It's a controversial and – be warned – violent film, but well worth seeing.
17 Apr 2014 - 4:45 PM  UPDATED 18 Dec 2019 - 3:17 PM

Contrast the content against your own interpretation

To many people, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is the content and nothing else. I imagine they will want to measure Mel Gibson’s interpretation of the events depicted – principally the 12 hours leading up to the crucifixion – alongside their own. He has said his source material is predominantly those sections of the four gospels that relate to Christ’s death, but other parts of the New Testament too.

The Easter element

Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion. This film screens on the following day. It is a perfect film to remind us all of the true meaning of Easter.

Christianity in Australia

Expanding on that a little, Australia’s affiliation with Christianity is continuing to decline: 96 percent of people identified as Christian in 1911 and 61 percent in 2011 but the latest census shows that loyalty to Christianity is still present in over half the population. Being a society based on Christianity brings with it a set of rules and expectations and a certain level of assumed knowledge. Decide not to conform and it can be very uncomfortable; understand your society and your place in it and life will be much more comfortable. In other words, even for non-believers, there’s value in knowing how and what the majority think and why they act the way they do. Many films have been made about the crucifixion since the birth of cinema. This is one of the most contemporary and most talked about.

The controversy of Mel Gibson

US-born Mel Gibson came to Australia on the eve of becoming a teenager and shot to fame on the back of the Mad Max films after studying at Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art. Since then he has often been caught up in controversy – especially since the disintegration of his marriage to Robyn Gibson (nee Moore). There’s been allegations around the anti-Semitic nature of his strong religious beliefs, for example, and allegations of violence involving Oksana Grigorieva, the mother of his eighth child. That said, he has always been quick to apologise, he’s struggled with alcoholism throughout his adult life, his philanthropic contributions have been impressive, and the intensity of the spotlight on Hollywood stars is blinding and inescapable. Is it soft and silly to say that we have a duty of care to him as an adopted Australian and holder of an Order of Australia? Probably, but I kind of go along with it. Is watching this film supporting him? Kind of, yes.

Jim Caviezel as Christ

It is difficult to look away from Jim Caviezel playing Christ. And bear in mind that during production in Italy he was struck by lightning, hurt his shoulder and fell ill several times.

See it to feel alive

Finally, the intensity of the horror I experienced while watching reminded me of the intensity of the fear I experienced while watching The Exorcist at the Bordertown Drive-in. Feeling stuff makes you feel alive.

The Passion of the Christ

Wednesday 25 December, 9:40PM on SBS World Movies (now streaming at SBS On Demand)

USA, 2004
Genre: Drama
Language: Aramaic, Latin, Hebrew
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci, Maia Morgenstern
What's it about?
Focuses on the last twelve hours of Jesus of Nazareth's (Caviezel) life. The film begins in the Garden of Olives where Jesus has gone to pray after the Last Supper. Jesus must resist the temptations of Satan. Betrayed by Judas Iscariot, Jesus is then arrested and taken within the city walls of Jerusalem where leaders of the Pharisees confront him with accusations of blasphemy and his trial results in a condemnation to death.