An informal sidebar to The Passion of the Christ directed by two cast members with bit parts, The Big Question touches on key religious issues that Mel Gibson’s exercise in iconographic torture art inexplicably left unprobed. The doc is nothing more or less than on-set interviews with The Passion’s cast and crew (including Gibson) about their personal conceptions of God. Since many are qualified only in their proximity to the film, the degree of theological questioning—is God a man or a woman? Do miracles really happen? What’s the proper way to pray?—stays strictly at a level accessible to the unenlightened.
Noting in a title card that the film set brought together Christians, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists, The Big Question aims to be inclusive—although like The Passion itself, it will probably prove tedious to the less-than-thoroughly devout. Aesthetics trump philosophy: The Big Question maintains our interest with an endless series of unmotivated close-ups, as well as incidental opportunities to appreciate Gibson’s mise en scne; most of the cast is actually interviewed in costume, right down to a blood-covered Jim Caviezel. Whenever the talking heads run out of things to say, the directors cut to a vaguely symbolic white dog wandering the locations. Had they focused on Gibson himself—who claims, ironically, that without religion he’s “prone to be insane”—they’d have asked smaller questions, but made a bigger movie. (Opens Fri; Cinema Village.)—Ben Kenigsberg