After a private viewing of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion"

Source: FSSPX News


At the beginning of December, several Vatican officials were present at a private showing of the Mel Gibson film, "The Passion" which is due to be released at the beginning of 2004. Amongst others was Fr. Augustin Di Noia, under-secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Interviewed by the agency Zenit, this Dominican and close colleague of Cardinal Ratzinger, gave his general impression:

"Seeing this film will allow many people to have an intense religious experience. It was like that for me. Stunning cinematography, brilliant performances by the actors, together with a profound spiritual analysis of the theological significance of the Passion and death of Christ by the director, combined to produce a work of great artistic and religious sensibility. All those who see this film, believers or not, are bound to be confronted with the central mystery of the passion of Christ, in fact, with Christianity itself: if this was the remedy, how great must have been the malady? The Curé of Ars says somewhere that no one can have any idea or explain what Christ suffered for us; in order to understand that, we have to understand all the harm that sin did to Him, and we will only understand it at the hour of our death. Mel Gibson’s film helps us to grasp something, which is almost beyond our capacity to comprehend, as only great art can. At the beginning, in the Garden of Gethsemani, the Devil tempts Christ with the inevitable question: how can someone bear the sins of the entire world? It is too much. Christ almost recoils at the thought, but then commits himself resolutely to do exactly this: to carry, according to the will of his Father, the sins of the whole world. It is indeed, amazing. There is a powerful feeling, perceptible throughout the film of the cosmic drama of which we are all a part. It is impossible to remain neutral here, and no one can remain a mere spectator in the face of these events. The stakes are too high, and this is something of which, apart from Christ himself, only his mother Mary and the ever present Satan, have a clear intuition. The audience comes to understand little by little, at the same time as the characters, as the action unfolds inexorably from the Mount of Olives to Mount Calvary.(…)

Seeing it for the first time, there were three things which struck me: the first was the interpretation of the Devil, visible in the background, sometimes in the foreground - a menacing, relentless and disturbing presence. I do not recall any other film having done that, to such dramatic effect. Another thing: the solitude of Christ. Although he is surrounded by a crowd of people, the film shows that Jesus is truly alone in the face of this terrible suffering. Then there was the representation of the Last Supper, through a series of flashbacks interspersed with the action of the film. Lying on the stone floor, covered with blood after the scourging, Christ fixes His eyes on the blood-spattered feet of one of the soldiers and the film flashes back in a particularly significant way, to the washing of the feet of His disciples, during the Last Supper. Similar flashbacks during the remainder of the Passion and Crucifixion, take us back to Christ, who breaks the bread, and to the cup of wine: through the eyes of Christ we see him saying " this is my Body" and "this is my Blood". The significance of Calvary – sacrifice and therefore Eucharist – is represented through these flashbacks. There is a strong Catholic insight in the film here. In his recent encyclical on the Eucharist, Pope John-Paul II says that Christ established the memorial of His passion and His death before suffering, anticipating the true sacrifice of the Cross. In the artistic imagination of Mel Gibson, Christ "remembers" the Last Supper even while he is accomplishing the sacrifice, of which the former is the memorial. For many Catholics who will see these images, the Mass will never be the same again. Having said this, apart from its originality, Mel Gibson’s film will be considered without doubt, as being one of the best.