Tonight at KUPC Large Group, we watched the Passion of the Christ. I hadn’t watched this movie since my first time seeing it in college. What I remembered about it more than anything was the graphic, and at times gratuitous, violence. Seeing it this time around, though, was a different experience. Maybe it was just because we skipped the really gross (though probably accurate) scene where Jesus is beaten by the Romans, but this time around I wasn’t as bothered by the violence and noticed a couple of other things about Mel Gibson’s interpretation of the passion.
Firstly, Peter’s denial of Christ is portrayed in a very poignant, realistic way; a way in which I hadn’t thought of. In my imagine, I’ve always pictured Peter’s setting to be a somewhat quiet circle of people standing at a safe distance from what is going on. I imagine the conversation to be somewhat slow, and Peter’s denial to be quite deliberate. Gibson, though, puts Peter right next to the action, in the middle of a crowded, hostile mob. Peter’s trying to find safety, just like any other reasonable human being. The scene is chaotic, and the three accusations and subsequent denials go by so quickly that if you blink you miss them. In this portrayal, Peter’s denial comes across less deliberate and more instinctive. I found it almost difficult to watch, because the film made denying Christ a sin much easier to commit.
Secondly, Gibson does a beautiful job portraying the relationship between Jesus and his mother. He does this especially well through the use of flashbacks. One of the more poignant flashbacks comes when Jesus is carrying his cross past Mary. He stumbles, and the movie immediately cuts to a scene from Jesus’ childhood where he falls and Mary comes running to the aid of her child. The movie then cuts back to Mary following her motherly instincts, coming to the aid of her bloodied son. This scene, and several others in the movie, give a thoughtful and beautiful depiction of what Mary endured witnessing her son be crucified.
I think it’s unfortunate that it took a second viewing of this movie to recall some of these poignant details which were overshadowed in my first viewing by the violence which is portrayed. I think the violence was pretty accurate to history, but was it necessary to be shown so graphically? Did Gibson provide any insights like the ones I mention above through the portrayal of violence? Does the violence provide anything more than shock value? Would the movie be less profound if it were less violent?