Sunday, April 5, 2009

Mel's Masterpiece

On February 25th, 2004, Ash Wednesday, actor/director Mel Gibson released what would prove to be one of the greatest and most popular motion pictures of all-time.

"The Passion of the Christ" depicts the final twelve hours in the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in a story based on a compilation of the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

Gibson's telling of this story was made even more interesting and relevant with his decision to have all of the actors speak their parts in the genuine language of the times, with the Jews, including Christ, speaking their lines in Aramaic, while the Romans speak 'street' Latin.

Sub-titles allow viewers to follow along with the content of the lines, but the fact is that they are not necessary, especially for anyone who is already familiar with the details of the story.

Language was not the only spark of genius exhibited by Gibson, who according to the film's official website shot 40% of the scenes either at night or indoors under wraps in order to get an effect of light fighting its way out of darkness. Caleb Deschanel, who also did tremendous work previously on Gibson's film 'The Patriot' as well as 'The Right Stuff', was chosen as the cinematographer because Gibson felt his work was "violent, it's dark, it's spiritual".

These are some of the defining features of the film: violence, darkness, and spirituality. This is no touchy-feely effort that waters down the events involved in Christ's betrayal by one of his own closest chosen disciples, Judas Iscariot, his sham of a trial, and his persecution and death on the cross.

A brilliant cast of international actors was selected for the crucial roles. Jesus himself is played in a legendary performance by American actor James Caviezel, who had to endure 7-hour makeup days while filming the scenes of that persecution and death. This was the easiest of Caviezel's personal and professional sacrifices in making the film.

He was selected specifically because he was willing to make these sacrifices which included the difficult process of learning Aramaic, his hanging on the cross in freezing temperatures for hours over numerous days, and pre-filming months of other physical, emotional, and spiritual preparations.


Caviezel said that he felt someone had been 'watching over' him during the filming, and this was tested when he was struck by lightening while filming the crucifixion scene. He got up and walked away unscathed.

Jesus' mother Mary is portrayed in an emotional performance by Romanian actress Maia Morgenstern, while the stunningly beautiful Italian actress Monica Bellucci brings the perfect combination of sensuality transformed by spiritual salvation as Mary Magdalene.

Italian actress Rosalinda Celentano brings an asexual quality in her haunting performance as Satan. These three are representative of the Italian and Bulgarian actors who turn in brilliant performances that help lend an old world authenticity to the film, as does the location which was shot in Italy.

The story opens with Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane at night after having participated in the 'Last Supper' with his apostles on the Jewish holiday of Passover. While Christ prays, knowing his final hours are drawing near, his followers fall asleep, and the group is set upon by Roman soldiers led to them by the traitor Judas.

The next twelve hours that include Jesus' imprisonment, trial, mocking, scourging, torture, crucifixion, and death are depicted like no other film in history. These are defining moments in the history of mankind, with Christ suffering and dying on our behalf, paying the penalty for our sins, enabling us to be forgiven for those earthly transgressions.

Thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, all we have to do is believe in him, fully accept his sacrifice, and both learn and try to live by his words and example in order to gain eternal salvation in heaven following our own earthly death.

This is quite simply the single most inspirational movie every made, and I set aside my own time every Good Friday, the day on which Christ was crucified, to watch it at some point. This coming Friday will be no different. On Friday evening you can find me at home with the DVD popped in and myself settled into my family room with the lights out.

If you have never seen "The Passion of the Christ", you simply must set aside time specifically to watch. If you are a believer, you will have one of the most emotional experiences of your life. If you are not, the film itself may not transform you, but it will get you thinking about this true historical event in a new way, and you should at least appreciate it for its high artistic qualities.

The film ends with a brief but powerful depiction of Christ's rise from the grave in victory over death itself. "Passion" is a true masterpiece from its director, Mel Gibson, and is an annual tradition for me personally. I hope that you all take the time during this upcoming holy week, especially as the weekend comes on us, to watch this film, and to reflect on the importance of the events depicted.

Jesus Christ died for your sins, sacrificed his life for you personally and individually. I pray that you all accept and embrace this fact, and give it the attention that it deserves in the coming days. NOTE: As always the title of this article is a link to more information, in this case to a nice music video titled "Why?" featuring scenes from the film.

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