Cinerama: The Passion of the Christ

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama

The Passion of the Christ

By Mike Derderian

What is passion to you? Is it the capacity to love a peer or hate a foe? Is it the ability to turn the other cheek or an eye for an eye? Is it our dreams or is it just us?

This must be the shortest intro that I ever wrote to a column so far, as I’ll be talking about the Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson’s 2004 controversial film.

No one in history bore the cross of depicting the final 12 hours of the life of Jesus of Nazareth in such a violent and emotional context as this Australian actor and director did.

Gibson’s film version narrating the story of one of the most influential religious figures in the history of mankind will take the audience through an emotional rollercoaster of pure pain. Written by Gibson and Benedict Fitzgerald, it was presented in an authentic style, with the script’s lingual diversity is remarkable.

Using Aramaic, Latin and Hebrew as the dialect for the film’s screenplay provided a mystic atmosphere of authenticity, which was heightened by John Debney’s oriental-based musical score. The music started out with an ominous murmuring at the opening scene and later on shifted into a heart breaking music accompanied with operatic vocals of a female transmitting pain and sorrow.

James Caviezel the mild looking actor with innocent features—who appeared in films like The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), Angel Eyes (2001) and Frequency (2000)—gave quite an excellent performance as the tortured Messiah accepting scorn, humiliation and a greater agony that exceeded beyond physical pain.

Along with Caviezel’s gentle personification of Jesus, actors like Monica Bellucci, Luca Lionello, Hristo Jivkov, Claudia Gerini, Hristo Shopov, Francesco De Vito, Rosalinda Celentano and Maia Morgenstern, as Virgin Mary, delivered what may have been the purpose of Gibson’s shooting of such a beautiful mosaic of pain in the first place, which is passion mixed with the anguish of losing faith and a father figure.

As for Gibson’s directorial brilliance that led to his third controversial film—following “Braveheart” in 1995 and “The Patriot” four years ago—it showed his taste for humanities and the rebel-with-a-cause genre.

Unlike this film, former productions that were applauded by the Vatican for depicting the life of its religious patriarch, never presented violent provocative imagery as the one’s Gibson brought into life. If you think that this film is by any chance an educational epic about Christ and if you want to watch it with the family, my advice to you is be prepared for the most painful visual experience you’ll ever have.

As I stood there all by myself in the dark, hearing people sigh and snivel, while others exerted gasps of discomfort due to the graphic violent scenes found in this film, I found myself saluting Gibson with a tearful thumb’s up. Transforming the audience into witnesses through the use of the three ancient dialects, Gibson managed to stir sentiments with the actors’ facial expressions, emotional torture and weeping scenes that we heightened by music.

The use of ancient languages in a 21st century film in some excerpts of the script to add a realistic feel to it is not a far fetched scenario; however, an entire film with the use of subtitles as in “The Passion” was brilliant on the part of Gibson’s apocalyptic vision.

Now Latin is regarded a dead language, and Hebrew is still used, which brings in the question of Aramaic and how Gibson and Fitzgerald were able to vamp up a script with such an old language? In answer, Aramaic, unlike Latin is not dead, it is still spoken by the people of Ma’alula, which is a Christian town found in Syria. As for the script, it was written in English and later translated into Aramaic and Latin by Jesuit Linguistic professor, Bill Fulco.

“You betray the son of man with a kiss,” with Christ’s words to Judas, two and half hours of love, hate and pain engulfed with the shedding of tears and blood are all for you to experience.

Rosalinda Celentano’s portrayal of Satan, with the help of makeup, was truly excellent as she added a terrifying element to the film. And the casting of a woman for a role supposedly reserved for men reminds us of the say, “He cometh in all forms trying to seduce you.”

Despite being about Christ’s final 24 hours, the film takes glimpses into his teachings and memorable moments of his life, through Gibson’s use of symbolic and metaphorical flashbacks.

Like in one of the scenes when Virgin Mary (Morgenstern) watches her son fall under the heavy weight of the cross during his via de larose, recalling an image from the past when he was a child.

“I am here,” Mary cries holding his scarred bleeding face to which Jesus answers in breaking gasps mixed with blood coming out of his mouth, “look mother I make all things new.”

In the end passion is what makes us alive; believe in what we do, who we are and what we will eventually be. Passion is also a feeling incarnate whenever a child holds a blood drenched stone and hurls it towards a tank. Stay passionate.

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