I watched the film The Gospel of John in class and watched The Passion of the Christ at home. While both films cover the aspects of the life of Jesus Christ, they differ in presentation and content. The Gospel of John is a narrative portrayal of the ministry of Jesus as told by John whereas The Passion of the Christ mainly deals with the crucifixion of Christ. These two movies are the types of movies that you will either come away extremely bored or with a new outlook on Jesus and his sacrifice.
The Gospel of John is a 3 hour long word for word account of the Biblical Gospel of John. It is very dry. We see the human side of Jesus – his doubts, his compassion, his knowledge, his wrath, and his love. Phillip Saville, the director, and Henry Ian Cusick who played Jesus, had the difficult task of portraying Jesus as authentic as possible to the scriptures. This is no easy task. As a viewer, I am not sure if Jesus really acted the way Cusick portrayed him. I was really distracted by Cusack’s demeanor and smile. I could not help but feel a sense of fakeness and “holier than thou” attitude. Obviously, Jesus was holy, but the way Cusick spoke and his facial expressions. But to look too deep into the human recreation of Jesus draws you away from the central idea of the movie which is the actions of Jesus. Watching the movie The Gospel of John before reading the actual book of John was beneficial in visually being able to understand Gospel. It allowed me to better understand what John was saying and to be able to read through without stopping to reference what something meant. The portrait of Jesus as a Caucasian groomed man probably was not an accurate view of the real Jesus. However, it was interesting to see a director’s interpretation of Jesus as well as the Bible’s stories of Jesus’ humanity and divinity. As a Christian, I find movies that are based on what I believe to be interesting, entertaining, and useful. However, I can easily see how a secular film critic or everyday moviegoer would definitely not want to view this film. There is no action, no sex, and no catchy funny phrases. It is all truth.
The Passion of the Christ is very different from The Gospel of John in that it takes the truths of the Bible, as well as debatably accurate secondary sources, and creates a theatrical account of the death and suffering of Christ. The film is in Latin and Aramaic (with English subtitles) which adds to the authenticity of the story. It is incredibly graphic, detailing every aspect of the crucifixion and suffering of Christ. You see bones breaking, Jesus’ flesh being punctured, blood pouring out of His body, Christ screaming, followers crying, and people spewing insults. The “R” rating from the MPAA is very fitting. However, Mel Gibson, the creator and director, released a “Recut” and somewhat “watered down” version of the film a year after its initial release. The MPAA still gave the film an “R” rating. However graphic and violent this film is, the truth and authenticity of the film are even more troubling. Christ, the Savior, went through everything depicted in this film in order to save his chosen people. The message of love and sacrifice is very evident in The Passion of the Christ. Also evident is the loyalty exhibited by John, Mary, and Mary Magdalene, who remain at the Lord’s side until the very end. I took note of the way Mel Gibson used highlights from Jesus’ past to somewhat explain the reason why something was going on at the current point. Without prior knowledge of what led up to the crucifixion of Christ, I think that the crucifixion does not take on as much meaning. But having read the prophecies, you see how much of a fulfillment Christ’s death was and how amazingly accurate the entire event unfolded. The entire movie was an emotional rollercoaster that left me with goose bumps. You can read about his death 100 times in text and not really be fazed by it. Before seeing The Passion of the Christ, the most emotional I have ever gotten was a verbal description on a high school retreat in Ocean City. This movie took that shock value to another level without pushing the bounds of the Truth of the story.
These days, Hollywood thrives on shocking audiences and pushing the limits. It is refreshing to see a well known and (formerly) respected actor and director take worthwhile Truth and create a Hollywood movie that may shock audiences. If this is what it takes to win people over to Christianity than I think it is worth it. Mel Gibson could have taken a liberal approach to directing in order to make it exciting.