March 27, 2004

The Power of the Passion

We just got back from seeing the Passion in Cardiff, since Aidie is spending the night with Nana.

One the things Mrs H noted before the film began was that there were several Muslims in the cinema (the women had headscarves and we assume the men with them were also Muslim).

Unfortunately, besides us and the Muslims and a couple of boys, everyone else in the 1/3-full cinema were middle-aged and older couples who looked like they would not otherwise be seen in a film rated 18 (or 15 for that matter). We did go to the afternoon showing and there was a Rugby International at the Millennium Stadium. Because it is an 18 here, no one under 18 is admitted, full stop. An 18 is the equivalent of an NC-17. Though the film might not be appropriate for younger children, it would be good if parents had the discretion to take their middle and older teens.

As we were going out, there were lots of old people coming out of the parking lot and into the multiplex in church clothes, one of who asked Mrs H, "Excuse me, is this the cinema?" The multiplex was using 2 screens for the 8:00 show, but I hope they haven't overestimated. In some cities, churches bought up entire showings, but I fear that the film will not have the impact in the UK that it has had in the US. Having seen it, I hope it does.

For those who haven't seen it or are waiting for the DVD, I will mention that it is extremely violent and not one scene is gratuitously so. There are a few flashback scenes that aren't specifically biblical, but none that contradict Scripture or Holy Tradition in any way. After all, Jesus was a small boy at one time and he was a working carpenter until he was 30 as well. (There are also flashback scenes of the Sermon on the Mount and the Last Supper.) If anything, those scenes bought to greater reality the impact of the Incarnation and its implications for the Passion. I think it was particularly appropriate that we saw not just in Lent, but immediately after the Feast of the Annunciation.

When the little boy Jesus fell down and His mother picked him up, when I saw His face, it was like I was seeing the face of Aidan. I saw a mother and her child. I saw my child. Then the scene returned to the bloodied, battered Christ and I realised more than ever before that He was somebody's little boy.

It is a terrible thing to lose a child. I realised a tiny hint of this when my brother died a few weeks ago. How horrible it must have been to have seen Him suffer unimaginably and to stand before Him and watch Him die must have been a mother's worst nightmare. The Theotokos must have suffered her own martyrdom at the foot of the Most Holy Cross.

When I see that suffering, from Gethsemene to Calvary, and I realise the flip side - that He was fully God - I realise even more the power of the words in the Liturgy, " the night in which He was given up, or rather gave Himself up for the life of the world..." In terms of earthly power and force, He didn't have to do any of this.

While Jim Caviezel did an absolutely brillant job (I never thought for a moment that he wasn't suffering to that unbelievable level), the film was also very good in bringing to life the other people in the Gospels. Other reviews have already mentioned the Theotokos and Mary Magdalene, but I was especially struck by Pilate as well as someone to whom I've never given a lot of thought, Simon of Cyrene.

I really, really like the fact it was in Aramaic and Latin. I think sometimes I get in my mind that everybody spoke English. Living in an English-language culture and reading and English-language Bible, I sometimes forget that Jesus didn't speak a word of English (and I mean didn't, not couldn't, of course, even though the language wouldn't exist in time and space in any way we would recognise it for another 1400 years). In a sense it universalised the film. It reminded me that the Gospel is for every tribe, tongue, and nation and that the first Christians were neither Anglo nor Saxon. Instead, it was just like being there.

As Orthodox, in the Liturgy were believe that we are there. There is no repeat of the sacrifice - rather we participate in the sacrifice. I agree with Metropolitan Philip and all of the other Orthodox hierarchs who have encouraged the faithful to see this film. This film brings alive the reality of the Body and Blood in a powerful way.

Posted by david at March 27, 2004 11:54 PM | TrackBack

Have any idea what the movie is taking in over in England? Sounds like it will be way less, but how much less?

Posted by: s.f. danckaert at March 28, 2004 06:46 PM

It's only been released here for 4 days, so it will take time for the figures to come in.

Right now I've just finished watching a programme on Channel 4 about Mel and the Passion. It is basically Mark Kermode (a well known British film critic) finding everyone he can to trash the film and trying to show how radical Mel and his father are and how bad that is. He returned over and over to the anti-Semitic claims. Kermode concludes, "Mel has used his shock tactics to preach his fundamentalist faith to millions." That pretty much sums up the slant of the programme.

I don't think Kermode or Channel 4 will affect the box office here, but he does reflect an attitude rife in this Godless island.

Posted by: David at March 28, 2004 09:08 PM