Browsing through the Radio Times, there doesn’t seem to be much Easter-oriented religious programming on in Holy Week. Bar the Greatest Story Ever Told on Channel 4 on Good Friday, the only other thing I could make out was last year’s The Passion, from the BBC, being aired in full on BBC4 on Wednesday (I talked a little bit about it last year, search under label ‘Easter’).
(There is also a programme on Handel’s Messiah on Good Friday, but i get the impression it is more about the composer than the subject matter – perhaps I’m wrong.)
This seems ironic to me as Good Friday’s spread in RT actually illustrates the events of the “original” Good Friday, crosses at the top, Jesus’ followers one side and Roman soldiers the other. But actually finding something relating to it is difficult. Usually there is more relevant programming than this.
Speaking of the Passion, I sat down to watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ not that long ago. I know some find it a profound reminder of what happened to Jesus (and I respect that), but for me I’m afraid it was a turn off. The flogging scene was so much focused on the actual gore that I was hiding behind a cushion, not from distress at what was happening to Jesus but because I was totally ‘grossed out’ for want of a better phrase – seeing skin being ripped off with nails from the lashes was just too much.
My reaction was akin to someone squeamish turning away from a Casualty operation scene than it was to being moved by the events of that day. In the end I was forced to fast forward it to the crucifixion, where I watched Mary kiss Jesus’ toes and come away with a mouth covered in blood (ugh), before going on, finally, to the resurrection. By this point I was in such a grossed-out state that it did not have much effect for me.
For me, this was the first portrayal of the crucifixion and previous events that hasn’t brought me to tears in some time, because I was so grossed out by the gore, with an underlying awareness of the ‘special effects’ being used to their utmost (e.g. skin being ripped off).
In the light of the chunk of the film taken up by the flogging – initially I managed to watch but after a while started wondering when it would be over, I found myself quite unmoved in the traditional sense. I think it was because it focused on the Passion itself rather than any previous story about Jesus there wasn’t time to build up love and sympathy for the character (this purely an observation of the focus of the film rather than my own faith). And then there was this overload of gore, which for me overcast everything else.
Like I said, I know there are those who are moved by this film, and I don’t want to undermine this. Neither do I want to deny the awful suffering of Jesus. I simply found the visuals too gory and gross to actually derive any meaning from it. I don’t think I am super-super squeamish (although I probably get more so as I get older), but this was just too much for too long for me. And I watched it while Andy was out, so I was dealing with it by myself.
I’d be interested in hearing anybody else’s thoughts.
Oh, a related question that I’m always thinking whenever watching any on screen recount of the story of Jesus. Why does he always have to be white?!! Most likely he was dark skinned, neither black nor white (very fitting, in fact). It may have been the way he was portrayed in medieval art (with the additional bizarrity1 of blond hair, blue eyes, halo etc) but can we finally see a physically realistic Jesus?
1 Not officially a word, as far as I know.