The Passion Recut (15)
Not yet rated
Time Out saysShorn of six minutes, with a 15 certificate, Mel Gibson’s chronicle of every punch, whip, spit and kick suffered by Christ between Judas’s kiss and the resurrection – one long take – announced by moving stone, light-filled tomb and billowing winding cloths is rivetingly sincere. Which may be the problem for some, of course; Gibson’s put the drooling and blowflies and raw, flayed flesh back into Western civilisation’s most prettified image. Non-believers can take this as the last classical tragedy of the flawed hero, purging through terror and pity.
I didn’t see the original cut and was surprised to be so reminded of Pasolini’s ‘Gospel’ – not just the same sun-baked landscape (Matera) where the buildings, like human myth, seem to swell from the earth, but because of vivid, economical use of close-up. Pasolini’s non-professionals in black and white evoked a renaissance, painterly feel; Gibson’s actors swelter and brood in a range of pictorial references – Caravaggio light and shadow, serenely mellow Rembrandt ambers (rare), a sexually ambivalent Satan suckling a baby that turns to camera, blotchy, whiskered and leering, suddenly a Beardsley homunculus. Above all, the crowd, faces distorted by hate, gloating sadists from Bosch or Breughel, the Temple elders recalling Venetian renaissance splendour… Iconic in the true sense, Gibson’s ‘Passion’ is bathed in traditional, populist Western imagery – hence, doubtless, accusations of anti-Semitism. In which case the great art galleries of Europe are full of politically incorrect canvases.
Gibson’s pacing and the script’s flashbacks (Last Supper, Sermon on the Mount) ring variations on the central, unremitting theme of suffering. It holds your attention throughout, a reminder of the – truth? myth? propaganda? – that, for good or ill, has dominated western society for two millennia.
Fri Mar 25, 2005