The Passion of the Christ

Carla Pennolino

The Passion of the Christ Response Paper

            The Passion of the Christ (2004), directed by Mel Gibson, is a movie that depicts the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life. Jim Caviezel plays the role of Jesus Christ. The movie opens with the “Agony in the Garden” scene and ends with a brief depiction of his resurrection. Flashbacks of Jesus’ childhood and other important scenes throughout Jesus’ life, before the garden, are depicted throughout the movie as well.

I think it is interesting that Gibson tries to put a modern twist on an ancient story. Although the graphics, costumes, etc. are modern, the film is in Latin (translated be William Fulco), a dead language. The story is modern, but the language is ancient; this can confuse the audience.

I, for one, was confused as to why, if Gibson was going for a modern twist, he has the actors and actresses speak in Latin. Gibson believed that if the movie were in a modern vernacular, “it makes you want to stand up and shout out the next line, like when you hear ‘To be, or not to be’ and you instinctively say to yourself, ‘that is the question.’”

After reading this quote from Mel Gibson, it was easier to understand just why he chose to integrate modern and ancient ways. The story of Jesus’ crucifixion has been told so many times in so many different ways that, at times, it becomes almost cliché. Gibson tries to break away from this cliché, making the Passion of the Christ a groundbreaking and successful film.

One of the most sentimental scenes in the movie is the “Whipping Scene (Third Day). Gibson portrays Jesus in chains, emaciated and a mess. He portrays the Romans as ruthless, insensitive barbarians who are laughing about Jesus’ condition. When Jesus’ garments are removed, it is chilling to see the open wounds all over his body. The Romans are extremely rough when chaining Jesus down and even go as far as testing if the whips are “good enough,” laughing the entire time. One can see the hurt, pain and hatred in Jesus’ eyes when he looks up at them. As they are stretching and preparing for the violence, Jesus stands there without a fight. As he utters: “My hear is ready, Father…,” one cannot help but feel the pain and strength flowing through his body. It is disturbing to see how much force is behind the whipping and Jesus convulsing in pain. As the other Romans look on, one cannot detect an ounce of sympathy from any of them. Their stares are cold.

When Jesus stands back up after falling from being whipped, the Romans look on with anger and grab chains with spikes attached instead of whips. Jesus is in so much pain and his family and friends look on, petrified and crying as the Romans laugh as his misery and pain. The scene ends with Jesus laying on the floor in his own pool of blood, exhausted and wounded beyond belief.

This scene is modern twist on the ancient scene. No other movie depicted this scene in all its goriness. As well as being groundbreaking, it is heart wrenching. Gibson helps his audience understand the real, un-denying “passion” behind Jesus’ last twelve hours, hence the movie title.


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2 Responses to “The Passion of the Christ”

  1.   Merzela Says:

    I agree that Gibson is successful in portraying the heart wrenching last twelve hours of Jesus’s life but I don’t agree that his rendition of this story breaks away from cliche. I think it plays heavily on cliche which is why the movie is so graphic and doesn’t sugar coat the fact that Jesus suffered. Gibson clearly has a motive here and he shows and tells us things very strategically just like every other person who has created a biblical film. The movie is interesting, good even, but I think his personal comments outside of the movie distracts and takes away from the movie. His tactic seems to be instilling fear and following a strict religious order with no wiggle room. It doesn’t attract the masses, in fact it marginalizes people. His personal message and the message that Jesus has are in conflict with each other. This is his major flaw.

  2.   David Richter Says:

    Most of the film is in Aramaic (a language that is similar to Hebrew); all the disciples and the Temple personnel speak it. Latin is used when Pilate speaks with his wife, primarily, and the soldiers speak Latin as well. Latin is actually an unlikely language for the soldiers, who would have been stationed on the coast by what is now the border with Lebanon at Aelia Capitolina; they would more likely have spoken Greek which, in the centuries since Alexander the Great, was the language common to the entire eastern Mediterranean.

    The scourging scene is indeed tough to watch. From the “Making of” extra with the DVD it’s made clear that it was tough to shoot as well. Naturally Jim Caviezel was not whipped, but the process of getting him into his “makeup” (with the fake blood and shreds of lacerated flesh) took hours each day, and he had to sleep, as well as he could, in some elements of the makeup in order to make it to the set on time. Caviezel was injured during the course of the shooting but that was an unplanned accident while carrying the oversize fifteen foot cross to Calvary.

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