Friday, April 09, 2004

I just watched The Passion of the Christ.

It's the most intense movie that I've ever experienced. It's certainly the most violent film I've watched.

Being Catholic, my reaction to the show was different from those of my non-Catholic friends. Once the movie had ended and we had walked out of the cinema, it took me some time to come out of my shell-shocked state and talk as per normal to my non-Catholic friends, who were more than a little amused at how sombre we all looked and behaved.

(And as a result, my comments will be even more disjointed and discontinuous than usual.)

But... it's hard for us believers not to react like that. We all know that Jesus is the Son of God, made man and died for our sins in order to save all of us. What this film does is to graphically depict all the suffering and torture that Jesus goes through (hence the title, since the word 'passion' was once used to indicate suffering and pain, not intensity of emotion as it does now).

The show begins when Jesus is praying at the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Judas 'betray[s] [him] with a kiss'. That scene always affects me during the Holy Week as this is when Jesus implores God to take this task which he has been entrusted away from him, but nevertheless, as he says, "not my will, but Yours be done." I've always found it difficult to comprehend the mindset and strength of a person who, with the full knowledge of the pain and suffering he will have to endure if he goes down a certain path, chooses to go down it nonetheless. And in Jesus's case, what he is doing he's doing for us. Not for anyone else, not even for himself, but for all of mankind. How is it that someone can love all of us so much that he's willing to go through all of that?

The movie doesn't just focus on Jesus's suffering though. It also shows the suffering that Mary, His mother, goes through. And to see how much she loves her son and how much pain and anguish that she's experiencing is heartwrenching. She follows her son from the courts of Pilate all the way to the hill where He's crucified, never once leaving His side, always being there for Him. I didn't cry as much as I thought I would but the first time I cried was when Jesus fell for the first time. Mary runs to his side, and this scene is juxtaposed with a flashback to when Jesus was a young boy and fell, and Mary, much like what she's doing now, runs to His side, telling Him that she's here. In the flashback, Jesus as young boy smiles up at her. In the present, He staggers up, shouldering the cross and tells His mother that "I always make things new again." That simple yet incredibly effective device just shows the relationship between the two and how much Mary loves her son. I don't think there was a single dry eye in the house during this scene.

With regards to the violence and brutality in the movie... perhaps it was kind of overdone. But at the same time, despite having known the story of Jesus my whole life, I've never really conceptualised the amount of suffering He must have undergone... and this film just shoves it straight in your face. I'm aghast at just how much pain he must have experienced and the one thing that just keeps going through my mind is "How does my life compare to His? My suffering and pain is nothing compared to His. Am I worth it?"

I suspect that's the question that goes through many Christians' minds once they've watched this movie.

But still, the crucifixion scene was a little overdone. There wasn't a strong need to show the nails being slowly driven into Jesus's hands and feet, nor the centurion dislocating Jesus's shoulder. The only other time I cried was during this scene when I cried out of sheer anguish because this part is when Jesus cries out to God, asking for Him to forgive these people. What man does that? What kind of man can afford to think about others when he is being beaten, flogged, scourged and tortured?

What kind of person have I turned out to be if I'm so whiny, selfish and what not - and still consider myself to be a good human being?

This movie, while not life-changing, is, in a word, intense. Every Christian should go see the show.

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