My Personal Experience of the movie "The Passion"

I saw "The Passion" a week ago but had not talked about it to anyone until Olivia (my wife) saw it last Friday, so I got to talk about it with her first. Here's a summary of my experience of the film.

I went by myself (knowing that a few mates would be there) to a screening subsidised by a group of churches in our area. I thought of taking a friend or going with others, but I wasn't sure of the effect of the movie on me and wanted some time to download what I was about to see. There was one preview before the film and no ads - it almost felt strange to watch a preview before this movie, I don't know why...

As I was watching I kept coming back to the impressive visuals and cinematography and attention to detail that seemed to permeate the film. The film was subtitled which was not a problem to read and follow. Not all scenes were word-for-word subtitled which left me thinking "I wonder what was said there".

I've mentioned before that I enjoy films about Jesus to see the story lived out and the effect that His actions and words have on real people. This film covers the final 12 hours in Jesus' life, with some flashbacks, but is focused primarily on the Crucifixion.

One thing I find crops up in conversation with others is my view that the film is a depiction of reality, not reality itself, in that the exact scenes are adapted from the Bible, which itself is all the detail we have. I wouldn't go so far to say "it is as it was" as we are given only enough information, not too much, in the Gospel accounts. This means that if I say something that knocks the film, I'm not knocking the biblical account but (hopefully) only questioning this particular depiction.

I was most moved by the parts of the film that refer to parenthood, for example a flashback scene where Mary holds Jesus after a skinned knee. This reminded me that Jesus was a real son, a real friend, who died.

There are some really gruesome scenes when the effort put into the visuals is turned to the flaying and physical punishment of Jesus. The death of a criminal that Jesus died was suffered by thousands of people. The movie does not glorify this violence but does hover around it a long time. For me as a Christian I guess I could "connect the dots" to know that this wasn't about showing a grizzly death but about showing an entirely unfair and undeserved punishment (even unto death) to a totally upright and pure man, as evidenced in His life and words.

The brutal treatment of Jesus did shake me up. In other movies about Jesus I have been moved to tears by things like the raising of Lazarus , His tenderness towards the sick & shunned and His speeches about God and love to a generation that is a lot like ours today i.e. a lot is known about God, mixed with superstition, but relationship to Him seems distant.

Overall I enjoyed the movie and it I think it brings into focus "the wonderful cross" that I know I've sang in songs. This movie is not the greatest Jesus movie ever made for me. The "additions" that are not in Scripture leave enough room for me to question the depiction. For me, a movie/telemovie/cartoon that does not embellish the Gospel accounts as much as I feel "The Passion" did would be better as I wouldn't have to keep asking "why did they do this?" A few examples are - why was Satan holding a disfigured baby in one scene? Why is there a Shroud-of-Turin-like image on a cloth in the last scene with the girl who wiped Jesus face and offered Him a cup of water? What role does Pontious Pilate's wife play and why? (There could be more I'm sure)

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Copyright Thomas & Olivia Williams 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009