The original DVD edition of The Passion of the Christ was a “bare bones” edition featuring only the film itself. This week’s two-disc “Definitive Edition” is packed with extras, from The Passion Recut (which trims about six minutes of some of the most intense violence) to four separate commentaries, including a theological commentary featuring Legionaries Father John Bartunek, radical Traditionalist convert Gerry Matatics, and Gibson consultant Fr. William Fulco, who translated the script into the ancient languages.
Other features include hours of behind-the-scenes featurettes on the making (and marketing) of the film, including documentary segments on the special effects and overviews of the historical and religious background of the film.
The most valuable extra is probably the theological commentary, which offers consistently interesting and sometimes fascinating insights into the symbolism and details of the film, as well as helpful scriptural and historical context on the film’s subject matter. Even viewers who have seen the film many times will gain new insights, and have a new appreciation for the film’s artistic richness and thematic profundity.
There’s also some defensive posturing around some of the more controversial aspects of the film, such as the contrast between the inscrutable, one-dimensionally villainous Caiaphas and the far more nuanced and developed Pilate. Criticisms of the film are mentioned but not adequately framed before being dismissed.
On the whole, though, the commentary adds a great deal to the film. Non-Catholic viewers may learn more about some of the underlying ideas regarding themes connected to Peter, the Virgin Mary, the Eucharist and so forth. At the same time, Gibson and Matatics (a sedevacantist and Feeneyite) avoid antagonizing non-dissenting Catholic viewers with their dissident views. Even if you only watch the film with the theological commentary once, this new DVD edition is well worth having.
In its most extreme form, the charge of morbidity has been laid at the feet of the Christian faith itself. Christianity’s harshest critics denounce it as "a religion of death." Clearly, at some point objections of this sort must be regarded as a case in point of what the scriptures call the "scandal" of the cross. It is the cross itself, the very suffering and dying of God made man, and the way Christians respond to this event in their faith and devotion, that is behind much (though again not all) of the religious and anti-religious controversy over the brutality of this particular film.
As I contemplate Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, the sequence I keep coming back to, again and again, is the scourging at the pillar.
Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League declared recently that Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is not antisemitic, and that Gibson himself is not an anti-Semite, but a “true believer.”
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I read a review you wrote in the National Catholic Register about Mel Gibson’s film Apocalypto. I thoroughly enjoy reading the Register and from time to time I will brouse through your movie reviews to see what you have to say about the content of recent films, opinions I usually not only agree with but trust.
However, your recent review of Apocalypto was way off the mark. First of all the gore of Mel Gibson’s films are only to make them more realistic, and if you think that is too much, then you don’t belong watching a movie that can actually acurately show the suffering that people go through. The violence of the ancient Mayans can make your stomach turn just reading about it, and all Gibson wanted to do was accurately portray it. It would do you good to read up more about the ancient Mayans and you would discover that his film may not have even done justice itself to the kind of suffering ancient tribes went through at the hands of their hostile enemies.
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In your assessment of Apocalypto you made these statements:Even in The Passion of the Christ, although enthusiastic commentators have suggested that the real brutality of Jesus’ passion exceeded that of the film, that Gibson actually toned down the violence in his depiction, realistically this is very likely an inversion of the truth. Certainly Jesus’ redemptive suffering exceeded what any film could depict, but in terms of actual physical violence the real scourging at the pillar could hardly have been as extreme as the film version.
I am taking issue with the above comments for the following reasons. Gibson clearly states that his depiction of Christ’s suffering is based on the approved visions of Mother Mary of Agreda and Anne Catherine Emmerich. Having read substantial excerpts from the works of these mystics I would agree with his premise. They had very detailed images presented to them by God in order to give to humanity a clear picture of the physical and spiritual events in the life of Jesus Christ.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.