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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

'Scriptural fidelity as fetishism.'

Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr says The Passion of the Christ is "brutal almost beyond powers of description." Attention parents:

[A]ny parent — no matter how devout and well-intentioned — who takes a child to this movie is guilty of abuse. Period.

But you're wondering about the theology of the film:

This is scriptural fidelity as fetishism. But how can it be otherwise? To Gibson, each drop is holy, so the more of it the better. Each chunk of flesh dug out by the lash is Christ's sacrifice in all its beauty, so bring it on. The cumulative effect, however, brings only numbness.

Much has been written and said in the past six months about what Gibson should do and what his film should say. But it bears reminding that art, or storytelling, or the profession of one's faith (or lack thereof) isn't about should. As with other controversial religious works — and in that sense "The Passion of the Christ" ironically stands shoulder to shoulder with Martin Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ" — it is Gibson's obligation only to make the thing as true to his conscience as he can. For better and for worse, he has done so: This is the record of what he believes.

It's not your Unitarian grandma's tea-cosy religion; for one thing, Christian forgiveness seems in short supply. Toward the end of "Passion," the surreal touches that the director has salted throughout the film — evil dwarf children and Bosch-ian extras, mostly — come together in an earth-shattering big bang of cracking temples, bursts of flame, and torrents of blood out of a samurai movie. It's what tent-show revivalists used to call a Grand Finale, and while the faithful stand to be awed, as filmmaking it's somewhat silly.

We've heard some of Christ's Sermon on the Mount by then, and his exhortation to the disciples to love one another "as I have loved you." But the naked, risen Jesus who strides forth from the tomb in the last shot of the film, to the solemn thrum of martial music, does not seem very interested in love. Why should he be? He's off to war.

("'Passion of the Christ' is a graphic profession of Mel Gibson's faith," Ty Burr, Boston Globe 2.24.04)

Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 24 February 2004 at 8:16 AM

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2 comments:

Melanie:

February 24, 2004 02:00 PM | Permalink for this comment

I won't be seeing it. The cartoonish violence of LORT/ROTK was more than I could handle.

Jonah:

February 25, 2004 04:01 PM | Permalink for this comment

See, regardless of what thinks of the movie, Burr doesn't know what he's talking about. Scriptural fidelity is *not* a fetish here; scriptural fidelity is ignored. The 'surreal touches' are Catholic folklore or just plain made up. But Burr apparently doesn't know enough about the original Gospels to point that out.



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