Hah! I found it! Here it is... note: this is totally unedited and unrevised...I didn't even read it before I posted it here, so it is my comments unvarnished from the first time I saw it.
February 26, 2004
OK, I am just going to write whatever comes to mind…but here are some of the impressions I have, fresh out of seeing this incredible work by Mr. Gibson and crew:
1) The violence is not, as you may have been led to believe, in surmountable and over-the-top. The violence is there, to be sure, but it doesn’t really hit you until you see it through the eyes of Mary, or John, or the apostles. The violence serves to show us how much He loved us. The scourging is not twenty minutes of constant pain…there are flashbacks to happier times, and the focus switches from Jesus to Mary, and back again. Whenever the pain seems to be too much, Gibson gives us a flashback to better times. There is even humor in the movie…though very little. (Jesus is building a table, and Mary says it’s too high. Jesus says that there’ll be tall chairs to go with it. To this, Mary says “it’ll never catch on.” The other “funny” part is when Barabas is released to the crowd, and you see that he’s a few marbles short of a bag. That’s kind of funny…but not really.)
2) The message is superb. It should be required viewing for the entire human race. It is just superb. Jesus’ love overflows every scene, and the message of love and forgiveness permeates the entire film. You cannot leave this film without being staggered by the sheer weight and enormity of God’s love for us, His children. It is overwhelming. You want to run to a church and thank God for sending His Son to us. You are overcome with gratitude.
3) It brings the entire Passion and Jesus’ message to life. You see everything in vivid detail—not gory detail, but vivid detail. You really understand the sacrifice of Jesus. I have never seen the Stations of the Cross as vividly as I did tonight. You feel like you are there, with Jesus and His Mother, watching everything unfold. It is a tremendous feeling.
4) You want to be a better person after watching this film. You want to pray, and live better, and be better, just to thank God for doing this for us. It is an amazing thing. I left the theater feeling lightheaded and like I was going to faint. The weight of God’s goodness and glory is overwhelming.
5) As for the finer points of cinema, it is a wonderfully done movie in its own right. The music is so powerful and fits perfectly, a mixture of orchestral strings and a full adult chorus, with strong voices that heighten the emotion to an unimaginable pitch. The acting is stupendous. Maia Morgenstern as Mary is masterful in every scene, but especially when she runs to Jesus as He falls under the weight of the cross and says, “I’m here.” She is the perfect Mother of God. James Caviezel, as Jesus, is nothing short of amazing. He is just beyond words. He is the perfect Jesus. While you’re watching it, you’re thinking, that’s Him. The actors who play Pilate, his wife, Claudia, Mary Magadelene, and the apostles are also so tuned-in to their roles that you hardly notice they are acting. The scene between John, Mary, Mary Magadalene, and Claudia during Jesus’ flogging is so well-balanced and so highly charged with energy that it will make you weep. Wonderful acting, just wonderful. The scenery is beautiful, the costumes are accurate, the characterizations and screenplay are beyond wonderful. All of this, as well as Gibson’s magnificent directing, make this a truly wonderful film that is well worth the viewing and moments of discomfort, just for the true beauty and luminous qualities of the film.
6) No one can come out of this movie hating anyone. The idea of anti-semitism is ridiculous. If anything, this movie makes you want to stand up and say, “I love every single person in this theater as my brother or sister in Christ, and I will pray for all of you every day for the rest of my life.” This movie makes you realize how much Christ loved us, that he was willing to undergo that horrible death that you just watched for us. To save us—all of us.
7) As a Catholic, I watched this movie somewhat differently. I noticed that each of the stations of the Cross was done in loving detail, bringing them gloriously to life. I saw saints and a Pope of the church brought to life, including Veronica and Simon of Cyrene. The movie, I think, presents Catholic Marian doctrine in clearly enunciated terms: this is what true holiness is. Mary always leads us to her Son, and the movie shows how she does, indeed, bring all believers to His feet. All of the apostles in the film call her “Mother”, as we all should do. She is the mother of all believers. The movie is also intensely biblical, even beginning with one of my favorite Bible quotes, from Isiah 53, the text that is read on Good Friday.
8) Watching the film makes you see the real humanity of Jesus and His mother. You see Jesus as a man who has gone through everything a human can go through: abandonment, pain, betrayal, anguish, total desolation, even close to despair in the garden. He is tempted by Satan, who is always present. He wants to get out, but He knows that God’s will is the greater goal. He is the perfect model for us. Mary is seen as a woman who has lost her husband, who watches her innocent son be beaten, tortured, reviled, and eventually killed, all for the sake of others. Her pain is tangible and so painful. She has endured everything a person can endure…they both have. The film brings out their humanity and their pain so beautifully. This is what makes you weep. Mary is a mother, first and last. Jesus is her son, and she watches Him die so that others may live. The scenes between Mary and Jesus, especially while Jesus is carrying the cross, and He says, ‘see, I make all things new,” is especially wrenching...it was here that I really cried, tears running down my face. You can’t help but cry. It is such a powerful moment.
9) The languages and subtitles add to the reality, and you actually learn something…I learned that the word “gubernatorial” (as in, the election of a governor) is actually derived from Latin, which I didn’t know before. Who says Latin is a dead language?
Overall, this is a tremendous film. The violence is not as bad as you imagine. It can’t be. Everyone has it so built up in their heads that it can’t possibly be as bad as you imagine. Run and see it. You will feel so overwhelmed with the love of God, and His mercy and justice, and you will love everyone you meet. The movie is intensely powerful. What a wonderful tool for conversion. This, my friends, is what Christianity is all about.
Go watch it. Seep in its message. I hope that it makes you a better person, and I hope, if you are not religious, that it makes you be so. It is a profound message it is sending…a message of forgiveness, love, and mercy. It is a film of hope…the movie ends with the Resurrection, Jesus sitting, alive, clean, free of blood, in the tomb, and then He rises and you see the nail mark that goes through his hand, and the film ends. It ends with hope and redemption. That alone is a thrilling moment. This is a film about love and mercy. May its message reach you, and I hope that you find its message as comforting and profound as I did.
(I went on to see it three more times in the theater, since most of my friends were wimps and wouldn't see it alone. :) It is much, much better if you can watch this movie in a nice, quiet, dark room as to totally absorb the atmosphere)