The Passion of the Christ: A Note on the DVD “Definitive Edition”

From a National Catholic Register column

By Steven D. Greydanus

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.

Tags: Bible Films, Life of Christ & Jesus Movies

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