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February 27, 2004 - Image 47

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

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the centuries — between the Jews who aroused — deliberately — by Gibson's
clamored for Jesus' life and contempo-
placement of Satan among the Jews.
rary Jews. Whether that will register
Here's some good news, at last: The
with the average non-Jewish moviego-
theatrical release of The Passion of the
er on a sublimi-
Christ — or at
nal or subcon-
least the print that
scious level is a
was screened for
matter of con-
the press Monday
jecture.
around the coun-
As long as
try — does not
I'm cataloguing
include the
Gibson's offens-
freighted line "His
es, it's worth
blood be on us,
noting that he
and on our chil-
chooses to give
dren." (It will be
screen time
interesting to see if
only to the two
Gibson restores
weakest
that line for the
(Jewish) disci-
DVD release. If
ples — Judas
so, it would give
the betrayer
new and offensive
and Peter, who
meaning to the
A "bloody and brutal slog" through the
lacks the
term "director's
last 12 hours ofJesus' life
courage to
cut.")
stand with Jesus
It would be pre-
after the latter's arrest.
sumptuous of me to imagine the effect
The most worrisome "artistic flour- that Gibson's opus will have on non-
ish," however, is the recurring
Jewish audiences, or on Christian-
appearance of Satan — creepy and
Jewish relations.
silent — in the crowd of Jews. These
To the degree that Christian movie-
are the uncomfortable moments I
goers identify with Jesus' tortured
alluded to earlier.
journey — and strive for a more pro-
Satan is introduced in the film's
found connection to what they believe
opening scene as a menacing, seduc-
he went through for them — their
tive presence who senses the vulnera-
thoughts about both Jews and Romans
ble Jesus' impending doom and crisis
will be secondary.
of faith. Jesus rejects Satan's overtures,
But those who relate to The Passion
but the hooded figure reappears from
only as a movie about a good guy and
time to time in the course of Jesus'
his venal enemies may be ruled by
pain-wracked journey to crucifixion.
their baser emotions, and take the low
And he is always shown gliding
road of despising those portrayed as
among the Jews.
persecuting the hero.
This creepy image, this association of
Given the blood-spattered way in
Jews with evil incarnate, is what I fear
which Christ's last hours are depicted,
will stick with some viewers more than
and the over-amped soundtrack that
any other image or line of dialogue.
pushes the movie past melodramatic
I should note that, in the gruesome-
to hysterical, and the lack of philo-
ly graphic scene where Pilate's soldiers
sophical, metaphysical or intellectual
take sadistic delight in whipping and
discussion, viewers are encouraged to a
flagellating Jesus, Satan's stroll through
large degree to do just that.
the Jewish observers ends with him
So it is incumbent on ministers and
standing with the soldiers. Gibson
priests to use The Passion as a starting
would no doubt cite that shot as proof point for deeper and more complex
that he doesn't hold Jews solely
discussions of faith.
responsible for Jesus' suffering, nor
The rest of us can take some com-
view them as the devil's brood.
fort in the fact that it is just a
Indeed, the Roman soldiers are
movie, a stone skipping across the
shown as far more sadistic than the
fast-moving river of American pop
Jews. They take great pleasure from
culture that will soon be supplanted
Jesus' pain (not only during the whip-
by a celebrity arrest, campaign snafu
ping scene, but during Jesus' long trek
or natural disaster. P1
with the cross). The Jews, on the other
hand, seem scared or threatened by
Jesus, and seemingly find more relief
than delight in gaining the upper hand.
The Passion of the Christ, rated R,
But when all is said and done, I
is now playing at area theaters.
can't shake the unsettling feeling

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