Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Have you seen "The Passion of the Christ" yet this Lent?

Four years ago, in 2004, I had an incredibly easy Lent. I saw "The Passion of the Christ" two days after Ash Wednesday, and without any effort on my part, I found myself absorbed into the Passion of Christ in a way I had never experienced before.

I saw the film countless times, not just to boost the box office, but because I felt drawn to be with Jesus in His hour of darkness. I would say to Him as the film began, "I'm here again". Every time I saw "The Passion" I would take away another insight, understand another detail, or experience a deeper conversion of heart. I filled my house with images from the film I printed from the computer, bought the coffee table book with photos, and listened to the sound track incessantly in my car, where I could cry at will. It was a magnificent obsession, one I try to re-live each Lent, for the good of my soul.
I thank God for Mel Gibson and Jim Caviez for going through tremendous trials during the making and marketing of "The Passion". If you haven't seen Mel's EWTN interview about the making of the film, do so. He and Jim Caviezel suffered their own passion of sorts during the filming, even though they both went to daily confession followed by the Tridentine Mass. If you haven't seen the video "Lives Changed by the Passion" rent it, the testimonials of conversion range from a Neo-Nazi, to a thief who turned himself into authorities, to the choice for life of an abortion-minded woman.
How was I converted by the film? Nothing mattered me that Lent, except my pursuit of holiness by serving God in my family and in my prayer life. I had a sense of perspective which I am still trying to regain. I began writing in response to the film, I felt convicted of not using my God-given talents in His service, and inspired by the effect this one film had worldwide. I began to believe that using the media to evangelize was not only possible but necessary. My calling, which has led me to writing film criticism and starting this blog.
Speaking of criticism, I am so happy not to have to write a professional review of this film. I am way to personally involved with it to be objective. I did think that Jim Caviezel's Christ trumped Robert Powell's in my erstwhile favorite, "Jesus of Nazareth", however I struggle with Maia Morgenstern's Mary, as I still love the wide-eyed innocence of Olivia Hussey in "Jesus of Nazareth". I appreciate Zeffirelli's direction as innovative for his time, he took Biblical epic out of the statues posing for paintings phase and made each scene real and immediate, but lost the sense of the mystical, which Mel Gibson manages to portray without going over the top with special effects.
The soundtrack of the "Passion" is a work of art, worth listening to on it's own, for the haunting lullaby of Mary to Jesus. John Debney was wrestling with this piece, and said a prayer before falling asleep. He awoke with that haunting song in his head. I like to think it was the lullaby Our Lady sand to Our Lord as a child.
I appreciate the cut away scenes during the most brutal scenes of the scourging and crucifixion; not only did they relieve tension, but they added a vivid contrast between the forgiving mercy of Christ and the merciless torturers. The Last Supper and Sermon on the Mount scenes at the Crucifixion are a study in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and again, many Catholics came to a deeper understanding of Sacred Liturgy as an unbloody re-presentation of Calvary.

I can say that anyone who missed seeing this movie has deprived themselves of a great film which deserved recognition by the Academy Awards, and an outstanding opportunity to experience the Passion with Christ.
I wish Mel Gibson would re-consider doing another film with Jim Caviezel before he's too old to be Jesus in a prequel. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal were collecing signatures to convince Mel Gibson to do a life of St. Francis of Assisi, since he was so devoted to Our Lord's Passion.
We're waiting, Mel.


1 comment:

Christine said...

Great post Leticia,
I make it a point to watch it every Lent.
And don't forget The Passion of the Christ is also powerful with pictures from the movie.