Original release: February 25th, 2004
Running time: 125 minutes
Director: Mel Gibson
Writers: Mel Gibson, Benedict Fitzgerald
Cast: Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci
Crucifixion: 01:30:05 to 01:55:57
For those who saw it, Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ is a film that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. For some it will be because of its religious subject, for others it’s because of dialogue, score, cinematography, performances and Gibson’s passion for filmmaking. It’s a film which depicts, in detail, the final 12 hours and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It’s a controversial film that’s raised questions and angered many who claimed its subject matter was not relevant to biblical material.
I recall the slogans and angry chants on the television screens against Gibson and his film. I remember it like it was yesterday, but despite all the hate against the film and Gibson himself, The Passion Of The Christ was released theatrically in the U.S. on Ash Wednesday – February 25th, 2004.
I was eager to see for myself why this film was so different and what Gibson had done to raise so many speculative eyebrows. I arrived at the theatre and before entering the auditorium, a man in front of me stopped and leaned. He touched the floor and then kissed his own hand. Sometimes when watching a film we might laugh, cry or scream, yet there was a different feeling when watching The Passion of The Christ. Much of the audience could be heard weeping. Some literally called for forgiveness. There were people sitting on the floor, it was that full. Twice during the film, I turned to see other people’s reactions and saw tears rolling down people’s faces. Then I realized I was in tears as well.
Filmmakers before Gibson touched on the subject of Jesus’ life and sacrifice, yet no filmmaker had attempted to bring the story of his sacrifice to the screen with such intensely focused detail and naturalism. From the beginning, he knew the key to making this a successful film would be in finding an actor capable of embodying both the humanity and spiritual transcendence of Jesus. He sought someone who could lose himself in the role entirely, and whose identity wouldn’t interfere with the realism he wanted. The search led Gibson to Jim Caviezel.
It’s a scene that leads us to the final moments of Jesus’ life. Exhausted, beaten and physically defeated, his heavy cross is just a few feet away from him. The soldiers demand that he rise and they begin tearing at his dirty scarlet robe before forcing him on the cross. Stretching his weak arms, they nail him to it. Blood spurts as they hit each nail, digging it through his flesh. Captured in slow motion, the soldiers then nail his feet. Jesus shakes his head in pain with blood and sweat flowing from his face, his teary eyes looking up toward the sky. When the soldiers finish nailing his feet, they tie the ropes on the cross and lift it up from the ground. It stands in the middle of two weeping and condemned criminals who are also crucified. His blood is slowly flowing down the wood. Jesus looks down and sees Mary (Maia Morgenstern), John (Christo Jivkov) and Magdalen (Monica Bellucci) looking up at him in tears. Caiphas (Mattia Sbragia) slowly walks and stands beneath the cross.
Jesus with tearful eyes looks up and prays, “Father, forgive them…” Caiphas stops walking as he hears Jesus praying for him. Jesus continues, “… they know not what they do.” Caiphas walk away wordlessly. The thief on the cross (Sergio Rubini) yells at Caiphas, “Listen… he prays for you.” Caiphas joins the rest of the elders standing in the crowd and Jesus redeems the good thief next to him on the cross who asks for forgiveness.
The clouds begin moving and the guards look at the angry sky. Mary, John and Magdalen walk to Jesus’ cross and she kisses her son’s bloody feet. She cries to him, “Flesh of my flesh… heart of my heart. My son let me die with you.” Jesus looks down at Mary and says to her, “Woman… behold your son. Son, behold…” Jesus looks at John who’s holding Mary. Jesus tells John, “Your mother.” He looks up at the grey sky, clouds are getting darker. Jesus cries to his father, “My God… why have you forsaken me?” After a pause, he looks down at us says, “It is accomplished.”
It’s at this moment we hear his heartbeat and Jesus utters his last words, “Father, into your hands… I commend… my spirit.” He shuts his eyes, his head falls upon his chest and he dies. A single drop of rain falls from the sky, triggering an earthquake which shakes the cross and men. The earthquake destroys the temples and rips the cloth covering the holy of hollies in two, to the horror of Caiphas and to the other priests. Satan (Rosalinda Celentano) screams in defeat.
Everyone with different cultural and religious background knows the story of Jesus whether they believe in Christianity or not, but to see the crucifixion in The Passion of The Christ is to see it differently. It’s a serious story of a serious figure in a very serious moment of his life and it’s been captured with heart and passion here.
Each scene is poetic and beautiful, but it’s the crucifixion scene which moved me the most. It did change me in a way.
Rohan is the lead US correspondent for Static Mass. Graduating from High School in Atlanta, Georgia in 2003, Rohan fell in love with the environment of the cinema hall and moving images on the big screen, watching Bollywood, American and Iranian films.
As an aficionado of film noir, mysteries, drama and thrillers, he enjoys the films of Alfred Hitchcock, M.Night Shyamalan, Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan. Engrossed by the originality of his favourite filmmakers it opened a door for him to take on writing scripts as well.
The reverence of directors, actors, stories, art and cinema allows him to experience films with an open mind and leads him to believe strongly in the correspondence of films with the occurrences of the real world.