We invited a few regular movie-goers in Greater Cincinnati to see The Passion of the Christ and give us their impressions of the movie. A few of their comments follow.
Ryan Hartsock: A beautiful and brutal film ... a strange harmony of violence and peace. I heard all the media hype, saw the behind-the-scenes shows, and heard more conversation about this movie than I can remember in recent memory. Yet Mel Gibson's vision is his own passion, and relentless at that. So many times during the screening I felt the impact of what was being portrayed in my deepest parts. As a filmmaker, I admired the cinematography and simplicity of the script. The cameras took us to a horrific front-row view of the tortures Christ endured and, in contrast, to his intimate moments with his mother and disciples, all adding together for an exhausting experience. Jim Caviezel brought a depth of humanity to an often lofty and somehow inhuman Messiah. Here was a man who, although living 2,000 years ago, changed the face of history indelibly, and whose story, though told countless times before, still brought our theater to authentic tears and silence.
I also watched for the so-called anti-Semitic content that could spur Middle Ages-type fervor toward current-day Jews. I could see some extremists taking the account as an indictment of Judaism as the cause of Christ's death, but I believe the film would lend itself more toward the view that no one is able to wash their hands clean, Jew or anyone else.
Hannah Haegele: I thought it was really good; I thought it was really sad. And it was really graphic. The thing that made me kind of weirded out about it was the whole devil part. That was the part that scared me. I thought it portrayed the story. You know what's going to happen, so the violence ... just makes you cry. It looks so real, and just thinking that really happened to Jesus makes you sad.
I've never been in a movie theater that, at the end of the movie, nobody moved. They sat there silent through all the credits, then they got up, but everyone was still silent. That's never happened before. It's just because it was so dramatic. You couldn't move because it was so amazing. It's a really good movie.
Velma Morris: As an artist, one of the main things we were taught would be that less is more. That's what I felt about the violence; it was just too much over the top. Of course, the way I think about violence is from man to man. I don't condemn Christians or Jews or anyone. I think it's men being inhuman to each other. I felt there could have been more emphasis on the ending as far as showing a little more hope for mankind.
I would not look at it again. I will never look at Christ on the cross with an eye other than the brutality I saw inflicted on his body. I'm sure some people probably think it's the greatest thing they've ever seen. I don't. The violence went too far. I did enjoy the cinematography and the special effects, and the music was fantastic.
Kim Taylor: In the opening scene, the Garden of Gethsemane, I worried that I would have trouble focusing on the story line because of the subtitles. The music helped the scenes develop. The costumes were perfect. The scenery and props felt as if you were walking among the pages of the New Testament. Life is essentially the same now as it was 2,000 years ago. We still have the same basic needs, fears, emotions. Our nature is simple and is timeless. In that first scene, it sets the tone for the entire move: stark, real, fleshy.
I was pleased to see how Gibson portrays the Virgin Mary. She was in so many pivotal scenes.
For myself, being a mother, I've often wondered what it was like for Mary to endure watching her son be taunted, condemned and then crucified. Those were the scenes that moved me the most. I was in agony and couldn't hold back the tears when Mary has flashbacks of Jesus as a little boy falling, and her rushing to him, crying, "I'm here, I'm here."
The flashbacks weren't overdone. Also, some have said the blood was too much. I don't think so. I think the blood was necessary to allow your senses to perceive the brutality he endured.
I thought it was interesting that Satan didn't have a bigger role, but I guess when you have the people to do the work for you, there's much idle time. The impression I now have is, "Think before you sin, Kim."
I think the intention of the movie is not so much to agonize over Jesus as a human on the cross, but to realize and understand in our heart and soul that he is triumphant over evil, and nothing can have power over God.
Harriet Kaufman: It is a good thing that Mel Gibson is a master of hype. Otherwise, few people would pay to endure this religious tract. The torture and suffering are so overdone they lose their impact. The characters are flat; there is no character development. Age-old conventions and stereotypes are perpetuated through historical inaccuracies and slanders against Jews and Jewish teachings. Roman officials are portrayed as weak and almost unwilling to execute a Jew they saw as a rebel. It appears they are tools of vengeful Jews.
This is especially a problem with Pilate, who was recalled by Rome for his vicious and provocative treatment of Judea/Palestine. He had no compunctions about crucifying Jews; he did it to many. It is a shame that such a powerful medium, tremendous talent and great resources are squandered in this way.
About the film critique panel
Ryan Hartsock of Kings Mills is a teacher and filmmaker.
Hannah Haegele of Covington is a junior at Holmes High School and a member of St. Augustine Parish.
Velma Morris of Groesbeck is and artist and art teacher.
Kim Taylor of Fort Thomas is a telecommunications project coordinator.
Harriet Kaufman is a professional mediator who lives in Clifton.
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