Montreal Film Journal


Alternate title: The Gospel according to Takashi Miike.

Seriously, Mel Gibson is the closest Hollywood equivalent to the Japanese director of “Audition” and “Ichi the Killer”. Not so much in style or skill as in the sadomasochistic tendencies they share. Gibson’s directed two films previously, one about a Scottish revolutionary who ends up tortured to death and the other about a disfigured recluse, but even when he acted for other filmmakers he’s received savage beatings in almost every picture. It shouldn’t be a surprise then to find him tackling the ultimate tale of suffering.

This is Gibson’s life work, a labor of love and faith in which he poured not only $25M of his money but also all his heart and soul. I’m not particularly religious, but I did attend Catholic school for 11 years and everything in this film rings true. I’m not sure to which extent I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, but I at least believe that there was a man by that name 2000 years ago and that his teachings should be remembered, Son of God or not.

“The Passion of the Christ” is a brilliantly crafted piece. Each of Gibson and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel’s shot compositions is like a painting, the John Debney score hits all the right notes and the whole cast is perfectly convincing, even though they’re acting in unfamiliar languages (Aramaic and Latin). Jim Caviezel gives himself completely as the Christ, delivering a wrenchingly physical performance in which he’s in constant agony, and Maia Morgenstern is even more heartbreaking in the role of Mary. Whatever your beliefs are, you can’t remain indifferent to her ordeal – this is a mother watching helplessly as her child is persecuted, tortured, crucified...

You’d think we would want to blame and hate those who killed Christ, but this isn’t that kind of film, no matter what you might have heard. There are nuances here, there is good and bad on every side and, furthermore, you have to remember that Jesus wanted to die. This is how it was meant to be. And in Jesus’ own words, the only thing to do is to give each other love, loving not only our friends but our enemies as well.

Religion is always a delicate and personal issue, but great filmmaking is great filmmaking, period.