Thursday, April 21, 2011
"This is the most violent film I have ever seen," said film critic Roger Ebert. Although he applauded James Caviezel's "heroic" depiction of Christ, the cinematic artistry and musical score, he concluded that this is a film "about an idea. An idea that it is necessary to fully comprehend the Passion if Christianity is to make any sense."
The Passion or 'suffering' of Christ was never more realistically portrayed than in Mel Gibson's film.
When The Passion, came out in 2004, my husband and I were invited to a sneak preview as we were involved with a newspaper that served the Calgary area churches. I remember being awed by the artistry of this film that depicts the last 12 hours of Christ's life and crying through the brutal beatings Jesus endured. There were others around me quietly weeping as well, some people flinched with every lash of the whip...of which there were many.
It's a hard film to watch, harder even to realize Gibson toned down the violence from what it really would have been.
But whatever Christ endured physically, the spiritual suffering He went through was much worse. The film opens with Christ in emotional torment. He came to the Garden of Gethsemane for solace but was literally sweating blood. He knew what was coming and He didn't want it. He prayed to the Father for a way out. This is the moment that I relate to Christ the best. I have prayed this prayer many times, wanting some other way out of my circumstances. For Jesus there was no other way. It wasn't the physical suffering that bothered Him, it was the fact that He, the only man in history without sin, would take on all of our failings, past, present and future. This would wreck the closest relationship He had - that with His Father.
"I want to show the humanity of Christ as well as the divine aspect," Mel Gibson said about this film. "It's a rendering that for me is very realistic and as close as possible to what I perceive the truth to be."
When Mel Gibson asked Jim Caviezel to play the part of Jesus Christ in this film Caviezel told him, "It is eerie, my initials are J.C. and I'm 33 years old."
Once Caviezel accepted, Gibson did everything in his power to dissuade him from taking on this role. He even told him, he might never work as an actor again.
Caviezel responded, "Mel, this is what I believe. We all have a cross to carry. I have to carry my own cross. If we don't carry our crosses, we are going to be crushed under the weight of it. So let's go and do it."
Caviezel explained that during filming his make-up time started at 2 am and went until 10 am. He struggled with a separated shoulder, he was hit by lightening (and survived) as well, during the days he hung on the cross he developed hypothermia.
"It was so cold it was like knives coming through me," Caviezel explained. "On one day of hypothermia I was so cold I could barely get the lines out. My mouth was shaking uncontrollably. My arms and legs went numb. I was suffocating on that cross. In the mean time, you watch people have coffee and laugh. They were very indifferent about what I was going through...there are things that I went through that I can't even talk about. I felt like a great presence came within me at times when we were filming. This prayer that came from me was, 'I don't want people to see me. I just want them to see Jesus."
On the set, one of the Muslim actors portraying a guard who beat Christ became a believer, Caviezel said. Apparently many people had this same experience watching the film in theatres, churches or at home.
The moment that made the most impact on me was a very high camera shot from above Christ as He hung on the cross. The first time I saw this shot and watched the image blur, I didn't understand what was happening. Then "I" became a tear that shot down out of the highest heavens and landed at the foot of the cross causing an earthquake. Immediately I knew it was God crying over the suffering of His Son. I was moved to tears.
As believers, we often wear the cross as a symbol around our necks, tattooed on our body or hung in our car. We sing about it without understanding what it means. We are so far removed from the actual time period this happened, we have no idea of the true ordeal Christ went through.
In this film, as I watched Mary wipe her son's blood from the spattered courtyard, and saw red rivets of blood spurt out of His palms as the nails were hammered in, I realized that every drop of His blood had and continues to have a purpose. It gives us an opportunity to have an intimate relationship with God. It's an opportunity I had accepted decades ago, but I never comprehended the cost.
"There's no question that I believe," Caviezel said. "What I wanted more than anything, was that people would have a visceral effect to finally make a decision whether to follow Him or not."
This film did that. It changed my view of Christ's sacrifice and changed me, forever...