Back in 2003, I was not ready for The Passion of the Christ as a work of sacred cinema. It was worlds away from any biblical movie that we had ever seen. Unlike most prior biblical films, it wasn’t hokey, affected or surreal.
But I was also not ready for the theological vision of Christ’s suffering and death that spooled out on the small screen over Gibson ’s desk that June afternoon. No one was ready for The Passion — neither in the Church, nor in Hollywood, and certainly not in the community of film critics. Rotten Tomatoes, the aggregate movie-review site, has the top critics on record as giving the film a “Rotten” rating of 40%. That’s even lower than Tim Burton’s creepy failure Alice in Wonderland (51%) and Man of Steel, the lamest comic-book movie ever made (56%).
Probably because of the politics, the critics couldn’t really see The Passion in 2003. Today, all but the most anti-Christian critics would have to begrudgingly admit that the film has stood the test of time. What I wrote in a review the day after I saw the rough cut is established consensus today: “The Passion is a miracle.”
In terms of movies dealing with the sacred, The Passion of the Christ raised the bar almost too high. While the film should have become a new standard for faith-based films, it seems to have been too brilliant and ended up paralyzing religious filmmakers instead of becoming their template.
Lessons from the film about what makes for great sacred cinema have largely gone unlearned. Lessons like, you don’t make a great work of art by watering down the more esoteric points of Scripture or theology, but rather by pushing them. Or that great sacred art is characterized by the mysteries it offers and not in earnest truisms. Or that showing the intersection of grace and sin is probably going to require R-rated truths, which Christian artists should always prefer to G-rated lies. Finally, The Passion should have taught the Church of our era that great sacred art is first and foremost beautiful, but not necessarily pretty; it is profound not through didactic verbiage, but through imagery.
Part of the greatness of The Passion of the Christ is reflected in an astounding argument that broke out in Gibson’s office after the chosen few of us had screened the rough cut of the film.
There was an evangelical pastor in the room who had been brought in to also give feedback. He was nearly jumping out of his seat by the end of the piece. He addressed himself to Gibson in the chastening tone of someone speaking to a naughty child: “You must lose everything in this movie that isn’t in the Bible!” Gibson was taken aback. “What in my movie isn’t in the Bible?” The pastor waved his hand dismissively, “So many things! Like for example, the snake as Satan in the Garden of Gethsemane. That is unbiblical!”
I remember Gibson being perplexed and asking, “Don’t you think Satan was there?” The pastor replied, “It doesn’t matter what you or I think. You are not allowed to add anything that isn’t in the Bible.” I remember interjecting in the film’s defense that the presence of Satan in Gethsemane is certainly in the spirit of the Scriptures, to which the pastor blinked rapidly.
That kind of flourish, what the pastor thought unscriptural, but which I would call super-scriptural, is part of what makes The Passion so great.
Full story at National Catholic Register.
Gibson was not cancelled because he made a movie about Christ. He was cancelled for his personal behavior.
And he works a lot. At least 6 movies a year from what I can see on line.
He directs and owns a production company.
He is working on the followup to The Passion of the Christ, which after viewing the trailers, I will take a hard pass on.
Gibson, a divorced man with lots of children by his first wife, has been busy pretending to be a “Christian,” while having lovers, and illegitimate children by them– and never marrying any of them. His movie, “The Passion of the Christ” is extremely bloody, crude, crass and violent. No holiness, no piety, nothing awe-inspiring, no reverence, respect, no class. Just a nasty, bloody, crude, violent murder. Older filmmakers of long, long ago, had much more maturity and class, as well as respect and piety, with Biblical subjects, in filmmaking. You do not have to show blood and gore and violence, on-screen, to tell an excellent story. The Crucifixion of Christ, depicted in great art of all kinds, long, long ago, moves you with great holiness, piety, reverence, awe, tears of love, speechless gratitude, and tremendous respect. It is transcendent, heavenly, angelic, extremely holy, not of this world, as well as deeply, richly human, in agony, suffering and death. The holy Son of God truly was on that Cross.
gibson is no christian, a lot of Spanish art is very bloody. The Catholic tradition is truer to the Bible in representing what is on the pages of the New Testament. the word blood is there is the gospel accounts
There are some very violent, bloody depictions of the Crucifixion in Spanish art. I do not care for that style– simply depicting a bloody murder. By art, I also meant many art forms– poetry, literature, music, films, paintings, sculptures, etc. What has always deeply moved me, is artistic representations of the Crucifixion in which the great holiness of Our Lord shines through, amidst His suffering. And the awe-inspiring, transcendent beauty of the sinless, perfect, angelic, Eternal Son of God, Who is not of this world, though He briefly took on human flesh. He was absolutely pure, sinless and holy, even in death– He was deathless, eternal, not of our human condition of sin– and He took on our sins to save us all, and open wide the gates of Heaven for us.
There is a famous Spanish poem, well-loved, “Soneto a Cristo Crucificado”– “Sonnet on Christ Crucified.” No one knows the author, but it was first published in the early 1600s. A very beautiful and popular poem, on the Crucifixion of Christ! There is a rich treasure of religious poetry, literature, art, music, etc., regarding the Crucifixion.
Oh– the English translation of the Sonnet is actually “Sonnet to Christ Crucified.” No one knows exsctly who wrote it. The poem first appeared sometime in the late 16th/early 17th centuries.
There is also no need, to show to the public, all the grisly details of a violent, bloody abortion, in order for people to understand that the life of an unborn child is precious– and must be defended. The qualities of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness, and concepts of awe and wonder, Platonic idealism, religious faith, reverence and respect for God, formation and cultivation of Christian virtue and a good Moral Conscience, good manners, charity and respect for one’s fellowman, and respect for law and order in society — were all ruthlessly attacked and destroyed in Western culture, during the evil 1960s. All of this greatly needs to be fully restored, in Western culture and civilization– or else it will eventually disintegrate into extremely destructive violence and chaos, “worse than animals.”
I have never been interested in secular, money-making, Hollywod religious “blockbuster” films. Many have contained inaccuracies, which used to be pointed out by the Church, many years ago. I have always only been interested in authentic Catholic filmmakers, making authentic, Church-approved religious films, for use by the Church. These kinds of films are truly religious, for religious purposes– not the secular Hollywood films. My favorite was Ven. Patrick Peyton. He was absolutely outstanding.
The Passion of the Christ is most certainly a powerful and disturbing movie. However, it is not solely based on the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus. Gibson also included some of the visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich in his writing of the script for the movie. Therefore, one cannot assert the movie is a biblically based account of Our Lord’s passion.
Going back before the Passion was even made, Gibson cooked his own goose by attacking that certain group of powerful people who, essentially,
run the movie industry. (Along with every other facet of modern media)
He was a target then. He is a target now.
That the movie was so successful was a miracle.
Am glad that he paid no attention to some Protestant. Protestants can take their bag of marbles and skip on down the road.
” His movie, “The Passion of the Christ” is extremely bloody, crude, crass and violent. No holiness, no piety, nothing awe-inspiring, no reverence, respect, no class. Just a nasty, bloody, crude, violent murder. ” This Holy Week I watched the movie after not seeing it in many years. I beg to differ from you, sir/madame, but Jim Caviezel and Maia Morgenstern bring a spiritual depth to their parts which was obvious to me, anyway. Gibson interspersed moments of Jesus’ earlier life with the terrible passion I’m sure with the intent that the beauty of Jesus and Mary would not be lost due to all the violence occurring in the passion. This beauty, this reverence, this respect, this class, was not lost on me, and it made the brutality with which Jesus was subjected to all the more incomprehensible by stark contrast. Gibson had different aims than DeMille, I would fancy. Of course one could take a different point of view and criticize DeMille et al. for sanitizing the suffering of our Savior. And yes, I hear Caviezel and Gibson are returning for a sequel. Not having seen the trailers, I know not what to expect. But Caviezel is a solid Catholic. If he vouches for it, I might be inclined to go see it. One last thought: “Gibson is no Christian” is a dangerous judgment to make. He may not be a very good one, but then many of us might also be so characterized. Pray for him then, that he might be a better one.
Well, Dan, God reaches us in many different ways. Sorry, but to me, Gibson’s movie is just gratuitous, bloody, senseless violence. An ugly, brutal, evil murder, that’s all. With brutality to the absolute max!! Real religious art is far better. You can find a depiction in a church, of a beautiful, heavenly, prayerful, transcendent, extremely holy figure of Christ in a painting of a Crucifixion scene, or just a beautiful and holy Crucifix. You can spend hours with Him, utterly transfixed, falling on your knees in tears, love, adoration, and prayer. He was not a mere human victim of a violent and bloody murder. He was much more– truly the eternal, pure, angelic, transcendent, deathless, heroic, holy, Divine Son of God, Who willingly took on our corrupted flesh and our sins, and the Crucifixion due us– for our Salvation! A willing, holy, sinless, angelic, Divine Victim– dying in our place, for our Salvation! He is heroic, He is God! Not of this earth, not of our lowly, sinful state! He is truly the Divine Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity! He holds the entire universe in His glorious, holy, sinless, Divine hands! He is far, far beyond that violent, bloody murder on the Cross, which He willingly accepted for our Salvation! And His Resurrection completes it– He is eternal, deathless, transcendently perfect, pure, and beautiful! No one can kill God! To relate that message to me, artistically– is worth a million words in a book.
Your very long and eloquent description of our Savior was touching and I thank you for it. No doubt Gibson agrees with every beautiful word you wrote…same for Jim Caviezel. Your thesis is that real religious art evokes devotion, and I also think Gibson agrees with you. I prefer to leave the matter there.
Saint John Paul II made a point to watch the entire film, after which he commented “it is as it was”. No words of condemnation, but, it seems, approval
There are many scandalous Catholics today, like Pelosi, Biden, and Gibson– who have a great deal of public power and influence– and present the Catholic Faith wrongfully to the public. This is very, very serious! These “bad Catholics” should not be presented to kids, especially, as true Role Models for our Faith. Such people should be called to repentance! If you are a person of public power and influence, and profess to be a “good Catholic”– then, you have a big responsibility! Don’t tell your kids that such famous people as Biden, Gibson, Pelosi, etc.– are “good Catholics,” and encourage them to look up to such terrible frauds. And don’t make excuses to your kids, for Gibson’s sinful “lifestyle.”
Perhaps Mel Gibson’s making of the “Passion of the Christ” is the way of his personal repentance.
Many of the Saints have been real stinkers until they had that grace-filled moment.
Give Gibson some time. He has already brought people to Christ through this movie.
And work on your own foibles.
I think this movie is Mel Gibson’s way of MAKING MONEY — not making Christian converts, nor correcting his own misdeeds. You are too impressed by this Hollywood scoundrel. There have been lots of crooked Hollywood scoundrels in the movie business, since its inception, who have made religious films. And never tell others to “work on their own foibles.” Very ignorant. You are too impressed by another famous Hollywood reprobate. Call a spade a spade. Most of Hollywood is sinful and filthy, anyway– laughing all the way to the bank, for every dollar that gullible movie goers give them. Look to the very few, true Christian and Catholic filmmakers– my favorite was Ven. Patrick Peyton– an outstanding, honestly true and faithful Catholic religious filmmaker!
Many Hollywood religious “blockbuster” films have had inaccuracies, which used to he pointed out by the Catholic Church, many years ago. These films were really money-makers, not for true religious purposes. Some were good, others were not. I have always much preferred authentic, Church-approved, Catholic religious films, made by Catholic filmmakers for the Church, to glorify God. Ven. Fr. Patrick Peyton was my favorite. His religious films were beautiful, holy, and absolutely outstanding! Excellent for your family! Great support for Catholic catechesis!
The life and teachings of Christ is extremely holy– not for secular “entertainment” purposes. As Ven. Fr. Patrick Peyton used to say, “The family that prays together, stays together. And a world at prayer, is a world at peace.” The work of the famous “Rosary Priest” was outstanding– and is so badly needed, today!
You are incorrect. I am not impressed with Hollywood.
I rarely attend any movie. I am not impressed by “stardom”. “Stars” are the golden calf idols of the last 100+ years.
I think that you, however, are too impressed with Gibson. Your foaming-at-the-mouth description of him belies a bizarre interest in someone who has done you no harm.
Just calling a spade a spade.
You, Dan, other commenters– along with many young people of today– are strangely attracted to— or at least “tolerate” — extreme violence, violence-to-the-max, on-screen. You have no sensitivity to it. That is not normal. And you strongly defend a popular moviemaker idol– Mel Gibson–who proclaims to be Catholic, but is a womanizer, also accused of rape– who leads a sinful life. And he makes what he calls Catholic films– with violence-to-the-max. Would you take your precious wife and kids, in your Catholic family– to see endless, horrific, bloody violence– in a so-called religious movie? In 1959, when we went to see “Ben Hur” — the violence was limited, normal. The movie told a good story.
In my comment of April 13 at 3:02pm, the editors removed my quotes around words in phrases like: “… and proclaims to be “Catholic”…” “And he makes what he calls “Catholic” films–” and “…in a so-called “religious” movie?” (etc.) Wish the editors wouldn’t do this!
A good Catholic man is a fine gentleman. He is a true gentleman, a man of Chirst-like Virtue, and good family values. He is not a dirty old irresponsible, selfish reprobate. He is self-controlled, unselfish, serving God, family and society, and he seeks the well-being of others. In dating, or in marriage, he is a true gentleman with a lady. Strong, manly, self-directed, responsible, reliable, a good Moral Conscience, self-controlled, protective of women, seeking the lady’s well-being and safety, avoiding wrong situations. He always respects others, uses good language, and is not aggressive or violent, except in self-defense, or manly, heroic defense of others, against dangerous criminals. Sorry, Mel Gibson does not fit this description.
He makes Gibson look like a saint
by comparison. But Caravaggio made
beautiful paintings of Christ and the Saints.
Here is a link to a very beautiful short, choral sacred work, composed in 1912 by the Russian Orthodox composer, Pavel Chesnokov. It is the fifth in a series of his Ten Communion Hymns. It is one of the last sacred works that he ever wrote, as the Soviet Government later suppressed Christianity in Russia. In English, this exquisitely beautiful, short choral hymn is called “Salvation is Created.” You can also find it sung by a choir in Russian, on YouTube. It is actually very short and simple, with a rich harmonic texture. Any church or school choir could learn it. It is exquisitely beautiful– and very, very powerful. It may move you to tears! I often have thought of this piece, due to the tragic war in Ukraine. Here it is:
Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed His last. The sky grew dark, and there was an earthquake. The veil of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The Roman soldiers were terrified. The Roman centurion facing Christ on the Cross, looked at Him and said, “Truly this was the Son of God.” He did not deserve to die. I loved the movie, made long ago–“The Robe”– which told the fate of Jesus’ robe, which the Roman tribune, Marcellus, (played by Richard Burton), in charge of Christ’s crucifixion, won in a dice game. The robe of Christ really haunted Marcellus. He and his beloved fiancee ended up dying together, as dedicated, new Christians, persecuted and sentenced to death by evil Caligula, for their new Christian Faith. The two went together, valiantly, to their deaths, and entered Eternity together. And the movie theater audience broke down in tears. Including me. This movie isn’t historically accurate, but the story is deeply moving. There were also a few other deeply moving, outstanding religious films like that, long ago.
Well, the editors, once again, removed my use of several exclamation points, in my post of April 13, at 4:03 a.m. I only had a few of them! Obviously, the Cal Catholic editors do not “approve” of correct punctuation, in communication through the written word! Yet strangely– they never correct SPELLING ERRORS!! Exclamation points show your feelings. For example, if you write, “Truly this was the Son of God!” it shows your feelings of being awestruck, stunned, amazed, overwhelmed. It is important, when you write, to be able to express feelings, to communicate effectively.
A good filmmaker, master of his art, tells a good story, unforgettable, with a good script, good characterizations and plot, good actors, good scenery, cameramen, etc.– all with good standards of high quality. A classic film like “Gone With the Wind” was unforgettable! No sex scenes. No gratuitous violence. And only one famous cuss word (“damn”) uttered by Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) at the end. That one word was not necessary, though. The story, as told by the film– was unforgettable! You could see that film many times, and still enjoy it! When young, I was struck by the well-done sensuality in the movie poster, portrayed perfectly, of Rhett Butler about to kiss Scarlett O’Hara. Wow! Want to kiss Rhett Butler? Great classic film– by a master filmmaker!
Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara were portrayed in a romance. Romance is a beautiful thing– the God-given glory of a Man and Woman in love. Of course, Scarlett O’Hara was a lady with many faults (but still enjoyable), and she got her just desserts in the end. I prefer love stories with virtuous women. Like the “Story of Ruth,” a fine movie– where the good widow, Ruth, meets and marries a fine Jewish man of fine character, Boaz. And with Naomi’s help, Boaz marries Ruth, and she becomes a Jew– and they become Christ’s ancestors.
A truly good classic film, tells a wonderful, unforgettable story. Ugly, gratuitous sex and violence are not needed, and are completely undesirable.
Mel Gibson has been in big trouble in Hollywood for many years. He was blacklisted for a long time, for his violent, hateful Anti-Semitism– which he also was noted for, in his “Passion of the Christ” film. He has also been detested in Hollywood, for his evil, violent, drunken rages, and filthy language hurled at many people. He has been extremely violent towards women he’s had as lovers, has vehemently stated his desire to “kill” his ex-wife or one of his latest girlfriend, has greatly endangered his children by his lovers, with his extreme donestic violence. and much more! One of his former lovers, who also had a child by him, took him to court for his extreme domestic violence and cruelty, and he got punished. He has a terrible — and extremely dangerous– history of extrene domestic violence. This man is certainly not a “Christian,” and people should stay away from him.