Thursday, February 26, 2004
The Passion of the Christ
Where do I begin........hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...
Ok, let me start with this: before you make a comment of any sort (especially YOU, JJ!!) you better have seen the movie. Otherwise you'll be talking out of your ass and contradicting me based on your personal beliefs and not what you saw. When I speak of my thoughts you must remember they are based on the film, not necessarily my own personal beliefs. Stretch your brain a little and try to see the difference, because there is one.

So let me reiterate....if you haven't seen the movie, you can hardly speak intelligently and in an informed way about it. I do not want to see people using quotes from other people who have seen the movie in place of having seen it themselves. So if you don't like what I'm saying but haven't seen the movie, you'll have to go out and see it and then come back and take me on. Until then, bugger off and attack someone else. I can and will delete any dumbass who thinks s/he knows it all, but hasn't taken the time to see the movie before forming opinions.
Ok? I have read the riot act. Let us move on..

Are you ready? I thought the film was good. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I liked it. That's right folks, a Jew who thought it was a good movie! Egads, what's the world coming to??? Well, before you go all mental and start calling me a self-loathing Jew, hear me out. I assure you, just because I liked the movie doesn't mean I didn't disagree with parts of it, because I most certainly did.

First, the positives. It was a cinematically gorgeous film, if you can't see that much you're really looking to hate the film. The techniques employed were very well done and served the film well. The slowing down of certain sequences, the wash of different colours and hues to show the mood, and the special effects were amazing. I was very impressed, I did not expect to be so impressed by it.
As for the blood and gore....if you have seen a Quentin Tarantino film you can handle this. It is no more bloody than his films (which I personally think were bloodier), I just think people have a harder time with it because it is more believable than the fun and often ridiculous Tarantino films. People don't like it because it makes them uncomfortable...they can put themselves in Jesus' place all too easy, and no one wants to imagine that.

The way the Devil was portrayed was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. He was creepy and insidious and made your skin crawl. He was terrifying but for reasons you couldn't quite put your finger on. He was very subtle, unlike past portrayals that are too over the top or stereotypical. Very very well done.

I have always appreciated the use of subtitles in a film as I feel the use of different languages helps capture the actual feel of the movie as it was originally intended. The use of Aramaic and Latin served it's purpose well, and helped transport you back to the time. Personally, I was excited that I understood quite a few words (Aramaic is very similar to Hebrew); I'm sure someone who speaks Hebrew fluently will have understood much more than me. Anyway, it certainly added to the film, it didn't take away from it. I commend the actors for making you believe they have been speaking it their whole lives; their performances were very believable and passionate.

The actors were amazing, all of them. It's too bad this film will never see Oscars because of it's controversy; You can disagree with the movie all you like, but if you saw it you'd have to agree that James Caviezel was astounding. His performace was one of a lifetime. Hats off to him and the rest of the actors doing an amazing job, and in a tongue not native to them. Not an easy task.

Now then.....beyond all that gushing, yes, I have issues with parts of it. But first let me say that I don't think this film is antisemitic, per se (oy, I'm gonna get it for even saying that). By that I mean that the *goal* of the movie was not to slander Jews. It may have done so as a bi-product, but it's sole intent was not to set out and make the world think badly of Jews. Frankly, I think it's a bit egocentric of we Jews to suppose that it is all about antisemitism. The movie was about Jesus, not JUST about Jews bringing Jesus to his death. Are you seeing the difference? It didn't revolve solely around the implication of the Jews, that was only a part of it. So while I may feel there are arguably antisemitic parts of the film, the film in itself is not. (and don't even try and tell me that if there are parts of it that are, it is entirely. again, we're talking about what the focus of the movie was, and guess what? it wasn't on the Jews. It was on one Jew.)

That being said, let me mention a few parts I wasn't happy about as a Jew watching the film.
I really wasn't happy with the portrayal of Jews as a bloodthirsty crowd. It seemed like a bit much, and unlikely that they would bring one of their own forward to have a Roman kill him. But whatever, I think we've debated long enough on that matter.

I was deeply deeply disturbed by how much Pontius Pilate's murderous nature was downplayed. He was portrayed as some kind of timid leader, afraid of a crowd of Jews. Say what?? You mean the man who was recalled back to Rome by Caesar five years later because he was too brutal a ruler?? You're telling me THIS man was afraid of an uprising, when he was part of a group of people who conquered and ruled a whole land and it's people? A CROWD scared him?? Yeah ok.
If you're gonna paint Jews as bloodthirsty murderers, do us all a favour and make sure you do the same for one of the greatest murderers of all time. Please and thank you.

Also, after Jesus had been whipped and beaten within an inch of his life and brought back to Pontius, a short dialogue took place between Pontius and Jesus in which Pontius urged Jesus to speak up, and give him reason not to kill him. He said something to the effect of (and no, I don't know the exact quote, so don't jump down my throat) having the power over him to kill him. And Jesus said something about the fact that the only one who had power over him was his Father, and that the only ones who had truly sinned were the ones who had brought him before Pontius (let me help you out, that would be the Jooos!). I had issues with that, as it implied that the Jews were the greatest sinners in the matter. (if anyone can recall the lines of the movie better then me and my failing memory have, please let me know)

Next. I had problems with the fact that Jewish children were demonized in order to show Judas going mad. I've had a heated debate today with my friend who saw it with me, but did not see my point on this one. In the scene, some children approached Judas who was clearly losing his marbles. And in a strange turn of events (just go see the damn movie) the children's faces turned all weird and demonic (loved the special effects even if I didn't like the point). Must we make Jews look more like evildoers and devils than we already have? What I mean is...was it critical to the story? Was there no other way to show he was going mad? I get why they used the Jewish mob to bring Jesus to the Romans (even if I don't like it) but there was no need to make the children look like children of the devil. Really now, how evil do you need the Jews to look?? Tsk. It's just unnecessary is all...there's other ways to accomplish what they wanted.

What else? (damn I know I'm forgetting something) I also have to admit...I wasn't too keen on the portrayal of the Jews at the site of the crucifixion. Again, was it not enough that they were blamed for bringing Jesus to the Romans, now they are taunting him and spitting on him? *sigh*

But in the end there are some things to remember about the movie. Firstly, there were several scenes in which Jews pleaded to stop the crucifixion, mostly in the crowds that lined the path as Jesus walked while carrying his cross. There were several instances where Jews showed great despair and begged the Romans to free him. Hm, I'm pretty sure I don't remember hearing that in the reviews by Jews (hard to call the film antisemitic when there are parts in which Jews are portrayed in a positive light, isn't it?).

Also, the movie was very much about the relationship between Jesus and Mary. You'd have to be souless to not be moved while watching Mary as she tries to be near her child through his torture. You can't tell me you aren't the least bit moved by the heartwrenching scenes in which she is made to watch her child die, helpless to stop it and begging to go with him. It was, in part, a story about a mother and her son. If you put all the other religious stuff aside and see that aspect of it, it is indeed a moving film.

In the end I walked away feeling like both the Jews AND the Romans were painted in a pretty bad light. But there's one other thing to keep in mind....those times back then were brutal, folks. People had their hands cut off just for stealing bread, and some were killed just for being different. Civilization as we know it now was non-existent then. Years later people carried on further heinous acts in the name of religion when the witch hunts began and thousands died for being different (or for only being perceived to be something they maybe weren't). Jesus was not the only Jew crucified, but he was one that has a story that lives on. And like it or not the story will continue to live on, and as Jews we had best start thinking of better ways to deal with controversy than this...because in case you didn't notice all the hoopla has in fact drawn more people to see it than would have without all the press.

Do I think the film was antisemitic? No. Do have issues with how Jews were portrayed? Absolutely. But I didn't walk out of there feeling like my life was in more danger than when I went in (then again, I live in Canada, not France). And I don't believe it will cause the avalanche of antisemitism that everyone fears it will. It may add to it, but it won't be the straw that will break the camels back. Antisemitism is growing and this is not the cause.