Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I saw The Passion of the Christ.

I saw The Passion of the Christ.

I was not in the least bit disappointed. This is remarkable, that it lived up to if not surpassed expectations, given the hype.

The movie is an accurate and provocative representation of the gospel. I have heard a couple minor criticisms from (Protestant) Christians. One is about the extra-biblical portrayal of Satan. This is a silly complaint—no one would bat an eye if their pastor speculated during a sermon along the lines of "I wouldn't be surprised if Satan taunted Christ all the way until He gave of the ghost." Gibson was taking the same reasonable poetic license. The other minor complaint was regarding some Catholic overtones. In my mind there was little in the film identifiably Roman, and what little I could identify was not substantive. The "stations of the cross", which probably went over the heads of all never-been Catholics. Others calling Mary "mother". Well, she was His mother! And maybe John called her mother. Maybe all the disciples did. No big deal.

The movie is absolutely wonderful. It is as emotionally draining as I hoped; and as painful as it had to be. I left feeling utterly defeated, yet knowing that I should feel celebratory—precisely the gospel tension. What a gift, but what a price that was paid.

Just to mention two professional reviews. One from Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun Times. Ebert gave a generally favorable review but with the caveat "This is the most violent film I have ever seen." Nonsense. Plenty of films, some of them highly acclaimed are more violent. Natural Born Killers comes to mind, so does Saving Private Ryan. It would be easy for anyone who is a movie buff to come up with many movies that are more violent. The "most violent movie of all time" knock is pure hyperbole.

A more virulent critique is from Jamie Benard of the New York Daily News. She gave the film one star and described it as "the most virulently anti-Semitic movie made since the German propaganda films of World War II."

She has likened an accurate gospel portrayal with Nazi propaganda.

Given that she is obviously not stupid, there can be only one explanation for this: Ms. Benard is a bigot. An anti-Christian bigot.

There is no other way to make sense of her review, at least none that I can fathom. Perhaps she is only pandering to bigots, but that is a distinction without a difference.

No serious movie critic could give this movie one star. I am no a student of film, so I could not argue persuasively whether this film, content aside, on a purely cinematic evaluation, deserves three or four stars. But I have seen enough truly awful movies, speaking of their craftsmanship, acting, and directing, to know that one would have to have an ulterior motive to give this film one star.

I don't know anything about Jamie Benard, except that she has revealed herself to be a bigot.

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