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February 27, 2004 - Image 46

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-02-27

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Arts & Life

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JEFFREY L. ROSENBERG

n unrelentingly bloody and
brutal slog through the last
12 hours of Jesus life,
The Passion of the
Christ is tinged with neither
spiritual enlightenment nor
religious inspiration. .
But then it's not intended to engage
the cerebrum or the soul. This is a
movie designed to work purely on an
emotional level, from the first omi-
nous notes of foreboding on the
soundtrack to the final shot of Jesus'
hand wound as he rises from the dead.

But the more I think about the movie
— and I write this a few hours after leav-
ing the theater — the greater my impres-
sion that it is a nasty piece of work.
The power of movies sometimes lies
in a single memorable image, and
sometimes it derives from the
gradual and subtle accretion
of impressions. The Passion
skillfully makes use of both.
For starters, all of the Jews (or
Pharisees, to use the press kit's euphe-
mism) are dark, bearded and not to be
- trusted. The stout High Priests are
wealthy and cunning, while ordinary
Jews are scraggly and mean-spirited.
Except for two scenes between the

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Jesus (Jim Caviezel), second from right, sits with his disciples at the Last Supper
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And that is the most worrying
aspect for Jews.
Director, producer and co-writer
Mel Gibson knows perfectly well that
every horror movie or thriller requires
a villain who threatens the hero —
and here the primary bad guys are the
Jews. This telling of the Christ story
does not abound with shades of gray,
and its depiction of the Jews is sim-
plistic, visceral and unflattering.
Yet I confess to some ambivalence.
With the exception of a couple of
moments, I did not feel uncomfort-
able as a Jewish viewer. So it would be
unfair to offer a blanket denunciation
of the film as an anti-Semitic screed.

High Priests and Judas — where the
disciple reveals Jesus' location for a fee
and, later, desperately recants his
actions and returns the money — the
Jews are always shown as a frothing
mob eager for Jesus' blood. Indeed, at
one point the Roman governor Pilate
refers to them as a "filthy rabble."
In a stab at historical accuracy,
Gibson has the Jews speak Aramaic
and the Romans use colloquial Latin
( The Passion is subtitled.)
Although Latin isn't heard much on
the street these days, Aramaic bears
more than a passing resemblance to
Hebrew. The effect is to greatly reduce
the distance — if not completely erase

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