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Happy Easter. Cinematic Sacrilege.

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Posted 12th April 2009 at 12:47 PM by Sam@Cult Labs

It's Easter so lets celebrate the season by talking about a film that deal with Christianity in mind scratching way.

Passion of the Christ

This odious movie was released while I was working in City Cinema, a now defunct picture house in my home town of Newport. Because it ran for so long, I had the dubious honour of watching the film several times and it never failed to stun me with it's casual racism and tasteless gore.

In retrospect, the film reflects director Mel Gibson's now famous anti-semitic comments. We all expected the Pharasees to be portrayed as intolerant hypocrites, as this is a biblical "fact" and, in telling the tale of the last days of Jesus Christ from a Catholic perspective, one has to expect the Jewish leadership to come off badly. After all, according to the texts, they conspired with the Romans to put the troublesome prophet to death.

The real shock of this movie is seeing the crowds during the lead up to the crucifixition, as Christ tries to drag his cross up to Calvary. They resemble the Orcs in Lord of the Rings, a vile horde of slathering, blood crazed beasts, hungry to see Son of God brutally slain.

Combine this with the dream like presence of an androgynous character that either represents evil or is maybe Satan in the guise of a human being and the movie becomes a joke in it's final hour. This cloaked dark monk wanders through the crowd in slow motion, as if empowering the mob with bad vibrations.

When Jesus rises again we are treated to a bizarre spectacle in which this character is shown in a bleak wasteland, reminicent of the empty purgatory in the final moments of Fulci's The Beyond, howling at the sky as the camera sweeps about in dramatic CGI fashion. Gibson should have gone the whole hog and just hired Christopher Lee to reprise Saruman the White.

Further taste free shocks are present earlier in the run time, as the convicted chosen one is scourged viciously by Roman grunts before he his set on his final journey. This whole sequence is designed to thrust the reality of a Roman execution in the face of the viewer, as a spiked lash is used on Christ, ripping chunks of flesh from his back, leaving him a broken shell. It's horrific to behold and feels like a gruesome slice of religious education, a show reel that will be handy for any self flagellating Opus Dei members who want an illustration of why they strap a cilice to their thigh every morning...

Passion of the Christ is a very Old Testament, fire & brimstone vision of Christianity and a cinematic tool for preachers seeking to frighten their congregations into pious compliance with a torrent of gore. As a piece of shock cinema, it's efficient, effective and it's beautifully made, although unintentional laughs will be had at the amount of times Jesus, crashes face first into the dirt in slow motion. There's a drinking game in there somewhere.
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