maybe I am the only one

By Leila Marie Lawler (articles ) | Dec 12, 2003

Most of the comments I've received, including Dom's, on my posting on the Passion, have been along the lines of "let's see the movie before we have this discussion." I think that's inconsistent and boring! Who among us saw The Last Temptation of Christ before rejecting the idea of a movie about some blasphemous, unhistorical depiction of Our Lord's life?

Now hold on before you flip out. I'm not saying that I condemn the Passion, or that it's on the same level as that other movie. I'm saying we could discuss some aspects. (For one thing, presumably blasphemy is a spectrum, with outright lies about Jesus at one end and maybe, just maybe, some questionable interpretations, including the preeminence of physical violence in his Passion, at the other.)

For another, let's make a distinction between the general and the particular. There is the abstract question of a depiction of the passion of Our Lord and whether film is the place for it. Maybe that's a foregone conclusion, maybe not. Film is a lot different now from in the days of de Mille. People have different expectations of what their experience will be in the theater. Our threshold for violence is a lot higher, for one thing, and the ability of the special effects department to deliver realism is not to be compared with that of the past. Old movies are far more detached from the viewer. New movies are engulfing, aimed directly at the physical manipulations of the emotions, in a way that sculpture or paintings aren't, and even old films aren't. What about someone taking a child -- say, a 12 year old -- to see this movie? Would that be healthy? Would it be good? So that's one thing.

And another is the suitability of St. Mel to pull off the job, if we -- the fun folks who are having this cool conversation -- have arrived at the conclusion that it would be good to do it (a conclusion that's begged if we simply say, "wait and see the movie"). I've seen the trailer, and that's what gave me the qualms in the first place. It's SO graphic, so somber, so intense, that it made me wonder what we're in for.

I'm really not condemning the movie, and I don't have an agenda (though I am concerned with the inevitably increasing levels of intensity in all movies). I'm talking about it, wondering about it, thinking about it, examining the ideas behind it...

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  • Posted by: - Dec. 21, 2003 11:17 AM ET USA

    One thought I have yet seen expressed about Mel Gibson's "Passion" is, after it is shown in theaters, what will be the effect on those who see it? Will we, pray for those who see it and ask God for their soul's salvation? Will they (or us) change in some positive way, or just ride home and say "oh, that was shocking" and forget what was seen? I think we had all better pray very hard in the next few weeks. Pray for those who see it, and ask God to effect in their lives the changes he wants.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 20, 2003 4:11 PM ET USA

    I believe there are those who don't want to see this movie because they might be forced to face what Christ's suffering was really like and mess up thir conscience. Read "A Doctor at Calvary" by Pierre Barbet,M.D.The examination of the "Shroud" shows That Christ nose was broken by the beating in Pretorium The scourge had leaden balls at the end of the thongs which sank into the flesh and then were dragged across Christ back , tearing furrows into his quivering flesh, violence you bet

  • Posted by: leila - Dec. 17, 2003 10:33 PM ET USA

    I haven't decided yet about seeing the movie. It's interesting that most of my critics equate approving of the movie with approving the Passion itself (the real one). I find that revealing.The movie is one man's vision, filtered through a manipulative medium. (One manipulation of film is to make people believe they have experienced something they have not, by forsaking mimesis for hyper-realism via technology.) Violence can be obscene, whether or not we are surrounded by it already.

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - Dec. 17, 2003 6:10 PM ET USA

    Leila, I realize you are worried about say a 12 year old seeing it but you forget that a lot of children have been hit with violence these days even on the news. This movie will show Jesus didn't have to suffer but He chose to do it for us. Maybe, the 12 year old will think twice about what Jesus did for love and what hope He has given all of us. I'm curious, are you going to see it?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 15, 2003 2:16 PM ET USA

    Phil -- must you answer hyperbole with hyperbole? That's very off-putting.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 15, 2003 12:23 PM ET USA

    Behold the God who suffers. We preach Christ crucified. People spend so much time in front of Computer, TV and Film screens that this film is one of the last means to "Evangelize the Culture". Lord knows the apostates have ensured that we don't see it in the Liturgy anymore, so God redeemed a filmmaker to get it in our faces when we thought we were safely away from Mass. Vae victus.

  • Posted by: leila - Dec. 15, 2003 11:13 AM ET USA

    Again, my inquiry is not about the issue of antisemitism. Let's not meet an agenda with another agenda. Interesting that the Lord of the Rings films occasioned much more intelligent talk by critics: COULD Tolkein's work be adequately rendered on film without forever conditioning the books, and IS Jackson, a horror film director, the man to do it? "Shut up and watch" renders null the first question. The Gospel deserves more, not less, thought. Also: is film, a mass medium, solely art?

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Dec. 15, 2003 10:08 AM ET USA

    The Passion was subject to unprecedented slander. The proper way to address this slander was to screen the film and let there be discussion at least on the basis of something approaching it's final form. I watched my DVD of King of Kings over the weekend: all of Christ's Passion happens off screen; I have more intense headaches that Hunter's depiction of agony. It's been decades since there's been a significant film on the life of Jesus as the Gospels -- the world needs a realistic one now.

  • Posted by: leila - Dec. 15, 2003 8:22 AM ET USA

    Newman on Jesus' suffering: "[It] is so fearful a thought, that when the mind first masters it, surely it will be difficult to think of any thing else;...we must pray God to temper it to us, and to give us strength to think of it rightly, lest it be too much for us." My itals. dmerlino: my point! images burn. Children will see this in droves via CCD. "Not a Catholic unless we see it"? Clearly we need more discussion before flocking to this film!

  • Posted by: Phil - Dec. 15, 2003 7:29 AM ET USA

    Wow. It surprises me to learn that St. Catherine of Siena, St. John of the Cross, and St. Isaac Jogues-- to name just a few, and come to think of it why not mention St. Peter himself-- were not really Catholics, since they didn't see this movie.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 15, 2003 3:28 AM ET USA

    I have seen "The Passion." We met James Cavizel, who played Jesus. This movie is excellent! You will never be able to see a Crucifix the same. You will never be able to read the Passion without seeing the images from the movie. It was violent. So was Jesus' death. In fact, it was toned down, because we couldn't handle seeing our Lord tortured the way he really received it. Bring tissues, you'll need it, unless you don't care for Our Lord! In a nutshell, you're NOT Catholic unless you see it!

  • Posted by: - Dec. 13, 2003 7:02 PM ET USA

    God, as we know, works in strange ways. With the horrors coming out of {Holywood} maybe this was an inspiration of the Holy Spirit, with Mel Gibson as the instrument, that will be responsible for many conversions. I have heard that among those who have seen it, that grown men have been left weeping. I for one am looking forward to viewing the movie, and hopefully coming away with a faith that will be strengthened.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 13, 2003 12:05 PM ET USA

    Baring historical, doctrinal errors, of which there are apparently none, I can't understand what objections there can be. Haven't we all in our hearts wished/dreaded witnessing His passion, not out of curiosity, but to increase our empathy and understanding of sin and what He did for us? So now the technology of modern cinema will help us. The big danger might me that we actually will think we finally understand what happened - something that will forever be a mystery.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 13, 2003 10:08 AM ET USA

    Leila, the 15-year-old kid won't get in unless his parents bring him; the movie will be rated R at least! Thus, if his parents choose to bring him we can assume that they won't be eating popcorn either. This film is not going to pull in the casual moviegoer, only those who have a reason to see it. I have to admit that I don't understand your prima facie objection to the film. I believe that part of the "Good News" we're to proclaim is His Passion. If He didn't suffer, what's the point?

  • Posted by: leila - Dec. 13, 2003 8:57 AM ET USA

    Does intense visual depiction of violence desensitize us to suffering? Will focusing on physical suffering obscure other kinds of suffering? Is watching Jesus suffer on the silver screen the same as participating in His suffering? Okay, we are too refined actually to eat popcorn at this movie. While we have our religious experience, will it bother us that that 15-year-old kid over there covers his vulnerability to the intensity of the film by loudly chomping away?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 12, 2003 7:02 PM ET USA

    "Preeminence of physical violence of his passion" do you mean gratuitous violence? I think in order to judge that a person would have to see the movie.He was nailed to the Cross there are somethings that are better convayed to us through the visual, the agony in garden, the trial,the scourging our Blessed Mother being linked to him spiritualy seeing every bit of suffering he endured . Our society today needs that kind of wake up to what our Saviour voluntarily did for us.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 12, 2003 4:18 PM ET USA

    Maybe it's the Italian in me, but I agree with Fr. Jim. I don't have any problem with intensity and passion and the rising of emotions. I want to be emotional about the Passion. Of course, emotion isn't the only thing--I need to keep the intellect in gear as well--but the Passion should overwhelm us. The pain and suffering of Christ should wound us. In fact, I think the antiseptic depictions of the Passion in previous movies have done a disservice to us by inuring us to the human suffering of the Divine Man. Before now, the single most heart-wrenching cinematic moment in the depiction of the Passion was Mary's wailing cries in Zeferelli's "Jesus of Nazareth." For all that movie's failings, that moment makes up for many of them. On Good Friday, I want to walk the road to Calvary with Christ, just as on Easter Sunday, I want to feel the joy of the Resurrection. Again, as Fr. Jim says, it's the type of violence depicted in the move that makes the difference as to whether it sensitizes or desensitizes. Do we take the 12-year-old? It depends on whether he is old enough to grasp the heights and depths of Christ's Passion. There are other movies and videotapes and books and artwork for him if he is not.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 12, 2003 2:56 PM ET USA

    Desensitization to violence occurs when the object of violence (on screen) and its effects are unseen or impersonal. Onscreen violence in which the recipient is identifiable generally produces the opposite effect. The difference between an exploding car in Lethal Weapon and the bullet to the jaw in Fargo is immense. Christ's passion WAS violent, and many people need to see that. Too many know him only as the antiseptic Risen Christ on display in so many churches today. See Isaiah 53:5

  • Posted by: - Dec. 12, 2003 2:48 PM ET USA

    (...inevitably increasing levels of intensity in all movies). I share this concern. But here's the thing: what if we don't have intense movies? Intensity is good, and modern man feels caged in as it is. What will happen if he doesn't see movies, like "The Passion," that attempt to direct men's passions in a way that is good?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 12, 2003 11:55 AM ET USA

    Just as we have a "personalist" Pope, we have a "personalist" movie. And, I believe you are overlooking the possibility of Mel Gibson's other work preparing him for this one. He may achieve directorial redemption through this work, which his prior near misses are leading up to. Who would have though a B-movie horror director from NZ could have achieved the success of LOTR? I certainly would never have guessed it.