Friday, September 03, 2004

The Passion of the Christ

I finally brought myself around to seeing the movie about which so much had been said, and what a surprise it turned out to be. I don't want to go into the problems I have with it or with the tenets of Christianity right now - there'll be time enough for all that later - but one thing I will say is that I don't see where the accusations of anti-semitism come from.

To be sure, the portrait painted of most of the High Priests of the Jerusalem Temple isn't a flattering one (though a few are portrayed as having opposed the prosecution of Jesus at the start), while Pontius Pilate is given far more flattering treatment than the historical record would indicate he deserves (this was a man removed from his post for cruelty by Tiberius, of all people), but by far the most sadistic individuals in the movie turn out to be the Roman guards, while nearly all the ordinary people who show kindness to Jesus are Jews - one of whom is even sneeringly called a "Iudeaus" by one of the Roman legionaries, as if he were an SS man in antiquarian guise. If anything, Gibson's treatment of the Passion is actually kinder than what is recorded in the Gospels - the infamous verses from Matthew 27:25 aren't even transcribed into English, for instance.

If there's one object lesson to take from all this, I suppose it's never to judge a movie based purely on word of mouth. I'm not going to say that Christianity makes any more sense to me than it did before I watched Gibson's movie, but I'm willing to go on the record as saying that most of the bad press it received looks undeserved. Maybe being a long-lapsed Christian helps in seeing it with a sympathetic eye, but I can well understand why those who still cling to that faith would find the film so moving.