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November 4, 2016

A coin for the Passion of the Christ

It is not new to say that cinema is one of the most effective transmission channels for values and culture in current society. And the interests on this media are even bigger when we know that cinema is one of the main entries for the gross domestic product in some countries. Just by saying that Brigitte Bardot represented during the 60s more flow of foreign currency for France than the Renault Company. That is why what is compromised with the election of a topic when making a movie is not little thing. Using Christ, who after Lennon is the most famous personality in the world, redesign his approach and release him in the Holy Week is what economists call: a piece of cake.

The Christ is the personality in history whose life has been adapted the most times to the big screen, as Shakespeare is the writer whose plays have been taken the most times to the cinema. Until 1970, Shakespeare had 134 movies, from Romeo and Juliet to Macbeth, from Much Ado About Nothing to Othello; an author whose authority of so many plays is in doubt. Yet, here we are not going to analyze if Shakespeare is the true creator of such and incredible stories or whether it was a collective who made them for theater, all under the pseudonym or name of their director. As we are not interested either to know whether the Christ actually performed all those miracles; what matters to us is to know that they existed and today they are base and raw material with which the cinema counts to build its lucrative and multimillionaire scripts.

The history of Jesus Christ has not suffered any modification since centuries, but ever since the origin of the cinema, there have been so many versions of it that each new adaptation requires some new element that justifies its filming. The Passion of the Christ tells the same facts that we all know, the kiss of Judas, Peter denying him three times, the conversion of Mary Magdalene. Yet, the spotlight and emphasis of the film centers in transmitting the physical pain lived by the Christ, and the Calvary he had during his last 12 hours of life. Since cinema cannot make you feel anything (I mean, physical pain), in order to transmit certain ideas such as the pain or the sublime of certain odors, it is necessary to create many times pompous images and sometimes excessive, which at the end they become in a paroxysm. That is why we find another record in this film (besides being the story most times made for the big screen), and it is that this is the Christ who has received more kicks in the History of Cinema. We came out of this film with more blood in us than in any Tarantino film, the difference is that here all the blood is from one man. The main idea in these 127 minutes of the film is to make us feel in the most human possible way the pain and humiliation felt by Jesus from his capture to the cross. There is not much interest even in the resurrection, which is fixed in a two-minute scene. The film focuses with precision in the “passion”, a word understood by its antique literary meaning as suffering.

During its first years, the cinema trying to rise to an art status, chose as the first big drama, La passion du Christ. In France, Zecca and Noguet made it to the style of Sain-Sulpice pictures in 1908. And before, in 1897 Bretau and Holot took to the cinema all the Stations of the Cross with dramatic characters in small scenarios made of painted fabric. And it is believed that the Lumière society started a series about the life of Jesus Christ. During the last 100 years of cinema, Hollywood has been in charge of representing every passage of the Bible, from the Old Testament, the current Talmud of the Jews, to uncountable version of the New Testament, and about the Apocalypses it is enough with just seeing everyday cartoons. But ever since Jesus Christ Superstar the film industry did not actually renew the vision of the Christ, and I do not say this because of the irreverent posture they had with his humanization and his weakness for the carnal desire, but for representing him as a hippie and such a good dancer. Then Scorsese, with The Last Temptation of Christ, made to the strictest Catholic right with a Jesus who for the first time surrenders to the passion, but this time to Mary Magdalene. A Judas who performs a predominant role in the story as the stronger of all the apostles, and because of this the only capable of being the divine tool to change the events and has the mission of betraying his master. Yet, to avoid some serious problems with this idea of changing the history, Scorsese and Paul Schrader take a final turn, where all the rowdy parties of Christ were just a dream.

The success or the failure of The Passion of the Christ came mainly by a matter of faith. Without any doubt, the film is well done. But the rejection or the excessive acceptance of the film is given due to not-so-partial emotion that is the religious devotion. The film is addressed to whom wants to see, for the twentieth time, during the Holy Week the story and Calvary that Jesus Christ had. Perhaps that is the reason why most of the opinions we have had about this film few have to see with the cinematographic quality. Whoever does not know, for its childhood education the Bible does not understand the film. I take literally the comment of a spectator: “The film would have been better if they had explained the reason of all that violence and each step of the movie. I say this because my 12-year-old cousin had never read or known anything about the Bible before and he could not understand anything while watching the film and thought that there everyone was bad people and they took it against a single man and bit him out to death”. Even the magazine “Hollywood Reporter” itself, which maybe know less about the Gospels than this 12-year-old boy says: “The film offers few not to say any information about who was Jesus and the reason of his crucifixion”. Nevertheless, the movie manages very well the mystique allusions: it starts with a Christ fighting against the temptations in the Mount of Olives; an excellent Satan hermaphrodite stared by Rosalinda Celentano, almost as ugly as Max von Sydow in Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”. Mary the mother watching Christ, when he is dragged in the way to Golgotha, instead of cracking down and crying and saying that is the end, she says: “It has started, sir. Make it as you want it” acknowledging that the death of the Christ, her son, is the immortalization of the Catholic Religion. And a Biblical phrase, which produces goose bumps in all of us, a Christ hanging in the cross, at the end of his unbearable agony when he raves: “Eli, Eli, lama sabactini?” which means: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mark, 15: 34) And to end the Calvary the last phrase of Jesus: “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit” and having said this, he expired.

The scandal this film has created is perhaps faker than Mel Gibson giving away his profits to noble Catholic causes. I do not think that by the beginning of the 2000 there are people who throw stones to a cinema theater because of the content of a film, then where are all those moral watchers during the 100 garbage films released every week? This “scandal” is another selling strategy for a product that makes exponentially just by naming it. That a priest died from a heart attack during a projection in Portugal, that the General Direction for Television and Radio in Mexico vetoed the film; that it has been forbidden in several countries for its high dramatic level and visual veracity. The Jew community protests, for the strong reflect that the Pharisees in the movie project after two millennial. The film is a good film, but everything related to the scandal seems to me ridiculous and a fallacy.

Mel Gibson should remember when making historical films, that the Irish of the 1200 of William Wallace epoch were dirty, that they did not expressed themselves through sarcasm as Los Angeles policeman and that they were not showing their asses before a fight. Also, that the Jews of the antique Jerusalem did not speak Latin but Hebrew. That the “patriot” in a civil war would be such, depending of the point of view. And that when it comes to count the profit of a film like this one, which requires such publicity, he needs to remember the time when Christ said: “And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”.

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Angulos 2004

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