GOSPEL OF JOHN 

2003. (180 min.)

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST

2004. (126 min.)

directed by: Philip Saville

screenplay by: John Goldsmith

cast: Henry Ian Cusick, Christopher Plummer...

directed by: Mel Gibson

screenplay by: Benedict Fitzgerald & Mel Gibson

cast: James Caviezel, Maria Moregenstern, Monica Bellucci...

02/21/04 - Academy 6 - 1003 East Colorado Blvd. Pasadena - 12:30 pm

02/27/04 - Vista - 4473 Sunset Blvd. LA - 7:00 pm

It might not seem proper to put these two films one against the other, but on second thought there is hardly a more appropriate thing to do, since one of them will hardly get (at least it didn't get by now) the attention it deserved, and the other got publicized out of every proportion (in both negative and positive way).

"The Gospel of John" is a word-by-word adaptation of the said gospel - the one least similar to the other three officially included in the New Testament.

It is a honest movie, as far as moviemaking is concerned, but its most outstanding feature is the performance of Henry Ian Cusick, without any doubt, the best movie Jesus ever. No actor so far had managed to portrait this character with such ambiguity - instead of trying to create an admirable Son of God, Cusick managed to come out as an both original and universal Son of Man.

What enhanced the effect of depth, authenticity and the message of the film is the decision of its makers to choose a most simple and yet unsurpassable approach - they told a story.

The only unfortunate fact is that not enough people will see this movie before they get exposed to Mel Gibson's product.

To be short about it, it's enough to say Mel Gibson's "Passion" is - kitsch.

That might seem a bit harsh, so well elaborate:

In his most recent film Mel Gibson managed to reenact the last hours of Jesus' life without relaying a single emotion.

How is that possible?

First he managed to reduce Christ in a pile of withering pulp of flesh. In attempt to convince us in Jesus' suffering in first ten minutes Gibson closed one of his eyes by beating, leaving him to stagger for the rest of the film in a manner that most reminds of Stalone's Rocky getting pulverized by USSR's Drago. And like Rocky Jesus takes the beating but we don't doubt in his eventual victory.

In attempt to resensitize movie audience for human (or indeed divine) pain, Gibson even managed to plagiarize himself. Remember the final scene of torture from "Braveheart"? Well, in "Passion" it lasts 120 out of total 126 minutes.

Obsessed with the idea of Jesus standing in place of the entire humanity to take the God's punishment, Gibson ignored everyone concerned - the Christ, the humanity, the God.

Christ is made to resemble a slaughtered whale being cut up on an Japanese ship.

The humanity is reduced to a horde of savages unworthy of any Savior.

And God? He's simply nonexistent.

To achieve a most superficial and meaningless depiction of the Passion, Gibson employed every cliché in the book. An Italian starlet as Mary Magdalene, horror and action movie references (Jewish and Roman soldiers to extreme to make it into Mad Max III), cheap ($25 mil.) iconography borrowed from MTV music videos, plus a very Goth Satan.

The product is simply devoid of any meaning - why did Christ bother to die? For whom? Surely not for slobbering psychopaths who crucified him.

Because for humanity Gibson sees no hope, people for him are not even evil (he need Satan for that role), for Mel people are just grotesque caricatures who just happened to be Jesus' pet project.

Accusations of anti-Semitism? Gibson is not against Jews, Gibson is against the entire humanity holding it responsible for the death of Christ. Maybe that's why this movie seems to be a very private settling of accounts in which the Christ himself has merely a supporting role.

As for the depth of the message of faith and love you'll find more of it in a Jesus is My Homey bobblehead.      

But numbers maybe speak more than words, even more than pictures:

The making of "The Gospel of John" cost $15 million.

In its more than five months of showing in the US, "The Gospel" has earned the total of $ 3.862.285 - quite a sum when one considers it's been constantly running in only one LA theater, oh, right, in no LA theatre, but at Academy 6 in Pasadena.

"The Passion of the Christ" production budget was $25 million, plus, reportedly, additional $30 million marketing budget.

On the other hand, in only two days since its US release "The Passion" had cashed in $41,338,000 - plus our sixteen bucks.

 

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