This World as a Prison:
Mel Gibson's 'Passion of the Christ'
Western Carolina University
The Passion of the Christ seems about as far from Paul
Schrader’s notion of transcendental style in religious film as could be
imagined. Mel Gibson’s ultra-violent torture scenes and arterial spray
crucifixion seem to have more in common with Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer
than anything by than Schrader’s description Yasojiro Ozu’s transcendental
style. But Gibson and Schrader share something: a common disdain for this world
and the desire for the transcendent realm. Gibson’s intense almost slasher film
violence and master French Catholic Robert Bresson’s precise attention to
everydayness seem realms apart and yet both aim to show the meaninglessness of
the world and the desire for escape. In Bresson, escape from the prison in A
Man Escaped, the oppression of the village and the smallness of it people
compared with the priest’s revelation that he has been gifted to suffer the
passion of the Christ in Diary of a Country Priest, or, the explosion of
violence and mass murder at the end of Money, and the suicide/murder at
the conclusion of The Devil, Probably reflect a desire to flee this world
that is filled with violence and devoid of transcendence as much as James
Casiviel’s Jesus regarding the devil walking through a crowd crazed with
violence. In each case the world is not to be embraced but something we must
flee. It is hard to see how Gibson’s story shows us the “world made new” that
Jesus promises Mary in the Passion. It is not in the Takashi Miike like
violence that the film fails but that Gibson does not show us why Jesus would
love the world or even that he does. But this is also true of most of Bresson’s
films and Schrader’s own notion of transcendental style. This desire for escape
to the peace of transcendence beyond the world is at odds with a more romantic
view of a Christ who loves the world and would strive to transform it. In this
paper I want to argue that The Passion of the Christ fails theologically
in the same way Bresson’s masterpieces also fail, through disdain for the world.
Schrader on Transcendental Style
In his classic text on religion in film Paul Scrhader believes
that transcendental style transcends cultures and all individual religions, it
is universal (Schrader 1972, 38). Basically he speaks of three phases or moments
of the style:
The everyday: a meticulous representation of the dull, banal
commonplaces of everyday living. le quotidien. (True realism) (Schrader
Schrader's ideal Christian director, is the great Robert
Bresson. For Bresson the quotidien is shown not just in the meticulous
representation of pickpocket technique in Pickpocket, the dullness and
bigotry of the villagers in Country Priest but in Bresson's spare use of
music, a soundtrack that consists mostly of everyday sounds, only using one
camera angle, use of non professional actor and seeing plot, acting, music,
editing, etc. as “screens” that divert the viewer from the discomfort and
meaninglessness of the everyday. For Schrader, Bresson represents that idea of
film as anti-entertainment. The experience of the everyday is to put us face to
face with the meaningless routine of the world. Here Schrader's critique of the
classic Hollywood religious epics like The Ten Commandments or Ben Hur
is evident. In these films we never confront the everyday but rather they offer
us a false transcendence of our everyday life outside the movie house. When we
attend such films we escape through the emotional high of dramatic music,
pageantry, and special effects. But the spiritual effect is bogus and does not
last but leaves us to return to the boredom of our daily experience with having
never confronted it.
Disparity: an actual or potential disunity between man and
his environment which culminates in a decisive action. (in Bresson films un
moment décisif.) (Schrader 1972, 42)
Bresson's films however confront us with the disparity between a
transcendent reality and the dull service of everyday reality. Suddenly there is
an outburst of inexplicable spiritual emotion as in Pickpocket and
Diary of a Country Priest or as in Bresson's L'Argent incredible
evil. Bresson's heroes either find transcendence beyond the everyday or are
destroyed. Disparity injects a "human density" into the unfeeling everyday which
grows until the moment of decisive action (Schrader 1972, 70). Disparity tries
to evoke a sense of the "wholly other." In The Diary of a Country Priest,
the priest is further and further alienated from his environment. There are
three levels of this alienation:
The sickness of his body.
Social solitude; he is cut off from his parishioners.
Sacred Solitude: The priest seems apart from the world of sin.
But he is also unable to relate to anything in his environment which is cold and
lonely. He is even unable to Pray.
In his solitude the priest realizes that he has to follow the
way of the passion. He remarks "It is not enough that Our Lord should have
granted me the grace of letting me know today, . . .that nothing, throughout
eternity, can remove me from the place chose fro me from all eternity, that I
was the prisoner of his sacred passion" (quoted in Schrader 1972, 73). The quest
is for liberation from the world, liberation from the everyday grind and desire.
Stasis: a frozen view of life which does not resolve the
disparity but transcends it.
There is a definite before and after, a period of disparity and
a period of stasis and between them a final moment of disparity, decisive
action, which triggers the expression of the Transcendent (Schrader 1972, 49).
Complete stasis, or frozen motion, is the trademark of religious
art in every culture. It establishes an image of a second reality which can
stand beside the ordinary reality; it represents the Wholly Other.
Jesus Christ the Lifegiver
In Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest stasis manifest
itself in the shadow of the cross at the end of the film. Schrader says this
"static" view represents transcendence. Schrader calls the end of Bresson's film
"a movie hierophany." The prison metaphor and the soul/body dichotomy are also
part of Bresson and Schrader's take on the transcendent (Schrader 1972 88).
Schrader quotes Calvin, in death "the soul is freed from the prison house of the
body" (Schrader 1972, 89). Schrader points to the otherworldliness of the
orthodox ikon which shuns the emotion and flux of the earthly world and serves
as a window into the eternal. Thus one escapes the bodily realm of desire and
passion to the pure eternal stasis. Schrader's vision of eternity as an escape
from the meaningless world of the everyday resembles Plato's escape from the
cave. In Symposium Plato defines a love in which there is no attachment
to a particular, finite person or to the world of appearances. The philosopher
as he moves toward the love of perfect beauty loves that fair youth only for the
eternal form of beauty imprinted in him, and loves not the youth himself. The
lover of wisdom looks past all finite forms to contemplate the eternal One.
Plato's desire for the eternal absolute purity beyond individuals "clogged with
the pollutions of mortality" illustrates an ultimate disdain for the finite and
earthly that would become part of traditional theism.
But what if a man had eyes to see the true beauty--the divine
beauty, I mean pure and clear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of
mortality and all the colors and vanities of human life--thither looking, and
holding converse with the true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that
communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to
bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities for he has hold not of an image
but of a reality, and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the
friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may. Would that be an ignoble life?
(Plato 1936, 342-343)
Escaping the Prison: Gibson’s Passion
Both Bresson and Schrader were highly critical of Carl Theodore
Dreyer's 1926 masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc. Dreyer influenced
both by the silent film expressionism of the German silent cinema and the small
room drama of the kammerspiel wanted to create a claustrophobic trial for
his Christ figure, masterfully played by Maria Falconetti. He later wrote of his
of extreme closeups on the faces in Joan: "The result of the close-ups
was that the spectator was as shocked as Joan was, receiving the questions,
tortured by them. And, in fact, it was my intention to get this result."
(Schrader 1972, 123) Robert Bresson found this method bombastic. "I understand
that at the time this film was a small revolution, but now I only see all the
actors' horrible buffooneries, terror-stricken grimaces which make me want to
flee." (Schrader 1972, 123) Paul Schrader compares Dreyer's film with Bresson's
Trial of Joan of Arc and finds the former wanting because it pulls us
back into this world. He calls this the "weight" of Dreyer's film (123).
Schrader argues that Dreyer's Joan never demands that we invest anything
like commitment or non-commitment, belief or non belief. We can just view Joan
as an unfortunate young woman (Schrader 1972, 125).
Dreyer's viewers are perpetually stuck at the foot of the cross,
weeping over a corpse soon cold, whereas Bresson's viewers may have transcended
the veil of tears, passing on to something more permanent and edifying. Any
attempts Dreyer may have made at stasis collapse in the final moments of
Passion. Joan's martyrdom is thrown into the simmering social context: the crowd
turns to riot, the soldiers forcibly suppress them, killing and injuring many.
(Schrader 1972, 126)
Schrader says that in Dreyer's Joan the viewer remains
earthbound whereas in Bresson's Joan soars upward. But one could also
argue that Dreyer's Joan is the more effective film precisely because it
does not soar out of the world. It focuses on the injustices of this world, the
absurdities of this world, and yet calls us to compassion and love for it. In
this sense it may be a more effective Christ film than Bresson's films that
exhort us to escape the prison of the world.
Certainly, at first glance, nothing is so remote from Mel
Gibson's gory Passion than the quiet subtleties of a Bresson film. The
Passion of the Christ seems to have much more in common with Dreyer's
Passion of Joan of Arc with the latter focusing on the intense psychological
suffering of its Christ figure and the latter the intense physical suffering of
its Jesus. In fact in his article on the two great scandalous Jesus films
"Celuloid Synoptics: Viewing the Gospels Mel and Marty Together" Darren
Middleton compared Gibson's film to Scorsese's Last Temptation of Christ
and argued that both films come together in their emphasis on Jesus' suffering
humanity (Middleton 2004, 73). This is so much the case that many critics have
excoriated Gibson's film for its pornographic violence. While it is true that
Gibson's Passion forces us to look at the human Jesus being tortured for
more than two hours in a fashion more intense than almost any Hollywood horror
film or Japanese arterial spray fest, ultimately, it still flees the world and
it is here and not in its pornographic violence that the film fails.
No one has seen this more clearly than Mark Wrathall in his
"Seeing the World Made New: Depictions of the Passion and Christian Life."
Wrathall compares Gibson's film to two paintings of the passion, Fra Angelico's
Santa Trinita Altarpiece and Lovis Corinth's Red Christ. In the
former Christ appears at peace. He has transcended this world while in the
latter, like Gibson's film, he suffers intensely. Wrathall sees this as the
strength of Gibson's film. Angelico depicts a remarkably “dispassionate
passion.” “What Angelico shows us outwardly on Christ's body, in other words, is
the tranquil state of mind of an all-knowing God” (Wrathall 2004, 9). Corinth’s
Red Christ, on the other hand, confronts us with intense suffering and
human being crucified.
But Wrathall, like Schrader and Bresson's discussion of Dreyer's
Joan, says that Corinth's painting is too worldly, all we see is a man
being tortured to death. There is no transcendence thus there is also no hope.
Mel Gibson has said that his film focuses on the violence and suffering of the
world. Monica Bellucci, who plays the role of Mary Magdalene in the film has
said The Passion of the Christ is "a reflection on the horror and
absurdity of violence" (quoted in Wrathall 2004, 15).
Fra Angelico, Santa Trinita Altarpiece
Lovis Corinth, Red Christ
Wrathall notes that in
seeing Christ suffer we should be moved by the suffering of all humanity and
compares this to Father Paneloux's realization after the horrible death of a
child in Camus' The Plague that we cannot sit by in the transcendent
realm and calmly observe human suffering in this world (Wrathall 2004, 15). But
Wrathall notes that this is exactly what Gibson does not accomplish in The
Passion. Like Bresson's priest we must die to this world and its violence to
achieve transcendence. Jesus and Judas seem to see the world in similar ways.
For Judas the world is filled with demon children who pursue him to his death.
Christ sees the devil with his/her demon child walking through the crowd as he
is tortured. There is not much to love in this world. Christ’s death will be a
release from the tortures of this world. Mary pleads at the foot of the cross to
die with Jesus. We should hope for the same escape. Wrathall says it is
difficult to see how Jesus will make all things new:
Where I ultimately see it as falling short, however, is in its
failure to redeem Christ's pivotal claim that, through his suffering, the
believer will be able to see how he "makes all things new." Indeed, the world as
the suffering Christ sees it is remarkably like the world as the suffering Judas
sees it. For Judas, his sin has made the world appear as a demonic and miserable
place. The film depicts this admirably, not by showing him as bearing inner
torments, but by showing how the world itself actually looks dark, miserable,
unbearable. The thick night mists are full of demonic sounds and occasional
apparitions. Children are transformed into tormenting fiends, and he is
ultimately driven by the appearance of death and decay all around him to take
his own life and depart the world.
But when Gibson shows us a Christ's-eye perspective of the world, things don't
look significantly different. . . . Gibson's Christ is ultimately a pessimist,
and the world he shows us is, sadly, not a world made new, but a world to be
abandoned as soon as possible (Wrathall 2004, 23).
For Gibson, like Bresson and Schrader, this world is a prison to
be fled. I think that this disdain for the world is no where more evident in
what is the worst failing of the film, the brief resurrection scene where Christ
rises from the dead to marshal music. The risen Christ prepares to go out and
destroy the wicked.
Wrathall concludes his article with an allusion to Dostoevsky's
Brothers Karamazov where, like Camus' Paneloux, Christ is not an escape
from the world but realization of its deepest possibilities, a world made new.
"Dostoevsky's Christianity is summed up by the dying Christ-like character,
Markel who reprimands his mother for focusing on his suffering: 'Don't cry,
mother, life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we won't see it; if we
would we should have heaven on earth the next day.'" (Wrathall 2004, 23) Here we
are presented with Dostoevsky's Christ who would transform the world by
accepting its suffering.
Dostoevsky deals with the same problem that confronts Wrathall
comparison of Fra Angelica's and Corinth's paintings and Schrader and Bresson's
critiques of Dreyer and ultimately confronts Gibson in Passion of the Christ.
Is the only choice between the world and the transcendent? Is there anything to
the world that might be transcendent? The question comes up in The Idiot
when Ippolit describes Holbein's painting of the dead Christ, which hangs in
Rogozhin's house, in his suicide note. Ippolit sees nothing transcendent in the
painting. There is no hope for the world"
I believe that painters are usually in the habit of depicting
Christ, whether on the cross or taken from the cross, as still retaining a shade
of extraordinary beauty on his face; that beauty they strive to preserve even in
his moments of greatest agony. In Rogozhin's picture there was no trace of
beauty. It was a faithful representation of the dead body of a man who has
undergone unbearable torments before the crucifixion, been wounded, tortured,
beaten by the guards, beaten by the people, when he carried the cross and fell
under its weight, and, at last, has suffered the agony of crucifixion, lasting
for six hours (according to my calculation, at least) . . . I know that the
Christian Church laid it down in the first few centuries of its existence that
Christ really did suffer and that the Passion was not symbolical. His body on
the cross was therefore fully and entirely subject to the laws of nature. In the
picture the face is terribly smashed with blows, swollen, covered with terrible,
swollen, and bloodstained bruises, the eyes open and squinting; the large, open
whites of the eyes have a sort of dead and glassy glint. (Dostoevsky 1942,
Hans Holbein, The Dead Christ in the Tomb
Ippolit not only describes the painting for his listeners, but
attempts to place it in contrast with other depictions of Christ, correctly
noting that this image offers an extremely naturalistic rendering of a dead
human being. Ippolit recognizes and analyzes the power of this iconography in
his rambling suicide note. Basically he argues that the painting has destroyed
his belief in the transcendent:
Looking at that picture, you get the impression of nature as
some enormous, implacable, and dumb beast, or, to put it more correctly, much
more correctly, though it may seem strange, as some huge engine of the latest
design, which has senselessly seized, cut to pieces, and swallowed
up--impassively and unfeelingly--a great and priceless Being, a Being worth the
whole of nature and all its laws, worth the entire earth, which was perhaps
created solely for the coming of that Being! The picture seems to give
expression to the idea of a dark, insolent, and senselessly eternal power, to
which everything is subordinated, and this idea is suggested to you
unconsciously. The people surrounding the dead man, none of whom is shown in the
picture, must have been overwhelmed by a feeling of terrible anguish and dismay
on that evening which had shattered all their hopes and almost all their beliefs
at one fell blow. They must have parted in a state of the most dreadful terror,
though each of them carried away within him a mighty thought which could never
be wrested from him. And if, on the eve of the crucifixion, the Master could
have seen what He would look like when taken from the cross, would he have
mounted the cross and died as he did?" (ibid.)
Holbein's dead Christ captures the fascinated gaze of the
characters in The Idiot because it represents that which is nearly beyond
representation. The unmediated image of a dead and brutally tortured human being
is one which is quite inconsistent with the more popular images of a beautiful
Christ (which Ippolit considers the norm) and with the iconography of the
Russian icon. Here is Wrathall's comparison of Fra Agellica and Corinth. The
icon and the beautiful are called into question by Holbein's ugly realistic
painting of a dead human being that defies the notion that resurrection and
transcendence is possible. For Ippolit when we see this painting we see the
cruelty of the world. Here is Corinth's Red Christ in all its brutality.
Here Schrader's idea of the horror of the everyday that he seeks to escape with
transcendence as stasis. In this respect Gibson's Passion of the Christ
succeeds where films like Nicholas Ray's King of Kings, George Stevens'
Greatest Story Ever Told and Franco Zefferelli's Jesus of Nazareth
have most miserably failed. The crucifixion is still beautiful for them. One
cannot look at Jeffrey Hunter (complete with shaved armpits) on the cross and
see the ugliness of suffering humanity. Max Von Sydow may have been a good
choice for George Stevens’ Christ but Stevens’ crucifixion scene is so obviously
a pretty set piece. Gibson is a great improvement on all this. He sees it has
the ultimate representation of the everyday reality of this world which is cruel
and violent. But it is just this either/or that is the problem? Wrathall's
reference to Markel’s story that becomes so important to Zosima and Alyosha in
Brothers Karamazov suggests another solution another type of
transcendence which loves the world.
Loving the World: Romantic Eschatology
Eschatology is one way of thinking transcendence. It gives us an
idea about the relation of God/the divine and the world. One way to distinguish
eschatologies is to see how they respond to the question "God plus the world
is/is not greater than God alone?" The way the question is answered determines
the way we conceive the ultimate value of the world.
In theistic and non-dualist eschatologies, both in the East and
West, the existence of the world adds nothing to God/Being's perfection. These
views pit and eternally perfect reality against the illusion of a temporal and
imperfect world of appearances. World's end is its termination, it in itself is
purposeless; it has no telos, no aim, no goal intrinsic to its nature. The world
is there, not good in itself nor as functional for an intrinsic purpose; rather
it is a valley of tears, a training ground of virtue, a pilgrimage or waiting
room to eternity or nirvana. This type of eschatology supposes a relation of
eternity to time/history in which eternity is not affected by time. Eternity
enters time violently altering it but not in the least affected by time/history.
This world has no meaning in itself. One is real while the other is appearance,
its temporality and historicallity are ultimately less real. This is the
eschatology of Schrader's transcendental style, of Robert Bresson and also Mel
In what I am calling romantic eschatologies the world as has an
aim or purpose that affects God/Being or is beyond God/Being thus God plus the
world is greater than God alone. Eternity of changeless being is what we wish to
escape and not harbor a nostalgic desire for return to a peaceful non-temporal,
non-finite unity. The unity aimed at, though perhaps never achieved may not
exist but "insists" on the horizon as the infinite task of divine and human
action. A form of this type of eschatology M. H. Abrams called “The Circuitous
Journey.” In his great work on the romantic movement, Natural
Supernaturalism, Abrams argues that much romantic poetry follows the theme
exemplified in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit of the "Circuitous
Journey" which traces a path from a unified though static eternity through the
alienation of the world to final triumph of love that require a return to unity
that preserves the radical plurality of real others. A popular example of this
from your childhood and mine would be Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.
Dorothy leaves Kansas and finally returns home, but is transformed by the
journey. She has truly learned to be a self through her love of her family and
friends. Similar patterns can be found in other films but I will mention Wim
Wenders' Wings of Desire, Harold Ramis' Groundhog's Day, Ang Lee's
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Terrence Malick's The Thin Red
Line starring Gibson's Jesus, James Caviezel, as a the Christ figure Witt.
At the beginning there is no-thing, no history, but there is
unity and oneness. Dorothy is at home in black and white Kansas but the conflict
with Miss Gulch and her desire to go over the rainbow will plunge her into the
color and fear of Oz. We seek to leave eternity because, like Kansas, nothing
happens there. Another good example of this is Harold Ramis' comedy Groundhog
Day which Slavoj Zizek uses to explain the German Romantic F.W.J Schelling's
romantic rebellion against the traditional changeless Platonic ideal of
The 'Schellingian' dimension of the film resides in its
anti-Platonic depreciation of eternity and immortality: as long as the hero
knows that he is immortal, caught in the 'eternal return of the same' - that the
same day will dawn again and again - his life bears the mark of the unbearable
lightness of being,' of an insipid and shallow game in which events have a kind
of ethereal pseudo-existence; he falls back into temporal reality only and
precisely when his attachment to the girl grows into true love. Eternity is a
false, insipid game: an authentic encounter with the Other in which 'things are
for real' necessarily entails a return to temporal reality. (Zizek 1996, 53)
Time and eternity begin with God's act of decision to become a
person and one is only a person in relation to other persons. As God moves
toward personhood Schelling indicates, as with the move from eternity to time,
the move from the indifference and unity of the absolute to the strife and
plurality of the world is a move in the right direction. This is no longer
simply a Fall from the absolute but also an ascent though which not only
humanity but God finds Her/Himself (Zizek 1996, 55). Think of the Angel Damiel's
renunciation of Angelic status, a static black and white eternity of observation
but not involvement, for love of the human Marion in Wim Wender's Wings of
Desire. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz Damiel moves from colorless
eternity to a realm of love and risk, a realm of color and passion. Or, there is
also the Buddhist monk Mu Bai's renunciation of an immaculate nirvana in
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon declaring that his life has been a waste
because of his inability to declare his love and attachment for Shu Lien a
person in the world of change. In all these cases passion can only be fulfilled
through the renunciation of immaculateness of eternity, by entering the world
(Zizek 1996, 87n64). The finite is no longer a fall or descent from God but is
conceived as an ascent. It is the process through which God finds himself. ". .
. to regain His/Her mind by curing Her/Himself of the rotary motion of drives,
of this 'divine madness.' Thus the fall is not a fall but a Beginning it is a
resolution of an unbearable tension." (Zizek 1996, 55).
In this eschatology the unified absolute of the one is not
something to which one wishes to return. It is not perfection only unity. The
difficulty with the absolute whether it is the personal absolute of theism or
the impersonal absolute of pantheism is that it is perfect and unaffected by
The final step of the circuitous journey is return home that is
not a return or escape into the transcendence of timeless eternity but a
transcendence that seeks to transform the world through love. At the end of
Wender's Wings of Desire Damien leaves the changeless eternity of angelic
status for love with Marion. In Schelling's Of Human Freedom "This is the
secret of love, that it unites such being as could each exist in itself, and
nonetheless neither is nor can be without the other" (Schelling 1936, 89); and
"This is the secret of eternal Love--that which would fain be absolute in itself
nonetheless does not regard it as a deprivation to be so in itself but is so
only in and with another" (ibid.). Contrast this passionate of love as the
desire and attachment to the other with all its risk to the nostalgia for the
eternity of perfect being in Plato's bequeaths to Western theism in his
description of love from the Symposium. In Schelling and Wings of
Desire the risks of love demand attachment to this world.
For all their differences in style Schrader's,
Bresson's, and Gibson's visions of transcendence all emphasize the
pollution and unreality of the finite world and escape to the glories of
the kingdom of God. Like Pilgrim in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress
who covers his ears as not to hear the supplications of his family as he
runs from them shouting "eternal life, eternal life" they seek to flee
the world. Mark Wrathall's critique of Gibson's film is dead on in this
respect. The romantic vision of Christ emphasized in Dostoevsky's
characters like Markel, Zossima, and Alyosha are all involved in the
world, in the risky love of humanity. Caviezel's Christ figure Witt in
Terence Malick's The Thin Red Line is a much more effective
Christian symbol than his Jesus in Gibson's film. Witt sees the horror
of the war and the failures of human beings but he loves them. We don't
see much of Jesus's love of humanity in Passion of the Christ. If
we did it might help us desire to help end injustice and suffering in
this world instead of wish to flee to another. We might be more moved by
reports and images from Iraq and see Christ’s humanity in the tormented
prisoners. What is striking in the images from Abu Ghraib is their
similarity to images from Gibson's film each exhibits the absurd depths
of human cruelty.
The difference between the two films is that in the
Passion we desire to follow Jesus out of this world and away from
such disturbing evil. In The Thin Red Line there is no away, we
must love the world and seek to transform it.
 A. O. Scott's review of the film is a
clear example (there are many others). The Passion of the Christ "is so
relentlessly focused on the savagery of Jesus's final hours that it seems to
arise less from love than from wrath, and to succeed more in assaulting the
spirit than in uplifting it. . . . It is disheartening to see a film made with
evident and abundant religious conviction that is at the same time so utterly
lacking in grace." Scott infers from the violence of the film that it must be
intended "to terrify or inflame" the audience: "The desired response of the
audience to this spectacle is, of course, not revulsion but something like . . .
cowering, quivering awe." He concludes that a Christian viewer is forced into a
"sadomasochistic paradox" in which her faith in the necessity of Christ's
sacrifice compels her to squelch "the ordinary human response", namely,
"wish[ing] for the carnage to stop." (Quoted in Wrathall 2004, 12).
From The Passion of the Christ. Source:
Abu Ghraib 1. AP Photo. Source: USAToday.com
From The Passion of the Christ. Source:
Abu Ghraib 2. Source: UnFairWitness
Abrams. M. H. Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and
Revolution in Romantic Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1971.
Baugh, Lloyd. Imaging the Divine: Jesus and Christ Figures in
Film. Franklin, WI: Sheed and Ward, 2000.
Frazer, Peter. Images of the Passion: The Sacramental Mode in
Film. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998.
Middleton, Darren. "Celluoid Synoptics: Viewing the Gospels of
Mel and Marty Together." In Reviewing the Passion: Mel Gibson's Film and it
Critics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Plato. The Symposium. In The Works of Plato.
Translated by Benjamin Jowett. New York: The Dial Press, 1936.
Schelling, F.W.J. Of Human Freedom. Translated by James
Gutmann. Chicago: Open Court, 1936.
Schelling, F.W.J. "Stuttgart Seminars." In Idealism and the
Endgame of Theory, translated and edited by Thomas Pfau. Albany: State
University of New York Press, 1994.
Schrader, Paul. Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson,
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