Power of ‘Passion’ debated

Lindsay Sainlar

As the ending movie credits started to roll, not a word was spoken. Moviegoers filed out of their seats in silence. There were tears and embracing, some sat looking stunned at the screen as it faded away to nothing.

On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season, the much-anticipated Mel Gibson movie “The Passion of the Christ” was unveiled to the public. It depicted the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ’s life.

It was a two-hour and 15 minute film spoken entirely in the Aramaic and Latin languages, leaving viewers to read from English subtitles.

Beginning with Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Gibson, using the same violent mentality of “Braveheart” showed the violent lashing and whipping that was a precursor to Jesus’ long walk holding the cross to the place where he was eventually nailed to it and left to die.

At one point, Gibson shows a cat nine tail whip piercing and ripping through the skin of Jesus as people stood around and ridiculed him for claiming he was the son of God.

“It hurt to watch what he went through, knowing he did it for me,” said Andrew Clary, a Madisonville junior and member of the Baptist Student Union. “Someone with a weak stomach should take a pillow to cover their eyes.”

Viewers declined to be interviewed following the 3:30 p.m. Friday screening. They said there was nothing to be said, they needed time to process what they had just seen.

Clary said he couldn’t talk until he got home after seeing “Passion.”

Louisville junior Alicia Russell, who attended a Catholic school for 12 years, said at first she didn’t even want to see the movie.

“How many times have you seen the 12 stations of the cross being acted out in church?” she asked. “You know what’s going to happen, so why would you want to go and watch it?”

But after watching the movie, Russell expressed her approval of Gibson’s cinematic vision, praising his ability to provide a visual aid to the stories about Jesus that she highlighted in textbooks.

“Good isn’t an adjective you would use to describe this movie,” Russell said. “It was graphic and there were times that I had to cover my eyes, and I’m glad I saw it. But I’ll never see it again.”

“I found myself mad at the religious community.”

Bryant Rudolph, president of the Campus Ministry Association, said he wept several times throughout the movie.

“I felt I wanted to hug someone, it was so hard to see it all,” Rudolph said. “I’m still processing it, I’ve really been too busy to chew on it.”

From what he knows, Rudolph said Gibson, who co-wrote the film, stayed close to the scripture. He said Gibson strayed from the Gospel at times, providing flashbacks intermittently throughout the film to add his own artistic interpretation. When Christ fell for the first time with the cross, it flashed back to a scene of a young Jesus falling and Mary, his mother, running to console him.

Rudolph said that scene was hard for him to watch. He said it reminded him of times when he saw his own son fall and the helplessness he felt as a father. He said he couldn’t imagine his own son being put through the torture Jesus was put through.

“I felt like I was everybody who betrayed Jesus,” he said. “I found myself mad at the religious community.”

“The Passion” has been stirring controversy since Gibson began filming he movie. Many theologians, historians and clergy members claim the graphic portrayal of the crucifixion will spark anti-Semitic feelings.

Alan Anderson, philosophy and religion professor, said that he won’t be seeing “The Passion” anytime soon.

“I’ve read a number of reviews and comments, and I’m reasonably well convinced that it’s anti-Semitic,” Anderson said, who is trusting the Anti-Defamation League review on this movie. The league asked Gibson to remove images and words that could be used to instigate hatred toward Jewish people.

He said he understands that many Christians will have a hard time noticing the unsympathetic portrayal of Jews because they are not sensitized enough to notice the injustice.

“As far as theology goes, this overwhelming focus on the sufferings of Christ is the right-winged conservative view of Christianity that leaves nothing to his teachings, healings and his resurrection,” Anderson said. “Therefore it’s a distortion of the New Testament.”

Clary disagreed with these sentiments.

“He did not die because of Jewish sins, he died because of all our sins,” Clary said. “If anyone feels a hatred towards anyone, it will be towards the Romans. The Jews just stood there and watched.”

Rudolph said he found himself angry with those who crucified his Christ, but said he is just as guilty as anyone else for Christ dying on the cross.

“I found myself angry at the evil, at the injustice,” he said.

More than anything, Rudolph said he hopes this movie will invoke questions. He said he believes Christ is important for everyone to find in his or her life.

“The curiosity will bring people to see it, but hopefully they’ll ask the questions to open a dialogue,” Rudolph said.

Some have already began to ask questions.

Russell said that the movie provoked religious thoughts that she has been long denying.

“I’m not a practicing Catholic, but I might be now,” she said with a smile. “I wouldn’t say it was life changing and it won’t change my outlook on life, but it’s got me thinking.”

Reach Lindsay Sainlar at [email protected]