Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Passion not a masterpiece (artistic objection)
JamesBowman.net | The Passion of the Christ: "The new age music with pan pipes and wordless choruses, the swelling orchestral sounds at moments of significance, the flashbacks cross cut with the main action so as to produce heavy-handed ironies — all these things take us annoyingly out of the period and plonk us down jarringly in the entertainment culture of the present day."

James Bowman provides an interesting review critiquing the misc-en-scene of The Passion of the Christ as being just as Hollywood as anything else Mel Gibson has done, in the context of Christian art down through the centuries. Quite interesting, and a good rebuttal to the glowing overpraise provided by so many reviewers.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The Lord of the Rings Argument (a theological disagreement)

While I have seen this on other blogs, this came to mind for me independent of those postings, and I think it warrants a comment.

One year before the Lord of the Rings movie came out, I made a point to read all three volumes in the series, along with The Hobbit. I then proceeded to watch the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring upon its release. By the end of the two and a half hours, the images of the various characters were etched into my mind, for better or for worse.

When I went to read the series again one year later, I could not help but see the various faces from the movie whenever a character's name was mentioned. Everytime Frodo was written on paper, I recalled the image of the character played by Elijah Wood. This was a purely involuntary reaction, and try as I might to block out the images Peter Jackson had conjured, I could not.

I hope you can see how this would apply to one problem with viewing the Passion and then reading the Biblical account of Christ's life afterward. How will you be able to avoid recalling the image of Jim Caviezel's face after watching his character suffer as the recipient of so much abuse for so long? Is this not problematic? Exodus 20 says,

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

John Calvin's commentary on the 2nd commandment is especially useful in clarifying this issue:
"It is necessary, then, to remember what God is, lest we should form any gross or earthly ideas respecting Him. The words simply express that it is wrong 1for men to seek the presence of God in any visible image, because He cannot be represented to our eyes. The command that they should not make any likeness, either of any thing which is in heaven, or in the earth, or in the waters under the earth, is derived from the evil custom which had everywhere prevailed; for, since superstition is never uniform, but is drawn aside in various directions, some thought that God was represented under the form of fishes, others under that of birds, others in that of brutes; and history especially recounts by what shameless delusions Egypt was led astray. And hence too the vanity of men is declared, since, whithersoever they turn their eyes, they everywhere lay hold of the materials of error, notwithstanding that God's glory shines on every side, and whatever is seen above or below, invites us to the true God."

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

'Passion' reviews take issue with violence, lack of context: "Another area of concern for many critics was the source material for Gibson's account of Christ's suffering. Although many conservative evangelical leaders have praised the film for its fidelity to the Gospels, other Christian and secular critics have noted that the story draws from several non-biblical sources.

'[A]side from its entertainment value, the movie ensures the advance of biblical illiteracy for years to come and the encroachment of flaky evangelism on those who need an authentic understanding of real faith,' wrote Baptist ethicist Robert Parham, in the webzine EthicsDaily.com.

Gibson, who co-wrote the screenplay, has said he took much of his inspiration for the torture and crucifixion depictions not only from the Gospel accounts, but from the writings of a 19th-century German Catholic nun. The film features much from Catholic tradition that is not based directly on Scripture -- such as Jesus passing through the Stations of the Cross and his mother, Mary, being by his side much of the way."

I suppose that Gibson used this account (the Dolorous Passion) because the Bible and historical veracity just were not important enough? These visions that are so vaguely referred to are those 'seen' by the nun Anne Catherine Emmerich. Thanks to the Secular Franciscan Life for this helpful information and a link to an online PDF of the entire Dolorous Passion. Certainly, in a work like The Passion of the Christ, one must make certain assumptions based on the historical record of the time, and because the Gospels do not have identical accounts of Christ's life and death (but they can be reconciled). Why did Gibson need to consult such a large, extra-biblical account of Christ's death and resurrection?

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The Passion of the Christ: Perhaps the Best Outreach Opportunity in 2000 Years

Why aren't Protestants upset?
First Lady Hopes to See Gibson Movie About Christ
"The Passion of The Christ, which depicts the last 12 hours in Christ's life, is based on gospel accounts from the New Testament as well as the visions of a 19th century mystical nun."
I recently received this in an email from a friend who saw the movie:

Oh, and by the way, I saw "The Passion of the Christ" last night, and I give it an "A" for effort, "B" for theological content, "C" for "gratuitous violence" and an "A" for causing people to think. (I admit, I yawned at a particularly inappropriate time, and I had visions of Bruce Willis, bloodied and torn, in his first "Die Hard" film.) Also, most of the seats had been bought by a church group, and they felt compelled to conduct an "altar call" at the end of the film. That was certainly an uncomfortable experience, for I felt it was somewhat coercive. No one stepped forward for counseling, even though the man chosen to encourage the audience was a little persistent.

Need I ask why aren't we holding our church services in church?

Monday, March 01, 2004

"Jesus' (James Caviezel) death was cruel and bloody, and what he endured for each and every one of us is driven home with that much more emphasis. The blood and deep lacerations covering him did not bother me nearly as much as I thought they would. I couldn't look away from the screen because I kept looking at his eyes. But, it was impossible to look at the screen as they beat him with whips with nails at the end, and again as stakes were driven through his hands and feet." - Cheryl Heitzman, Hillsdale Collegian

This movie is being treated as though it's the Second Coming. Cheryl Heitzman couldn't stop "looking at his eyes." Whose eyes? Christ's? Oops. Actually, those are Jim Caviezel's. Watching The Passion, for many, is a mystic experience. Viewers are going into the theatre and engaging in worship. The problem, though, is that the object of worship is projected light. For Christ's sake, people, the images on the screen are not Jesus. They are not even of Jesus.

"If Christians are called to share in Christ's suffering, Gibson's depiction gives us the first real look we could have as to what that might mean." - Will Farnham, Hillsdale Collegian

And, Farnham, gimme a break. Seeing a movie is sharing in Christ's suffering? Tell that to the thousands of persecuted Christians in the Sudan and China.

God is not pleased.
'666' On 'Passion' Tickets Causes Stir

Not to drift too far off-focus, but the fact is, this sort of superstition is simply absurd.
Sharing the Gospel of The Passion

"I believe people are going to come to Christ because of this movie. But it won’t happen without Christians inviting their unsaved friends and family to see this movie. Most of the unsaved people we know won’t go to church with us, but they’ll certainly go see a movie. We need to share the gospel of the Passion. And this biblical guide will help us do that more effectively. " - Greg Laurie, Harvest Ministries
Jacques Rivette writes, "There are some things that must be approached with fear and trembling. Death is such a thing. How could someone film something so mysterious without the feeling of being an impostor?"
Certainly, reviews of The Passion have been decidedly mixed, but only a few reviewers have really stood up and harshly criticized the film. Predictably, they have become the object of ad hominem attacks. Since the day before the release of The Passion of the Christ, New York Daily News film critic Jami Bernard has sustained the brunt of countless abusive, hate-filled emails (interspersed with a few who agree with her) for her one-star review of the film. Her defense of the review is quite good and telling, including what looked like an allusion to Vertov at the end. If only she could have gone on to explain herself more, but I'm sure we will try and air some of Vertov's opinions on a movie such as The Passion rather soon.
This is not a pipe.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Canonize Mel!