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Film Analysis of the Passion of the Christ

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Film Analysis of the Passion of the Christ

Kimberly Mongold

ENG 225 Introduction to Film

Instructor Deborah Cunningham

August 13, 2012

Film Analysis of The Passion of the Christ

The Passion of the Christ is the story of Jesus Christ who led people into one of the world's leading religions, Christianity. The film is based mainly on the final hours, the suffering, and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The film also shows a dramatic and passionate side to the story by showing some flashbacks of Christ as a child. The creative and technical elements of the film, such as cinematography, acting, storytelling, editing, sound, themes, and social impact gives a better understanding of the director Mel Gibson's intent of the film.

Mel Gibson stated "that one of his visions for the film was to have it always moving" (Wyman, 2011). To keep the film from becoming dull he focused heavily on the torture scenes of Jesus. The visual graphics used in the film were able to help personalize the film for the viewers. For example, the torture scene was shown in intimate and graphic detail. The scene shows Christ bloody and lethargic because he was brutally beaten, stoned and then hung on the cross to die by the Roman soldiers.

The drama in scene and the plot are very important in capturing the viewer's attention and keeping it. "In dramatic stories, plot captures your attention from the moment that particular circumstances set conflict in motion" (Clugston, R.W., 2010). That is exactly what this film was able to do, grab your attention and hold it throughout the movie.

The dramatic history and plot behind the torture scenes started a controversial rave from many of the audiences from the beginning to the very end of the film. The reason there is so much controversy on the film is because viewers stated that the film contained "extremely violent episodes, and promoted anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews" (Hammer and Kellner, n.d. pg. 2).

Lawrence Blum (2004) states that "stereotypes are false or misleading generalizations about groups held in a manner that renders them largely, though not entirely, immune to counterevidence." In addition a culturalist approach is watching the film as diagnostic of the culture in which it was made (Goodykoontz and Jacobs, 2011).

Many people support the idea that " the popular film The Passion of the Christ purveys negative stereotypes of Jews that have been historically powerful and damaging along with negative portrayals of Romans that have not ."(Blum, 2004) The reason for is because in the film " two distinct groups--Romans and Jews-are shown as responsible for Christ's suffering and death. Both the Jews and the Romans are represented in a very unflattering manner. Therefore, whatever is morally problematic in such portrayals is greatly intensified when it is taken for granted, and intended, that the audience will, see the film as the way things really were. The Jews' spiritual leader is shown concerned primarily about power; there is no hint of a genuine religious or spiritual presence.

The Jews themselves are mainly shown as a mob, screaming for Jesus' death as a false prophet. A Satanic figure flits through the Jewish crowd in several scenes, forging an association between Jews and the Devil. The Jews are bloodthirsty and the film suggests that it is they who are historically responsible for Jesus' death. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, is portrayed as sentencing Jesus to death not because he wants to but because he was afraid of a Jewish uprising against him." (Blum, 2004, p29)

The location of the film's production is an important factor for the success of the film because it helps make the film believable to the vitally. Scenes requiring wider views, including the crucifixion, " were filmed around the city of Sassi di Matera or Caveoso, in the remote southern region of Basilicata, down in the heel of Italy's boot" (Movie locations, n.d.). The vast, ancient town and streets in the film are not readily be duplicated. This is what made the decision to film in Sassi di Matera was a smart one because of the layout of the streets and houses. Director Mel Gibson's knowledge of that layout helped viewers see the setting of the film.

The Passion of the Christ was not filmed in English but in the dead Aramaic, Latin and Hebrew languages. Therefore, any successful movie must call for more than a director's vision. Director Mel Gibson made sure to cover the important aspects of the film production with renowned people such as , "cinematographer Caleb Deschane, editor John Wright, producer, Stephen McEveety, second unit director Ted Rae , visual effects producer Kevin Vanderhan, language consultant Father William Fulco and theologians Gerry Matatics and Father John Bartunek" (Tooze, 2004, para. 4).

Cinematographer Caleb Deschane filmed scenes with a variety of colors during the film so that he could evoke a certain mood. The colors were a mix between warm colors and soft light and dark depressing colors of black and blue. The horrors of the film are often interrupted by flashbacks to events earlier in Jesus' life. The suffering itself could have been captured by a modern-day television news crew, which makes the story all the more realistic. In fact, The Passion of the Christ avoids nearly all the clichés of "religious" pictures and will change forever the way the bible is presented on film." (Spence, 2004 para. 3) Moreover, he used high key and low key lighting in many of the scenes depicting Jesus as a human being just like the rest of us. Deschanel used soft light when viewing the flashbacks of Jesus' childhood. The intensity of the actors' faces can be seen revealed with the close-up, and the extreme close-up. (Spence, 2004) So, "it is the contrast allows the plot to continue in a balanced fashion, with the passion and conviction of Jesus Christ not presented with a sense of insanity, but instead with a sense of purpose." (Wyman, 2011, para. 6)

"Gibson keeps his camera fairly neutral and at a distance except when photographing Jesus and Mary the Mother. Contrary to some of the more virulent attacks, Gibson does not demonize the religious leaders who demanded that Christ be crucified. If you really want to portray someone in a negative manner, you light them from below, put the camera at ground level and use a wide angle lens to distort their features. "While also focusing on the poor appearances of Jesus and his



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