Hey folks, Harry here... been awake now for 40 hours... I'm charged... BNAT this year was the single most extraordinary film experience of my life. Watching the programming just work film after film for me... was just bliss and with my top 3 favorite films I've seen thus far in 2003 being RETURN OF THE KING, OLDBOY and THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST... I'm just charged the the raw cinema injected into me throughout this festival. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST was astonishing in its very rough form. Score is about 30% in place with tons of temp, visual effects almost non-existent here... and of course digital instead of the lushness of Caleb's visuals when we see them in 35mm next year. Nordling is the first to chime in... there will be others... enjoy...
First off, let me get this out of the way, I'll be sending my "Things I've Learned at BNAT 2003" in later on, and I want to thank Harry, Drew, Father Geek, Quint, and the rest of the gang for simply the best time at BNAT this year. Special thanks also go to Eli Roth, Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh, and last but certainly not least, Mel Gibson.
Quick RETURN OF THE KING review... it's amazing, duh! Like you would expect anything else from me.
This will probably be the most controversial review I'll ever write for the site, if Harry sees fit to post it. Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is a monumental statement of faith and it's possibly the most important religious film ever made. And unfortunately it's going to be completely misunderstood by people and groups with agendas. The fact is, this is a powerful film and this needs to be seen by the widest audience possible. This is an Important Film. Possible the first real Important Film of the 21st Century.
Don't get me wrong. I love THE LORD OF THE RINGS films. Of course I do. But with THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST Mel Gibson has created Art. It has all the beauty of the works of the Middle Ages depicting the death of Jesus Christ. Inspired by the paitings of Caraveggio, various written works as well as the Gospels, Gibson has created an unparalleled work of art that will stand the test of time as one of the greatest religious films ever made.
I think a lot of the hatred coming towards THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST comes from those who primarily have not seen it. I have. Read closely. It is not anti-semitic. Not in the least bit. I understand the concern. To me, the Sanhedrin in the film felt more like a political organization than a religious one. In the film, it's obvious that Jesus threatens them politically, with their standing with the Romans and with their own people. They are frightened of Jesus, and must send him away from them.
My wife is Jewish, and she didn't feel like it was offensive at all. Our friend at BNAT, Roger Kaufman, also is Jewish, and he admired the skill and emotion of the film. They viewed the film in the context that it deserves - as a film, a work of art, not an abstract ideal. And in the film, Jesus is put to death because it has to be. It is a destiny He wishes to avoid if He is allowed, but He never shirks from the task.
But he suffers. Oh does He suffer. Jim Caviezel deserves so much credit for keeping Jesus human under so much torment. There were moments when I wanted it to stop, and Mel Gibson kept going, teling us, "You have to know. Even if you don't believe, you have to know."
And that's what's so great about this film. I really wish that Gibson had shown this film to fans first, instead of religious leaders. Because they don't understand. They can't know the emotion, the skill, the talent and the art that really goes behind making a film like this. There's one scene in the film, as Jesus falls, and his mother Mary (the phenomenal Maia Morganstern, giving a performance of little dialogue and great power) remembers a day when Jesus as a young child fell, and she was there to pick him up, but not this time. This time, she can only watch her son suffer in agonizing pain. It's powerful, so human, and devastating to watch.
Oh... just so you know... the MPAA will come down on this film like a stoning. The fact is that they can't cut anything. You would rob it of its power. If there's anything I urge so much, it's this: the MPAA needs to just rate it R, and please, stay away from the editing room. I hope that this happens, but the film is so controversial now that it may not be possible. In which case, I urge Mel to stay true to his remarkable vision.
After the film, Mel Gibson did a Q & A with the audience about the film, and let us know about some CGI shots and changes he wants to put into the film. There's one change I agree with - makign Jesus's eyes brown instead of blue. But the other changes he suggested... okay. They really aren't necessary. Sure, clean up the print, clean up some of the obvious CGI that you will need... but you literally have a perfect film here. Those additional scenes you talked about really aren't required. I would love to see them though, because if you can improve on this film, I'm all for it.
I realize I'm ranting here. I'm pretty tired - still haven't slept yet, can't, just can't - and really blown away by the power of this film. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST has possibly my favorite closing shot ever. It's a simple shot, and so well done, and it makes the film transcendent. As Mel Gibson himself said, "The film speaks for itself. It is what it is." Many groups of people are bringing something to this film that maybe, they probably shouldn't. This film played to Jews, Christians, agnostics, atheists, and all sorts of people with all sorts of religious backgrounds, and they knew to understand and approach this film on the contextual level it deserves. I think you need to approach THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST as a story, a film, and it shouldn't be second-guessed with religious or political agendas. It stands as a work of art. It's almost certain to be the best film of 2004. It is the first Great Film of the 21st Century.