ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  mel gibson

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  127 minutes

RELEASED  -  25 february 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  newmarket

OFFICIAL SITE  -  the passion

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $30,000,000
the passion of the christ - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from the passion of the christ at

buy the dvd from the passion of the christ at

details the last twelve hours of the life of jesus christ.

in an interview with newsweek magazine, james caviezel spoke about a few of the difficulties he experienced while filming. this included being accidentally whipped twice, which has left a 14 inch scar on his back.


picture from the passion of the christ

picture from the passion of the christ

picture from the passion of the christ

picture from the passion of the christ


three out of four possible stars

Graphic, affecting, and visually stunning, The Passion of the Christ is a viewing experience that could easily be termed a theatrical endurance test. But in the vein of the incredible amount of controversy this film has generated, is it fair to judge this film solely on its religious theme? And conversely, can one critique this film without presenting thoughts on its interpretation of the Christian faith? In detailing the last twelve hours of Jesus of Nazareth’s life, director and writer Mel Gibson has created a film whose visuals alone would stun any viewer, regardless of one's opinion of the Bible. In professing his love for his faith, Gibson's work bears the heavy weight of a millennia of Biblical interpretation, but anyone who is remotely familiar with the Bible will recognize the many "stations" of the crucifixion depicted in this film.

Various feature film adaptations of the life and times of Jesus have been created multiple times in the past 100 years of cinema, but never with such an eye toward realism. Putting aside thoughts of Biblical accuracy for the moment, never has there been such a graphic showing of the torturing and abuse of a human's flesh. To put it mildly, the violence in this film is so different than much of the violence that has been created for the screen before. In a typical "slasher" film, for example, the multitudes of knifings, beheadings, and gore have been shown on the screen so many times before as to have become banal for most moviegoer's eyes. Some of the violence in those films even borders on comedic at times.

And the typical gunfire and hand-to-hand combat of war films, while sometimes very bloody, usually also display a "standard" technique that most viewers can easily stomach after a few battle scenes. But you don't often see a nearly nude human beaten, whipped and cut so badly that his skin is completely scraped away to reveal multiple ribs (we're talking the actual bones here). It is impossible to become numb to the blood and violence in The Passion. It's just too realistic and unrelentingly intense. This is not a popcorn movie. It is not an experience to be had for the faint of heart.

Regarding the performances, James Caviezel, possibly the sole American actor in the cast (and likely to be one of the only people recognizable to American audiences), presents his version of Jesus in classic form (shaggy brown hair, short beard, long beige robes) and dives right into the part, head first. Like the intensity of Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York, Caviezel presents a very convincing case as Jesus and beyond his foreign speech (the whole film is spoken in Latin, Aramaic, and Hebrew) is able to convey a large range of emotions that make the language barrier a tiny area for concern. It is perhaps a combination of Caviezel's own faith and some rigorous method acting that allows for his complete and believable character transformation.

The supporting cast is without fault and each actor seems to have been very well chosen for their role, especially Rosalinda Celentano, cast as an utterly absorbing and terrifying Satan. It is quite intriguing that the role of Satan in this film belongs to a woman, though from her wardrobe and make-up in the film, Satan is presented much more as a sexless, androgynous entity. Monica Bellucci, who plays Mary Magdalene, has barely one line in the film and yet exudes an incredible range of thought and emotion through her performance. Bulgarian Hristo Shopov, who has thus far made a career out of performances in various B-movies, is excellent in his role as Pontius Pilate, and shows an appreciable amount of depth for a person usually known in name only.

Again, not Would Roman soldiers really have been boozing on the way to the crucifixion site? Their propensity toward violence is well documented (just witness their fascination with the human versus meat-eating animal fighting of the Coliseum), but it just seems to much of a stretch to believe that the soldiers would have been knocking them back while escorting Jesus and the two other condemned men to the execution site. Perhaps the Romans' alcoholic tendencies were documented in Biblical writings, but that one element might give some viewers pause.

As it has been the main area for debate regarding this film, it seems prudent to address thoughts of whether the film harbors anti-Semitism or whether. It is a valid concern that viewers might find one of the major sources of evil in the film to be a group of Jewish priests, but as Jesus himself is called a Jew, insultingly by one of the Roman soldiers, it's difficult to believe a viewer would leap to the conclusion that "the Jews killed Jesus." Was it not the Romans who put him to death? In the film, the aggravated group of Jewish elders/priests believes so strongly that Jesus should be crucified because of their own fervent faith. Given Jesus’ equal devotion to his faith, and the fact that the entire film is about the Passion for one's faith, the film's focus is not in laying "blame" on any specific group of people.

At its core, The Passion is a powerful film that shows the deep faith held by each of the cast members and crew that worked on creating it. As simply viewing the film is so trying an experience, actually creating the movie must have been as equally as harrowing. Viewers wary of reading sub-titles for the length of the film shouldn't worry as after about five minutes, reading the sub-titles becomes automatic and unobtrusive to the viewing process (and the action easily captivates one's attention).

The film is not dialogue heavy, so there isn't that much to read in the first place. Whether one agrees with this interpretation of the Bible, is completely against what this film attempts to present, or is not of the Christian faith, the movie is still an incredible cinematic feat. In all its particulars, regarding performance, cinematography, editing, musical score (very well done by John Debney), and direction, the film is a fierce and uncompromising feat.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt

content © 2000 - 2005 - ninth symphony films - photographs © newmarket 2004
home | archive | ratings | links | about | contact