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Re: Apocalypto, The Passion of the Christ

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.

As a Catholic I take particular exception to this:

Even in The Passion Jesus was depicted deliberately prolonging and intensifying the scourging at the pillar, standing up after the Romans had beaten him to the ground and provoking the incredulous soldiers to renew their torturing attack with even greater fury.

Jesus Christ, true God and true man, was in control at all times. He willingly entered into suffering for the sake of all mankind. He would never have provoked the soldiers to fury as it would have increased their sins. God does not provoke us to sin.

I am not aware that the writings of Mary of Agreda have been “approved” by the Church. As far as I know, at one time her book The Mystical City of God was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books, and while the ban on reading it was later lifted, that is not the same thing as Church approval of any visions.

I am also not aware that Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s visions have been approved as such. In any case, even if any such visions have been approved, as private revelations they would have no doctrinal or authoritative status, and could not be relied upon as historically accurate accounts of first-century events.

It’s certainly true that God does not provoke us to sin, but it’s also true that I described the scene in the film accurately. What Jesus would or wouldn’t have done in real life is one thing; what the movie shows Him doing is something else.

Incidentally, Jesus standing up at the pillar in order to endure more scourging is, as far as I know, Gibson’s own invention. Not everything in The Passion comes from visionary literature and/or the Gospels; Gibson did invent some of it himself.

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Mail: Re: Apocalypto, The Passion of the Christ

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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