I finally got round to watching The Passion of the Christ last night. It was always in my mind that seeing the film for the first time post-Gibsongate might be a different experience to the one had by cinemagoers who watched it unburdened by the knowledge that Mel Gibson is an anti-Semitic nutjob.
But in the event, it wasn’t anti-Semitism that made an impact so much as the sheer, uncomplicated lunacy of the movie.
Gibson has form, of course - he did make the stupidest film of all time. But this was something else again. The interminable, pornographic scenes of bloody torture were not a big deal for me. Gibson merely uses the same device employed by Bret Easton Ellis in American Psycho: boredom. If you show something in detail over and over again for ages, the spectator just becomes numb and listless and a bit sick. Shock tactics ad nauseam, in other words. During the seemingly endless flogging scene I kept flicking over to check the Spurs versus Seville game, but after a while I couldn’t remember if I was really watching the football match and occasionally checking for the latest score in Romans versus The Skin on Christ’s Back (a walkover for the Eyeties, an utter thrashing).
But as I said, the gore wasn’t a problem. What got me was the silliness. The first appearance of Satan with his/her little pet snake had me chuckling. The bit where s/he appeared holding what appeared to be a nude Chucky doll prompted a loud guffaw. I snorted derisively when we got a raindrop’s eye view of Christ’s last breath.
But it wasn’t until the final seconds of the film, when the Resurrection was afforded no more than 10 seconds and a close-up of a reborn Caviezel in the Tomb that I finally understood what Gibson’s movie was all about.
The Passion of the Christ is nothing more than a revenge movie without the actual revenge bit. In all revenge movies, the hero must undergo horrendous suffering at the hands of the callous baddies, reach a broken, battered nadir, and then return rejuvenated and mean in the final reel for the bloodthirsty Reckoning.
Gibson subjects us to the ultimate gruelling trial of horrendous suffering, but has no interest in the forgiveness bit. There was no joy in this Christ’s Resurrection, which is why all we see of it is Caviezel in profile, with an expression that says “Time to take out the trash” and looking for all the world as if he’s striding off into the sequel: The Passion 2: Christ Strikes Back with a Vengeance.