Mel Gibson’s Controversial Passion Play Out on DVD

The Passion, the narrative central to the Christian creed, focuses on the trials, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. For almost 2000 years, fundamentalist Christian theologians interpreted the scriptures as designating the Jews to be divinely cursed and, hence, forever responsible for the death of Christ.

Because such polemical presentations had a long history of instigating violence, in 1965, the Catholic Church officially repudiated all forms of anti-Semitism and issued specific guidelines for the dramatization of The Passion which forbade any caricatures or unfair juxtaposing of Jews and Jesus. Regrettably, Gibson has crossed this forbidden line between history and theology, falsifying facts to fashion a film which in part appears to be an incitement to bigotry.

He depicts the Jews as a bloodthirsty mob of demonic agitators who pressured a kindly Pontius Pilate, against his will, to turn Christ into a martyr. Truth be told, Pilate was a harsh ruler quite inclined to crucify Jews or members of any rabble-rousing movement. So, the saintly portrayal of Pilate is unwarranted.

Mel Gibson must shoulder the bulk of the blame, as he wrote, produced, directed and even briefly appears in the film. His hands reportedly drive the stakes nailing Christ to the cross, though Jim Caviezel (Frequency) stars as Jesus. Unless you’re a Christian looking for a religious experience, all that’s left to appreciate is a relentlessly gruesome exhibition of sado-masochistic torture to the death.

Thus, this movie is inappropriate for children and will bore adults who don’t share both Mr. Gibson’s morbid obsession with gratuitous gore and his literal interpretation of the New Testament. There just has to be a better way to tell the story of the life of Christ.

The only DVD extra is a theatrical trailer.

Poor (0 stars)
Rated R for unrelenting scenes of graphic violence.

(In Aramaic, Latin and Hebrew with options for English or Spanish subtitles)

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