Monday, November 15, 2004

The Passion vs Guy Richie

I’ve been sick for a week, and spent my time at first watching all the extras on my various DVD’s (which led me to discover, by the way, that ‘Shaun of the Dead’ is the ultimate DVD package!), and then wallowing in the mire that is daytime TV. Sad days they were – with Ricki Lake shows such as ‘You’re fat!’ and ‘My dream job – I want to be a stripper!’, and Oprah God-bless-‘em’s such as ‘Holding my wedding dress ransom’, ‘What cigarettes are REALLY doing to you’ and ‘I left my wife and kids so that I could be happy’. It was tough, I tell you! I can really see how, with all their free cable channels and constant stream of public access TV, Americans really are conditioning themselves to be the most moronic species this world has ever seen (and I’m including amoebas in this). The only homogenising things between each state are shows like Oprah and Ricki Lake, news stations like CNN and FOX (both hopelessly partisan) and presidential addresses – all other TV is manufactured within their own state, and therefore cannot hope to give a world view – or even continent view – of anything. It is a sad state of affairs, and after seeing how it affected my own brain to be subjected to it for a mere five days, I can really see no hope for America at all. Maybe the makers of ‘Supersize Me’ could make a documentary where one only watched daytime TV, and didn’t read a book or newspaper at all. Would make for interesting results, methinks!

On another note, myself and Alan (he has requested that I refrain from calling him ‘my lover’ – apparently it makes him feel like a piece of meat!) watched ‘Snatch’ last night followed by ‘The Passion’. My good Lord above, what a contrast! ‘Snatch’ was so heavily stylised that is was a chore not to snort derisively at each new cockney rhyming slang in place of words, and each shot to shot jump that made your head ache with its lack of spontaneity – Guy Richie is just the most unbelievable flake…using the ultimate in cash-cowing, uninspiring rehashing, he merely remakes the same styled movie as ‘Lock, Stock’ and ups the ante by exaggerating all that seemed fresh and new in the original. Shameful!

‘The Passion’, on the other hand, was a horse of a different colour! It was good, I suppose, but I really did NOT see what all the fuss was about. I also think Mel Gibson was heavy handed with the gore – not in a gratuitous way, because he obviously believed that this is what happened, but he made the whole movie about Jesus’ pain and blood, without ever questioning the man. Jim Caviezel does his best with meaningful looks and blood-soaked groans, but no insight is given into Christ. There are a few painfully silly dun dun DUUUNNN moments – like, for instance, the opening scene in The Garden, when Jesus speaks to the disciples in rushed and harried tones. They question each other ‘Why does he speak like this’, ‘What is wrong with him’, etc., to which Peter replies ‘He is afraid’. (as I said – dun dun DDUUUNNN!! – as though this is a remarkable insight and startling news for all who worship!)

There really is the very minimum of back-story as to how things led to this moment, and no actual concept of who Jesus was or what He had done was given. Flashback sequences are really just flabby and lazy storytelling, and it did nothing for the tale in the least – merely gave brief moments of sunshine to alleviate the gruesome spectacle on screen. And that, basically is what I thought of ‘The Passion’ – it was a spectacle of pain, a theatre of the macabre. Mel Gibson obviously felt passionately (excuse the pun) about the movie, but it gave me no insight into my own faith. It merely dwelt on the most distressing 48 hours of Jesus’ life – hours that I have already thought on long and hard being, as they are, the basis of the Catholic Church. I prefer, however, to continue to think on Jesus as I always have – a man who had some great ideas on how to live life, and one who’s own existence was cut short far too soon by the same naysayers that still exist today in their various forms. Indeed, those who dwell on this fantastical production of Jesus’ death are the same ones who greedily take in and condemn newscasts of people being hacked to pieces in Iraq, or children torn to shreds in Sudan, without lifting a finger to stop it. Seeing such things on screen creates a sense of detachment – Jesus’ life becomes ample fodder for a movie, and so much of the good work is undone. Commercialism takes on religion, and commercialism wins. For whatever reason Mel Gibson chose to undertake this quest for his own affirmation of faith – and I’m sure his intentions were good – the movie reeks of humbug and belittling, undermining what faith may be the basis.

However (and it’s a pretty big however) it did touch me, and did make me feel slightly closer to some truth of Jesus’ last hours of pain – pain that He undertook so that man could be saved. I won’t be buying this movie, or ever watching it again, but this is not to imply that it is too powerful to sit through – I just feel that it wasn’t substantial enough to warrant a second viewing. I don’t want to be excessively negative about the film, but I thought about it again this morning, and I still draw the same conclusions on it.

Two minutes are all that are given to the resurrection – surely the most amazing and faith-inspiring moments that came after His horrific crucifixion – and a shameful CGI shot of Jesus’ thigh seen through the holes in his hands. It is ironic that I draw almost the same conclusion from ‘The Passion’ as I did from ‘Snatch’. Shameful!

(Perhaps I speak too harshly. It was a powerful production which, not withstanding the crap Titanic-like music throughout, was moving and thought provoking…if only for a few minutes. Sad, really, that I feel this need to offset my negativity with an afterthought……….maybe it’s the guilty Catholic in me!)

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