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Oh, For Art's Sake! (The Passion)
Anna Zetchus Raetz

Posted on 02/28/2004 8:54:36 PM PST by AnnaZ

Oh, For Art's Sake!
Anna Zetchus Raetz, Los Angeles
Somewhere in the midst of all of the hype that preceded the Passion's highly (or warily) anticipated opening, the subject of the debate was lost, and, sadly, no one noticed.
To its detractors, the first stage was pre-emptive, sprung whilst the film was still being shot. It was dismissed as too inaccessible -- dead languages, an uncomfortable-to-the-point-of-gruesome focus, dogmatic. Distributors balked.
Once distribution was guaranteed regardless, the spectre of Anti-Semitism was the next attempted, still attempting, dissuader. Is Mel a Holocaust Denier? "Who killed Jesus"? Blood libel! Is the script too literal or too mythical? Are the roots not too Biblical, but really the rantings of a Jew-hating hallucinogenic nun?
Lots of seemingly normal people still planned to see it.
Thus, stage three was the launching, still flying, of the "too violent"-"gory"-"barbaric"-"fetishistic" assault, unsuccessfully disguised as public service. This, frankly, was the more amusing of the accusations if only for the sheer audacity of its hypocrisy, considering the sources from whence these slams derived. (The only thing more naked was the New York Times' article regarding studio heads' plans to boycott Gibson forthwith, a shockingly unspun outburst.)
Still, people went and saw it, I among them, and Passion of the Christ had the biggest opening of an R-rated film. Ever. By a mile.
But due to the cacophony from both sides I now realize that I will not have seen it until I see it a second time, without their words ringing in my ears. And I strongly recommend the same to all.
As I exited the theatre after seeing it opening night, I was suffused with love for my fellow man and resolute in my philosophy that there is nothing of greater import than one's relationship with God, with one's Creator, and that, at the end of the day, it's between the individual and Jesus.
Here, the film said to me, here is this gift, do you accept it? And if you choose to accept the story just depicted then the only acceptable response to it, indeed the demand of it, is love. Accept it and arise, new, redeemed, golden, victorious. Decline and one's fate is that of the maggot-ridden ass, of Legion, dust and howls and bones. And all this demonstrated with very, very few words.
As I walked with friends and family down the street a sad anger aimed at the detractors began to build inside, an anger certain, though dulled by the depth of the experience.
Too narrow? It is the directive of the director's faith. Anti-Semitic? Almost every protagonist is Jewish. Too violent? Not, unfortunately, compared to reality. Too not what you'd prefer it would be? It is one artist's vision.
Too beautiful! The colors, the poses, the lighting, the emotion. A film -- neither agitprop nor absolution, but rather a moving tableau illustrating God's love for man, created by a man who loves God in return, with a dying world in between. Within the confines of Gibson's understanding he has touched the depths of that question that lives within us, that is answered daily in the complex and the banal, in the choices of the moment that craft the theme of a lifetime.
For this aspect, and this alone, some will love it and some will hate it and some will weep and some will be stunned and it needs to be seen again on its own worthy merits, for what it is, unperverted by the prism of anyone but one's self.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God:
for they are foolishness unto him:
neither can he know them,
because they are spiritually discerned.
    1st Corinthians 2:14
See it in the Spirit, see it in the flesh, but for a moment at least see it simply as art. Where is the discussion of the lighting, the performances, the camera work, the music, the vision? Mel Gibson's Passion of The Christ may very well be, so far, the 21st Century's Sistine Chapel, but the viewers will need to look up to see it. To be finally appreciated as such, The Passion will need to survive the boxes that people on both sides keep attempting to put it into. And thus has it always been for real, actual, art -- with the pious and the fashionistas, down the road, trying to convince all that they were there in the beginning.
For at the end of the day, this is art -- meditative, redemptive, devotional, powerful art -- because that was the gift of the director. The film is less a series of scenes and more a literally and figuratively moving mural of, objectively, an incredible story. It doesn't try to be a documentary, for which one should be grateful.
This week has been tough in Hollywood with the Oscars overshadowed by, of all things, a film that exalts the Lamb of God. The American Film Market is also currently in town, and the self-promoting and self-congratulating is reaching crescendo.
After seeing the movie a few of us went around the corner for a drink, to relax, ruminate. A man was hosting a party for himself -- posters for his movie all around, the flick itself projected onto the walls, postcard-sized headshots that read "For your consideration for work"...
After what we had just experienced it was a garish surreality. We chose to step back outside lest the resonance of the beauty we had experienced slip out of our grips as well.

TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: passion; thepassion
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To: AnnaZ
Hi Anna, good article. I'm going to see it several times myself. I sat too close. I also had listened to too many reviews and read too many articles. Do you think the sleeping giant has awakened?
21 posted on 02/28/2004 9:33:37 PM PST by abigail2 (“Human sickness is so severe that few can bear to look at it, but those who do will become well.”)
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To: AnnaZ
That is great Anna.

Incredible actually.

I agree completely with the phases of attack implemented by the detractors.

I saw Mike Medavoy last night on TV yeehawing that all this publicity good or bad is what has catapulted this movie. I was suprised. It dawned on me just how out of touch a rather saavy Hollywood mogul can be. Point is that the second we knew that the same fellow who brought us Braveheart, Patriot and We Were Soldiers was doing a film on Jesus then it was painfully obvious that a slew of folks were going to want to see it....dead languages notwithstanding.

The opposition has only steeled the resolve and as a good byproduct in my view....opened up the most candid dialogue between cultural polar opposites I've seen in my life. The exchange between William Donohue and Medavoy would not have been possible prior to this film.

Again, well done. I think we have a sitter for Monday afternoon so we can go for the first time. I would imagine I will buy the DVD.
22 posted on 02/28/2004 9:41:25 PM PST by wardaddy (A man better believe in something or he'll fall for anything.)
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To: AnnaZ
I like your comments here. I also strongly support the idea of seeing this movie two, three or five times. The left will get it's lunch handed to it at the box office. And that's an idea I can sink my teeth into.

As the garish competition to the Passion of Christ pulls in $20 million or so this weekend, Mel Gibson's, no perhaps 'our' work of art will draw over five times as much. I say 'our', because Mel's gift is now ours. I have adopted it.

Later this year I will own a copy of this movie. If he re-releases the movie once a year, I'll go see it in the theater each time. This may be one of the first movies in history that could pull in $100 million per year indefinately.

This movie will still be making money when the grandchildren of it's detractors are adults, providing Christ hasn't come back to rescue us from this stinking hell hole by then.
23 posted on 02/28/2004 9:42:06 PM PST by DoughtyOne
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To: armyboy
I wish that I could see The Passion while it's in theaters. But I do plan on buying the DVD.
Which is what makes this film better than the Sistine Chapel... practically anyone can own their own copy.
And thank you for your service!

24 posted on 02/28/2004 9:45:18 PM PST by AnnaZ (I hate Times New Roman... and it's all Mel Gibson's fault!)
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To: AnnaZ
I just saw the Passion today, and will see it again. It was an inspired movie - Thank you for your courage and love of the Son of Man, Mel Gibson!
25 posted on 02/28/2004 9:46:53 PM PST by Libertina (Praavda not challenging enough? Enroll in Abcnbccbscnbccnn Comrade College)
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To: AnnaZ; Alamo-Girl; betty boop; bondserv; Dataman; Quix; Diamond; livius; restornu; JustPiper; ...
Thank you Anna. Hmm... have you been waiting in that Chapel day and night, so you could see? ;-` Thoughtful and evocative.

Yes, yes, when it all comes down, it's all about Jesus and each of us.

26 posted on 02/28/2004 9:47:40 PM PST by unspun (The uncontextualized life is not worth living. | I'm not "Unspun w/ AnnaZ" but I appreciate.)
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To: Sloth
On the violence issue, the best comment I've seen was about the tremendous irony in how some of the articles bashing the movie use the term "excruciating" to describe it, without any apparent understanding of the word's etymology.
LOL, but good grief... to be added to the annals of "Things You Can't Make Up".

27 posted on 02/28/2004 9:47:41 PM PST by AnnaZ (I hate Times New Roman... and it's all Mel Gibson's fault!)
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To: Sloth
Oh my, what a great post and thank you for that bit of knowledge!
28 posted on 02/28/2004 9:47:58 PM PST by Libertina (Praavda not challenging enough? Enroll in Abcnbccbscnbccnn Comrade College)
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To: armyboy
Perhaps the movie can be brought in for everyone?
29 posted on 02/28/2004 9:48:51 PM PST by Libertina (Praavda not challenging enough? Enroll in Abcnbccbscnbccnn Comrade College)
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To: DoughtyOne; AnnaZ
And Joel Siegel was the one among two other odd choices in CNN's discussion group, who defended both Mel Gibson's artistic license and his discipleship (though he didn't use that word and though he was embarrased to be the defender).
30 posted on 02/28/2004 9:50:47 PM PST by unspun (The uncontextualized life is not worth living. | I'm not "Unspun w/ AnnaZ" but I appreciate.)
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To: Libertina; armyboy; 68-69TonkinGulfYatchClub
Perhaps the movie can be brought in for everyone?
That's a great idea.
(Tonk: pinging the One In The Know...)

31 posted on 02/28/2004 9:51:57 PM PST by AnnaZ (I hate Times New Roman... and it's all Mel Gibson's fault!)
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To: AnnaZ
I'd not be surprised that another attack will come. Given the ambi-sexual nature of Satan in the film, the charge of "homophobia" will likely arise.

I too, plan to see it again. Was going to take in a late showing tonight, but all showings here were sold out.

32 posted on 02/28/2004 9:51:57 PM PST by per loin
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To: AnnaZ
Thank you, Anna!

The only other post I have read here on FR that can compare to this one is one that was written on another thread tonight by Joanie-F. I don't think she will mind if I cut and paste it here. You and Joanie seem to share opinions:


I had intended to take a hiatus from FR for a while (and still do), but I have been reading and hearing a good many commentaries on ‘The Passion of Christ’ that have missed the mark so badly that I feel moved to at least put down on paper my observations about the movie, for whatever they may be worth.

As is probably the case with most people who have seen the movie, for me to attempt to communicate everything I came away with would take days, weeks. I would just like to focus on what I believe are a few misconceptions, and what I believe some of the ‘messages’ of the movie were.

First, the pre-release, and post-release, uproar regarding an ‘anti-Semitic’ message contained in ‘The Passion’ is absurd and politically agenda-driven.

The crowd that demanded Christ’s crucifixion was, of course, composed of Jews. They are the people who lived in Jerusalem. But the Jews in the crowd that demanded His crucifixion did not necessarily (and most probably didn’t) reflect the anger of the Jewish people in general. It was a relatively small crowd in comparison to the population of the city, and it was most likely purposefully assembled by the Sanhedrin and high priests who feared Jesus because he was undermining their authority. Those many Jews who were receptive to Christ’s teaching, or who were unaffected by Him in any way, remained in the shadows, fearing for their lives.

Among those who remained in the shadows was Simon of Cyrene, who, at the fifth station of the carrying of the cross, was ordered to come out from those who stood back from the mob, to help the weakening Christ with his burden for the last few hundred feet of his walk to Calvary. He did so reluctantly and begrudgingly, fearing for his life, and not knowing who this Man was. But, in physically supporting (almost carrying) Jesus those last few hundred feet, and in spiritually ‘connecting’ with him during those brief but powerful moments, he almost instantly knew whose cross he was bearing … and then attempted to comfort Him and convince others of the wrongness of what was about to happen. [Interestingly, scripture tells us little more about Simon after this day. But his sons became very involved in the Christian congregation in Rome, which suggests that Simon may have become a Christian as well.]

My point in even bringing this up is that, in ‘The Passion,’ I believe Simon may have been the only character who was purposefully labeled (through dialogue) a Jew. And, if one would want to characterize him, he was portrayed in an extremely sensitive and heroic light. The mob, although composed of Jews, was not portrayed as representing a people – but, instead, as representing a relatively small, agenda-driven mob, whose actions were orchestrated by the Sanhedrin. Most of the Jews in the city stayed in the shadows for fear of losing their lives. And the one who came out of the shadows, as a result of an order issued by a Roman soldier, connected with Christ (in a way that perhaps no one else but Mary, his own mother, did just then) during His last minutes on earth .... and he sought desperately to help Him.

Much of the evil in our world is the result of the fact that scripture is ridiculed, and the concept of scriptural morality (as represented by the Ten Commandments, and the teachings of Christ) is under relentless attack. I believe the cries of anti-Semitism in this movie have one purpose: to drive a wedge between Jews and Christians. An alliance of Jews and Christians strikes fear in the hearts of those who would do away with the moral concept of right and wrong contained in His word (both Old and New Testaments), and the teachings of His Son.

One of the several powerful messages in the movie (as was spoken in Aramaic by Christ in one of the relatively few lines of dialogue) was the fact that His followers will be persecuted. He warned His faithful disciples (in the movie, and countless times in Scripture) that they will suffer a future of persecution, and even death.

I believe that is one of the movie’s strongest messages: that Christians must prepare themselves for the coming persecutions … for the fact that the evil in the world will increasingly seek to silence them. His words are born out today, as the Christian church – especially in Africa and Asia – is under relentless, and growing, assault.

As just a personal example: The church that I attend (named after St. Paul, author of most of the books of the New Testament) has ‘planted’ a sister church in Liberia, affectionately known as ‘Little St. Paul’s’. Over the past decade, the membership in Little St. Paul’s has grown by leaps and bounds. Our church regularly sends barrels (as in thousands of pounds) of supplies to our sister church (medical equipment, Bibles, textbooks, personal items, repair equipment, etc.) – and a small group from our church travels there for a month every other year (if political conditions in the region allow) in order to get a firsthand look at the progress that is being made, the conditions in the area, and to offer physical help with whatever the people are in need of (I will be a part of that rotating contingent in November of 2004). Over the past two years, conditions in the region have deteriorated, and, because of the brutal civil war, and the growing anti-Christian sentiment of the government (which sees Christianity as a threat to its tyrannical power), there are often months at a time in which we are cut off from communication with our sister church. The church itself often suffers major damage (by fire or vandalism), in which case the people meet in their homes until they can make repairs and return to worship in their church building. Many of the congregation have been killed by agents of the government. And yet their membership continues to grow. Their newfound Christianity is strong and unyielding to violent dictatorial ultimatums, even to the point of death.

Such persecution is common in African (and Asian) nations, and is increasing. Especially in Eritrea, Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe, Christians are routinely rounded up and taken into government custody. Generally they are asked to sign a paper renouncing their belief in Christ. And often, if they do not do so (which they rarely, if ever, do), they are either held indefinitely under inhuman conditions, sold into slavery, or brutally tortured, or executed, by the dozens or hundreds. The incidents are increasing dramatically, and the numbers of Christian martyrs around the world – but especially in Africa -- are growing daily.

Christ warned His followers that, in the end times, such persecution would escalate. That warning was contained in a very moving part of ‘The Passion’ – which is yet another reason that the enemies of freedom (religious and otherwise) despise this film. It is calling attention to a brand of evil that they would rather remained unreported and unacknowledged.

I saw the movie on opening night. I will be seeing it again tomorrow afternoon. I was not able to digest much of the movie the first time around. I did not see large portions of it, because I knew what was about to happen and couldn’t bring myself to watch. I also found my mind shutting down during several particularly graphic scenes. I believe that I need to go back and have the courage to take in those parts that I was unable to take in on Wednesday, for one reason: We need to comprehend what our Lord did for us. We need to be reminded that the words ‘What would Jesus do?’ are not simply a slogan to be etched on a bracelet, or recited as a stanza of primitive poetry. We need to know … really know … the eternal purpose behind His willing sacrifice and His brutal death. And we need to take that image and apply it to our own lives – seeking to live as Christ-like a life as is humanly possible. Knowing that we will stumble, but that He is a patient, loving and forgiving God, who will wait for us to regain our feet again ... as long as we keep our eyes focused on Him.

‘The Passion’ helps us to do that. It is brutal. But it is true to scripture. It is inspiring. It portrays the last hours of life of the only Perfect Man, accurately and powerfully. And it strikes fear in the hearts of those who seek the subjugation of men by other men.

I don’t expect 'The Passion' to receive any Academy award nominations in 2005. Then again, in the eternal scheme of things, an Academy award does not even register as a blip. Tomorrow night the Hollywood ilk will gather in their pompous, irreverent, self-aggrandizing celebration. Some of them will no doubt have condescending (at the very least) things to say about Gibson’s inspired masterpiece. And then they will go home and comment endlessly on each other’s attire, and each other’s speeches – unaware that there is a spiritual world in which peace of a lasting kind can be attained, outside of material or worldly concerns.

They ridicule and criticize something about which they know nothing. And they continue to promote barren secular ideologies that have proven deadly to mankind through the centuries. History is not on their side.

I have no doubt that ‘The Passion’ will cause something of a spiritual revival in the hearts of millions of people. The question is, will they (we) have the strength of conviction to keep our hearts from hardening once again? The forces that are aligned against Christianity, and liberty, are strengthening, and becoming emboldened by success. The ‘persecution’ and demonization of those who are determined to defend freedom (of religion, and all other God-given liberties) will not be diminishing. It will grow more relentless, as ignorance and apathy increase. ‘The Passion’ may grant something of a cinematic ‘reprieve’ from ignorance and apathy. But if that ‘reprieve’ is short-lived, we can’t look to another Hollywood product to awaken us. The strength, resolve, and courage of conviction, must be intrinsic to be of any lasting value.

Thank you, Mr. Gibson, for lighting a small spark. Whether or not we fan it into a fire, or allow it to be extinguished, only time will tell.

~ joanie

69 posted on 02/28/2004 4:15:23 PM PST by joanie-f (All that we know and love depends on three simple things: sunlight, soil, and the fact that it rains)
33 posted on 02/28/2004 9:53:31 PM PST by Minuteman23
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To: sneakers
34 posted on 02/28/2004 9:56:50 PM PST by sneakers
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To: armyboy
Thank You for your service to our country.
35 posted on 02/28/2004 9:59:40 PM PST by 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub (Thank You Troops, Past and Present)
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To: incindiary
My darling, I miss you. Nice to "see" you!
I'm seeing The Passion after I see my dear friends WIN! Say a little prayer for the following, please.
MOST (The Bridge)
Bobby Garabedian and William Zabka
These are the first Academy Award nominations for Bobby Garabedian and William Zabka.

When a drawbridge worker takes his son to work with him, the decision will alter both his life and that of the troubled young woman who sees them.

DIE ROTE JACKE (The Red Jacket)
(A) TORZIJA ([A] Torsion)

36 posted on 02/28/2004 10:02:39 PM PST by AnnaZ (I hate Times New Roman... and it's all Mel Gibson's fault!)
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To: AnnaZ
Thanks Anna. Bet just as many Christians in the military are waiting with excitement as we were... Hope it can be done, you've certainly pinged the right man for the job! :)
37 posted on 02/28/2004 10:03:47 PM PST by Libertina (Praavda not challenging enough? Enroll in Abcnbccbscnbccnn Comrade College)
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To: AnnaZ
Hi Anna!
Sorry I don't have an answer for you.
38 posted on 02/28/2004 10:04:57 PM PST by 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub (Thank You Troops, Past and Present)
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To: Minuteman23
Thank you for posting that... and it is not the first time that joanie and I have shared opinions.
: )
j-f... Hi, FRiend, excellent work -- as always.

39 posted on 02/28/2004 10:07:28 PM PST by AnnaZ (I hate Times New Roman... and it's all Mel Gibson's fault!)
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To: Libertina
Sorry I don't have an answer for you.
40 posted on 02/28/2004 10:09:49 PM PST by 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub (Thank You Troops, Past and Present)
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