I watched The Passion Of The Christ finally last night. I find it well-made as a film qua film. It has an original auteur-like flair, although the director draws evidently from recent films, such as the Lord Of The Rings, particularly in the earlier scenes.
The Bodhisattva Jesus showed peace in the name of love – his underlying compassion made him powerful, yet he died a Buddha, as he realized just before death that “It has been accomplished”. The life condition at death is that which persists, into the undiscovered country. I felt a strong expression of this in the final scenes, where he takes on the karma of his killers. To take on the karma of so many people is the burden of a Bodhisattva, for they remain on the earth to strive for the happiness of others. It is the price they pay for their compassion.
One does not perceive the film as overtly religious, contrary to expectations. The challenges depicted are central to the human condition. It is a very political film. The power sharing between the gubernator and Herod Antipas are evident, as is the covert relationship between the Jewish leaders and Pilate. The social pathos of the citizens is heart-breaking. Times were hard then, even without the oil curse.
The director expects the viewer to be aware of context. The story excludes much, while still retaining a lot of the ambiguity of the events depicted. It is as if it were purely a slice in time, with no pre- or post-facto reality. The motives behind Judas’ and Jesus’ actions are barely explored. The subsequent events are barely referenced.
Simon of Cyrene is depicted well – the unwillingness of the stranger to be involved in political matters in a strange land.
Judas is shown tormented, although his motives are not fully explored. Some motives of Judas – greed, jealousy, Jesus’ betrayal of the Nazarene creed, Peter as instigator, member of the Zealots
One perceives Jesus’ religion as having a strong appeal to women. Mary, mother of Jesus has a compelling presence – she seems to be the only person who can see the agent of Discordia who tempts Jesus. Her acting is notable.
In all, the film left a strong impression, as few films do in this jaded age. It had dramatic unity and visual richness. The ambiguity of the subject material, for a liberal humanist as myself only made me mourn man’s cruelty to man, whatever the label du jour.
A version of this review with some other comments also appears on my blog Audit Trails Of Self