Ok, I went to see it. I wasn’t going to, because, well, I know how it ends. But I just don’t have the heart to do the “I haven’t seen it, but…” thing. No offense intended to those who can.
It’s good. I mean, it’s painful, but it’s well done. The casting is superb. You already know it’s violent, so I won’t harp on that too much. I actually flinched twice in the scourging scene, which is saying a lot. I subscribe to the Bart Simpson school of violent film theory, and I still felt like I was going to get splashed.
I would definitely not call it anti-Semitic. I mean, it’s set in Jerusalem. Are there going to not be Jews in it? That’d be like setting it in Anchorage and calling it anti-Alaskan. The only people who give him any help or sympathy at all are Jews. My theory before I saw it, which I still believe, is that the majority of new anti-Semitic feeling generated by this (which is to say, those who weren’t already Jew-haters), is going to be owned by people who can’t be bothered to sit through a long movie with subtitles, but know the Jews killed Yeshua because they said so on Entertainment Tonight.
I loved that the Aramaic was translated, but the Romans just rambled on incoherently. That looks sarcastic, but it isn’t. It’s totally obvious what they’re saying, but the fact that it isn’t translated actually helps with both the sympathy and the suspension of disbelief. I saw a WWII film set in the Ukraine once, where the Ukrainians spoke English but the Germans spoke German. Same deal.
I’m pleased with the treatment of the “curtain of the sky was rent in two” thing. No one has ever sufficiently explained to me what that was supposed to mean, and I fully expected it to be just a thunderstorm.
I didn’t think the miracles were understated at all. It’s understood upon buying your ticket that this guy is supposed to be the son of god. The scene with Malchus was enough to prove that he’s not a nutjob, and any more like that would have been tacky. Personal opinion. I did think the scene where they flipped the cross over was a very nice touch, however.
The devil following Yeshua around was a little weird, but I think I understand why it was done. It’s pre-redemption: everyone goes to hell at this point. Before the resurrection, he did descend into hell for three days. He knew this was going to happen, he knew that every time he opened his mouth he was bringing it a step closer, and he knew that if he guessed wrong and/or was foresaken, he was going to stay there forever. That’s beyond a moment of doubt. That’s the devil actually knowing that he’s going to get a forkful of the good guy, and hanging around to rub it in. The scene on the Via Dolorosa is especially confusing, but I approve of the concept, because there was no other way of expressing it…
Incidentally, I’m sensing — from the number of reviews complaining about the lack of miracles and earlier storylines — some confusion about the word “passion.” This isn’t, like, a passion for living, or a passion for truth, or being a passionate person, or anything else about love or strong feelings. It’s just an archaic word for crucifixion. From the latin “passio,” which means “to suffer.” I doubt any of the people who don’t know that would end up here, but I felt I should mention it, just in case…
(I was going to try to keep this shorter than the book. I can see I’ve failed. And there’s a 75% chance of it getting longer as I realize what I left out…)
(And I still think this is by far the best related blog entry I’ve seen yet.)