I finally watched The Passion of the Christ. No moral outrage, oddly enough: I see what the fuss was about, and am glad to have seen the film for that reason, but on calm reflection found nothing morally objectionable about the film. I do, on the other hand, have some slight artistic outrage at the limited aesthetic values of the film.
What were Mel’s motivations? He claims to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit – of course I think that’s less than likely. It seemed more likely that Mel was making a personal effort to stir up Christianity as a whole; which I don’t find laudable, but certainly don’t think should be beyond his rights (although I don’t doubt that Mel believes that the Holy Spirit directed the film…).
The film, though, isn’t one with a good story: which is tragic, given that most of the stories about Jesus, whether you’re a Christian or not, are fascinating. The story of the big JC’s final hours is diminished by emphasizing the brutal torture rather than making an attempt at cohesive, coherent narrative flow. The torture/flashback sequences get, for want of a better word, somewhat tortured after about 30 minutes, and I found it remarkably difficult to empathize with Jesus’ reticence; which was just irritating.
I think most of the cries of “anti-semite” were overstated. It is true that Pilate’s role in Jesus’ torture and crucifixion is played down; but, in fact, the performance of Pilate was superb, and it was an interesting perspective, if one without massive historical evidence. But the Jews were hardly made out to be vicious psychopaths – only Caiaphas, really, and his motivation would be clear to anyone with any inkling of the story. Mob psychology is clearly the order of the day.
In short, furore aside, you’d be better off watching the 1973 Jesus Christ Superstar. It has a better grasp of the themes of Jesus’ life, the tragedy of Jesus’ death and a coherent flow from one to the other, not to mention some very funky tunes. The Passion seems more like a manic snuff film than anything else; but I guess, if that’s your thing, then go for it.