Christian Religion lesson, but from a Mel Gibson movie. See you at the theaters when it is finally shown!