the Passion on screen

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.


7 thoughts on “the Passion on screen

  1. Tricia says:

    I never saw The Passion of the Christ precisely because of the gore (which a friend had warned me about). I’m not into that sort of thing at all. I remember watching Braveheart (another Mel Gibson-involved movie) and thinking the same thing. I think a lot of people were moved by the reminder of just how much Jesus suffered for us, but when so much focus is placed on that sort of thing, it becomes more a glorification of cruelty than anything else. At least, that’s my take on it. When talking about Jesus, I think the focus should be more on the resurrection than the crucifixion, anyway. Yes, he suffered horribly, and yes, he died. But the good news is that he rose again, and we’re able to live, too, because of him. How much focus was there on that in the movie?My favorite film that deals with Jesus is actually Ben-Hur, even with the (by today’s standards) overwrought acting. Yes, Ben-Hur is the main character, but every time he interacts with Jesus, we never see Jesus’ face. We just sense the power he has by the other characters’ reactions to him. I don’t think Hollywood ever really does justice to Jesus (how can you with a human actor, anyway?), so NOT seeing him directly is more powerful to me.


  2. Angela says:

    Interesting perspective Lucy. I fond myself almost shutting down while watching the Passion because of the intensity….I couldn’t handle it…yet I do think it was well made and so many do not understand how horrid crucifixion was, so I really have mixed feeligns and I do know it changed many lives.


  3. Rachel says:

    In a book called ‘Consuming Passion’ ed.s by Bartlet and Barrow, there are some real criticisms of the film for the same reasons you highlight. It is also seen to promote particularly Penal substitutionary atonement over and above any other theory accounting for the purposes of the cross. My husband and I did both weep at the end of the film and just sat still for a while in a state of shock – the horror and the suffering affected us profoundly. The parts which made me uncomfortable were the extra scenes about the devil and the parts which moved me the most and made me weep for my own children and how God sacrificed so hugely for man, were the flashbacks to the scenes with Jesus’ mother.


  4. furrybutts says:

    I haven’t seen The Passion of the Christ, either. I’ve been told of all the gore in it, and that’s largely why I still haven’t seen the movie til today.On a separate note, a ‘Charlie Blog’ would be awesome! The buns totally second that proposal 😉


  5. Judith says:

    I have never seen the film and have no intention too either – I don’t know why can’t really put my finger on it. I’m not really a film person and very rarely go to the cinema or watch films on TV. I know that his death was horrendous and no amount of filming could ever portray the agony and anguish Jesus felt but I am content to read the account in my Bible and am thankful that He went through all of that for me.take care – Juidthps makes a change that The Sound of Music isn’t on over Easter!! lol


Comments welcome!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.