Lent of 2004 was marked by an event of profound significance: the release of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ. Few who saw it were left unmoved and many were changed forever.
The Catholic Movie of Our Generation
It has been customary among Christians to focus on the Passion of our Lord in the weeks leading up to Easter. This spiritual preparation for Holy Week and the Triduum impresses upon us the gravity of sin. What really must our sin be that such a Victim must atone for it? That such suffering must be undertaken by the spotless Lamb of God for us? Reflecting upon Christ’s Passion has long been recognized by saints and spiritual writers as medicinal to the soul, leading to repentance and conversion.
The Gospel accounts are sparing of words in describing the Lord’s torturous execution. Centuries of Christian writing, art and drama have elaborated upon them for the education and edification of generations of the faithful. Each new medium of art and communication from stained glass to painting to printing has been employed for this purpose as it became available. But the quintessential medium of our age had never fully captured this event, so central to the mystery of our salvation until now. Thanks to the vision of Mel Gibson and the work and prayers of countless others, we have the Catholic movie of our generation and a work of Christian art for the ages.
Movies are already woven into the fabric of our life and culture. Those that portray timeless values transcend generations to become fixtures, part of popular tradition like the showing of The Ten Commandments around Passover and A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life during Christmas. The Passion of The Christ has just this kind of timeless appeal, rich in detail, evocative, and rewarding to the repeat viewer. It is a movie the movie for Lent.
A Softer, Gentler Version
It is a triumph then to see The Passion of The Christ returning to theaters this Lent. The Icon Productions movie, dubbed The Passion Recut, that we see this time around will have several minutes of the most violent shots and scenes cut. This was done to make the film accessible to that segment of the audience that wanted to see it last time but was persuaded against it due to the graphic depiction of Jesus’s torture at the hands of Roman troops.
Bruce Davey, Gibson’s partner at Icon, explained that the “scourging scene in particular has been substantially adjusted.” Gibson’s aim, he said, was to make “a version that is softer and gentler.”
High demand for a re-release of the movie convinced the distributor, Newmarket Films, to open nationwide beginning March 11. Newmarket head Bob Berney anticipates the re-cut version “will provide more of a family experience” and might, “if the demand is there” be re-released just before Easter each year.
Our Lenten Blessing
The perennial showing of The Passion of The Christ will be just more salt in the wound for a Hollywood that would not back the production to begin with, refused to distribute it once it was made, foretold its box office failure, and then watched in disbelief as it gross over $370 million in its first run. Hollywood must now face the fact that there is a longing to see the film again… and again… and not only in the Bible Belt south, but in most major markets across the country, even while the film is snubbed by the Oscars.
This film, though “softened,” is nevertheless “still very powerful and moving,” according to Berney powerful in its depiction of our Savior’s last earthly hours and moving hearts to conversion this year as it did last. Its re-release will be a Lenten blessing to everyone who sees it.
© Copyright 2005 Catholic Exchange
Click here to view an amazing one-minute trailer presentation that will take you “Inside the Passion.”
Tom Allen is editor and president of Catholic Exchange.