Monday, April 12, 2004

Motto of the Day

I can use the laptop to do stuff, even if the mouse goes way out of control.
So while it's stuck at the bottom left corner of the screen, furiously trying to burrow its way out, I can use my trusty "Tab" button. :)

Review of The Passion of the Christ

I saw this last night ( Easter Sunday ), together with my mom and a fellow middle-aged church friend. Theatre was fully occupied, audience comprising young and old, and in all likelihood both Christians and non-Christians. The mood was initially light-hearted, thanks to a "Starsky and Hutch" trailer that screened just a few minutes prior to the film itself. But once the 20th Century Fox theme heralded the start of the movie, things suddenly became very subdued. Total silence, then the opening scene...

I've been waiting to see TPOTC for so long, and my fears about being traumatized by its images came true yesterday. After all, my eyes blurred from the tears during a snippet of (??)"The Last Temptation of Christ", depicting Jesus' long and arduous journey to Golgotha as he bore a heavy wooden cross, at church on Good Friday. The Jesus portrayed in that film, however, is minimally bloodied. And though he staggers, the scene is relatively short when compared to TPOTC's lengthy, drawn-out version.

As everyone knows, Passion traces the last 12 hours of Christ's life: his capture at Gethsemane, his "trial" before King Herod and Pontius Pilate, the scourging, the trek to Golgotha, then the Crucifixion. From what I could tell, director Mel Gibson remains very faithful to the Bible's record of events. Famous verses are spoken exactly as they are written, and in Aramaic, nothing less.

Gibson's choices in the film may be controversial, but I, for one, applaud them all. Casting Jim Caviezel (The Thin Red Line, Frequency, Angel Eyes, High Crimes, The Count of Monte Cristo ) is a stroke of inspiration. This amazing actor practically carved his career out of playing tortured souls. His role as the Saviour of mankind is such a challenging yet vulnerable one, and he plays it flawlessly.

Another point of contention is why Gibson dwells so much on Jesus' physical torment, but mentions little of his earlier years as a preacher / healer. In my opinion, however, I view it as the right move, and one that not many other directors would've dared to make. And speaking as a Christian, it is absolutely imperative that we KNOW what Christ suffered, in its gruesome totality.

There're three main sequences to take note of: The Scourge, The Walk to Golgotha, and the Crucifixion.

The Scourge details the flogging of Jesus -- graphic, prolonged and bloody. I can't seem to find a description of this in my Bible, though I recall my church vicar saying the number "39" during his Good Friday sermon. I was crying in the theatre, but kept count throughout. Seemed a lot more than 39 to me.

The Walk To Golgotha is even more distressing. Jesus, already weakened by the whipping, dripping blood from a crown of thorns piercing his scalp, is made to bear an impossibly heavy wooden cross for many miles, first through the city of Jerusalem ( enduring constant jeering and beatings from the soldiers and non-believers -- many of whom are Jews ) then up the hillsides to The Skull, where he later died. En route, he struggles and falls repeatedly, until Simon of Cyrene is summoned to help him.

The Crucifixion is the most horrific image I have ever witnessed on film. Even all my years of facing blood and gore at the workplace couldn't prepare me for the anguish I felt, even though I kept telling myself: IT'S JUST A MOVIE. One can easily imagine what it feels like, but seeing it, and in the context of religion, is... unbearable. I get emotional sometimes, but during this agonizing scene, I sobbed . My shoulders shook, my hands trembled, I pressed my palm to my mouth so no-one would hear me whimper. First time this has ever happened to me during a movie.

It is difficult to fully describe the entire experience, but the best term I can come up with is "life-changing". As a Christian, it is SO important to know how much Christ suffered for our sins, yet in his last moments on Earth, cried out for the Lord to "forgive them, for they know not what they do"; how this man without sin was persecuted in the most terrible manner, yet never fought back. At Gethsemane, he even heals an injured Roman soldier -- his enemy, later turned believer. We see how false prophets condemned their own King, propelled by fear and a thirst for power. We see how evil man can be -- God's own Creations, now traitors and torturers. But most importantly, we realize how inconsequential transgressions against us appear when compared to Christ's own pain. And how, if he could forgive in the midst of such cruelty, we should do better when faced with so much less.
As for non-Christians, I only hope they will feel compelled to learn more. Whether out of morbid curiosity, spiritual need, or even with the sole purpose of debunking a "myth", learning more is a start.

Many non-believers ask me why God doesn't answer all prayers, or help every single person in need, or better still, perform miracles on a regular basis, in order to win everyone over. But it isn't that simple. It never has been. Even when Christ performed such wonders among his people, the high priests ( those who profess to worship the very same God ) branded him a blasphemer. Ironically, Pontius Pilate, who attempted to show mercy but was shouted down, was a Roman.
Perhaps the most important question is asked by Pilate's wife, Claudia: Will you know the truth when you hear it?
Will we know or accept that someone is the Son of God if we were to ever meet such a person, even if he performs numerous miracles? 2000 years ago, many didn't. In the 21st century, who can tell really?

It's easy to label TPOTC as "just another movie". In this day and age of fulminant violence and conveyor-belt film-making, how many of us will remember anything the next day, or even a few minutes after watching it? So I've included something new in my daily prayer: I pray every single day that I will not forget . That those images of Christ crucified, of him begging the Lord's forgiveness for his enemies, of his bleeding palms and feet, will be burned into my mind for as long as I live.

So please, go see this film. I hope it touches you as deeply as it touched me. And that you too will not forget.

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