The Passion of the Christ

Mel Gibson's ‘The Passion of the Christ'

While attending Mass as a child, I used to wonder why it was necessary to change the wine into blood. After all, the consecrated bread had become body, and a body already contains blood. Why more blood? I had to wait forty years for my silly question to be ferociously answered by a movie.

In Mel Gibson’s long-awaited, long-dreaded The Passion of the Christ, blood courses across the screen, forms puddles in cobblestone courtyards, drenches the torture implements that shed it, soaks garments, and renders the face of Jim Caviezel (who plays Jesus) unrecognizable. Blood becomes a distinctive force in this movie, an element, a character. The Passion isn’t just a gruesome movie but a ritual that exalts the blood of Jesus, because the release of this blood released humanity from sin. Those who charge Mel Gibson with being obsessed with blood and violence are correct, but they are making an idle point, since Gibson obviously believes that blood sacrifice lies at the very source of his religion. And since when is moderation the salient virtue of artists and Christians?

Christ embraces his destiny in the very first scene, an invention of Gibson and his scriptwriter, Benedict Fitzgerald. (Though most of Passion’s script was drawn from the Gospels, it also contains several inventions, and this first one sets the course for the remainder of the film.) During the agony in the garden Satan tempts Christ to abandon his...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.