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My Night of Passion

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  • Zeba Crook
    I saw Mel s Passion last night. Below are my comments if you re interested. I can set aside the historical inaccuracies, though they bug me in movies and
    Message 1 of 9 , Mar 3, 2004
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      I saw Mel's Passion last night. Below are my comments if you're interested.

      I can set aside the historical inaccuracies, though they bug me in
      movies and fiction in general, and they bugged me in the Passion no more
      and no less. But I understand this movie is fiction, and so I can put
      them aside. I'll speak to the two burning issues.

      Antisemitism: I do not think the movie is anti-Semitic. The Romans
      (with the exception of the complex thinking-man Pilate) come off far far
      worse, more brutal, more blood thirsty and more relentless than the
      Jews. I have never hated Italians more than I do today (kidding). And
      yet, there is a profoundly chilling line in the movie that works
      decidedly against this possibly redeeming feature. Jesus has been
      turned into mince-meat by blood thirsty, drunken, and practically
      inhuman Roman soldiers, and is standing before Pilate for the second
      part of his trial. He can barely stand up or breath, one eye is swollen
      shut and his hair is wet with blood. And yet, Jesus tells Pilate that
      (and I paraphrase since I don't recall the precise wording) "the ones
      who handed me over are even more to blame for this." So, yes, the
      Romans come off as far more brutal in the movie, but a continual thread
      through the movie is that you have to go before that to the Jews who
      handed him over in the first place, a theme supported even by Jesus
      himself. Thus, while I do not think the movie itself is anti-Semitic,
      there is plenty of potential for Christians to fall into line with the
      movie, and blame the Jews for the Roman brutality. And let me say
      again, the point about anti-semitism is not whether the movie blames the
      Jews of all time for the death of Jesus, since neither do the Gospels do
      that explicitly. The point is whether the subtle difference between
      "the Jewish elite of Jesus' day did an evil thing" and "all Jews
      thereafter are party to that evil" will be lost on Christians who have a
      long history of missing that (not so) subtle difference.

      Another thing that is potentially a concern with respect to an
      anti-Semitic response is that the flash backs provide the only
      information to the viewer about what got Jesus to that point. Some are
      of him washing people's feet, telling people to love and forgive; who
      would possibly object to that sort of message? Clearly not someone even
      remotely sympathetic. The other flashbacks are of Jesus making claims
      that are blasphemous -- here the message is clearly that Jesus only
      angered the Jews, which means that it can really only have been the Jews
      who wanted him dead. The Jews come off looking irrational and ignorant,
      rejecting Jesus for no reason any modern audience would understand, and
      possibly worse, like they simply hated this person for no reason at
      all. Some narrative context would have helped offset that: having
      Jesus anger the Romans for his potentially seditious words; or a
      sympathetic treatment of second temple Jewish beliefs concerning
      blasphemy and corporate responsibility; or the political fears of the
      Jewish elite trying to maintain some semblance of autonomy under Roman
      military control. The absence of these things makes Jesus look like he
      was hated and rejected by the Jews because he liked puppy dogs. The
      viewer is left thinking that only a monster would reject the Jesus that
      portrayed in the movie. And it's unhelpful to say, "But there are good
      Jews in the movie." Of course there are, but they number about 12
      against the Jewish mob. This issue about narrative context leads into
      the second topic.

      How is it as a movie? I don't actually think The Passion qualifies as a
      movie. What I mean by movie is a story that stands alone. Sure there
      are movies that are all the richer if you know the sub text, but The
      Passion requires the viewer to provide the story. That is, the movie is
      about a guy who is unjustly and brutally killed. Are we told why? No.
      Are we given a reason to think that it changed the world, or that it had
      redemptive qualities? No. If you don't come to the movie understanding
      or buying into the Christian belief Christ's message and his redemptive
      death, The Passion does not stand alone as a story. In sense, then the
      Passion is religious art, like an Eastern Orthodox icon (anyone notice
      the movie is carried or made by Icon Productions?) or an ornately
      decorated crucifix. The things can all be lovely to look at, and the
      movie *is* visually arresting in practically every shot. Non religious
      people go to be religious art, and find beauty in it, but they usually
      don't understand what stands behind it, or what it means, or why it is
      meaningful to religious people. It's just pretty, and they like looking
      at it. The Passion is religious art, it does not stand on its own as a
      movie, but is an artistic impression that requires the insider's
      narrative to contextualise it.

      Imagine if the movie Malcolm X had been made about only the suffering
      and death of the hero -- no story about his early life, his conversion,
      his radical ideas (like the ones that resulted in his assassination),
      his clash with people who held different opinions, etc etc, just the
      searing pain he felt with a few tender flashbacks to him playing with
      his kids (i.e., doing nothing that could possibly have angered anyone).
      A movie about only Malcolm X's death would have made sense *only* to
      those who already knew the narrative; otherwise it would have been a
      movie about some guy who dies. Period. The Passion is a movie about a
      guy who dies -- stunningly shot with great sets and costumes and good
      attention to details, but not something that stands alone unless you can
      provide the narrative yourself. Of course, many people seeing The
      Passion will be able to do exactly that, so this will not likely detract
      from their own enjoyment of it as a movie. But then they get to do that
      with religious art in the same way. In other words, like other
      religious art, it has been made for Christians, but there is little
      there for others to come for except the cinematography (which is
      *usually* not enough of a reason alone to see a movie).

      Cheers

      Zeb
      --

      Zeba A. Crook

      Assistant Professor, Religion and Classics

      Carleton University

      1125 Colonel By Drive

      Ottawa, Ontario

      Canada K1S 5B6



      613-520-2600, ext. 2276

      http://www.carleton.ca/~zcrook/



      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Bob MacDonald
      Zeba Crook wrote :
      Message 2 of 9 , Mar 3, 2004
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        Zeba Crook wrote : <<they simply hated this person for no
        reason at all

        A curious and I am sure deliberate reference:
        Psalms 35:19 Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully
        rejoice over me: [neither] let them wink with the eye that
        hate me without a cause.

        Psalms 69:4 They that hate me without a cause are more than
        the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, [being]
        mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored [that]
        which I took not away.

        I thought their might be another too: John 15:25

        Bob
        mailto::BobMacDonald@...
        + + + Victoria, B.C., Canada + + +
      • Stephen C. Carlson
        ... I ve been struck by the strong differences in perception about this aspect of the film, and I m wondering if an analogy might be helpful. Suppose someone
        Message 3 of 9 , Mar 4, 2004
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          At 11:05 AM 3/3/04 -0500, Zeba Crook wrote:
          >Another thing that is potentially a concern with respect to an
          >anti-Semitic response is that the flash backs provide the only
          >information to the viewer about what got Jesus to that point. Some are
          >of him washing people's feet, telling people to love and forgive; who
          >would possibly object to that sort of message? Clearly not someone even
          >remotely sympathetic. The other flashbacks are of Jesus making claims
          >that are blasphemous -- here the message is clearly that Jesus only
          >angered the Jews, which means that it can really only have been the Jews
          >who wanted him dead. The Jews come off looking irrational and ignorant,
          >rejecting Jesus for no reason any modern audience would understand, and
          >possibly worse, like they simply hated this person for no reason at
          >all. Some narrative context would have helped offset that: having
          >Jesus anger the Romans for his potentially seditious words; or a
          >sympathetic treatment of second temple Jewish beliefs concerning
          >blasphemy and corporate responsibility; or the political fears of the
          >Jewish elite trying to maintain some semblance of autonomy under Roman
          >military control. The absence of these things makes Jesus look like he
          >was hated and rejected by the Jews because he liked puppy dogs. The
          >viewer is left thinking that only a monster would reject the Jesus that
          >portrayed in the movie. And it's unhelpful to say, "But there are good
          >Jews in the movie." Of course there are, but they number about 12
          >against the Jewish mob. This issue about narrative context leads into
          >the second topic.

          I've been struck by the strong differences in perception about this
          aspect of the film, and I'm wondering if an analogy might be helpful.
          Suppose someone were to make a movie about the massacre at My Lai
          during the Vietnam War in a similar fashion, pretty much focusing
          on the atrocities U.S. troops committed at that village. Would an
          American viewing the film perceive it as anti-American? Or would
          the viewer understand it as an indictment of war? Does it matter
          how one thought about the Vietnam War or that terrible event before
          going into the film?

          Stephen Carlson
          --
          Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
          Weblog: http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/hypotyposeis/blogger.html
          "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
        • Zeba Crook
          ... I know these conversations are off-topic, so I am grateful to the moderators for being flexible. Thanks for this Stephen. This really is a good analogy.
          Message 4 of 9 , Mar 4, 2004
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            Stephen C. Carlson wrote:

            >At 11:05 AM 3/3/04 -0500, Zeba Crook wrote:
            >
            >
            >Suppose someone were to make a movie about the massacre at My Lai
            >during the Vietnam War in a similar fashion, pretty much focusing
            >on the atrocities U.S. troops committed at that village. Would an
            >American viewing the film perceive it as anti-American? Or would
            >the viewer understand it as an indictment of war? Does it matter
            >how one thought about the Vietnam War or that terrible event before
            >going into the film?
            >
            I know these conversations are off-topic, so I am grateful to the
            moderators for being flexible.

            Thanks for this Stephen. This really is a good analogy. I think it
            also helps to flesh out the ethics of the movie, and the question of
            general Jewish discomfort with The Passion. Let me elaborate. Your
            analogy is fine in terms of simple content, but lacks context. Imagine
            (and I am being truly hypothetical here) that 2000 years from now,
            America has been defeated by another culture, religion, country,
            whatever. Imagine that America has been defeated *and* demonised. If
            America has been demonised, and you make a movie in which it *appears*
            that America is being a demon (My Lai massacre), how likely is it the
            movie will be read as an indictment of war?

            Cheers,

            Zeb

            --

            Zeba A. Crook

            Assistant Professor, Religion and Classics

            Carleton University

            1125 Colonel By Drive

            Ottawa, Ontario

            Canada K1S 5B6



            613-520-2600, ext. 2276

            http://www.carleton.ca/~zcrook/



            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Loren Rosson
            Folks -- I have some reservations about posting this on the list, but I ll do so anyway -- not because I agree with it on a serious level (though other list
            Message 5 of 9 , Mar 4, 2004
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              Folks --

              I have some reservations about posting this on the
              list, but I'll do so anyway -- not because I agree
              with it on a serious level (though other list members
              will), but because it made me laugh very hard, and
              it's already been posted on the John-Lit board (thanks
              in turn to Mike Grondin, to whom I'd sent it
              off-list). It's a good review, whether taken
              humorously, seriously, or both.

              http://www.tucsonweekly.com/gbase/Cinema/Content?oid=oid:54243

              Loren Rosson III
              Nashua NH
              rossoiii@...

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            • Dr. Rikk E. Watts (Cantab)
              Zeb ³America has been demonized² aren¹t you here assuming your conclusion? After all this is the point at issue. As rabbi Daniel Lappin said recently,
              Message 6 of 9 , Mar 4, 2004
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                Zeb ³America has been demonized² aren¹t you here assuming your conclusion?
                After all this is the point at issue. As rabbi Daniel Lappin said recently,
                modern gentile and Christian Americans (and probably Christian Europeans,
                tho¹ a diminishing tribe) are most definitely not the same people who
                perpetrated pogroms and to saddle them with that history is unjust. (I¹m
                intrigued that no one seems to want to touch the phenomenon of the rise of a
                virulent anti-Semitism in an increasingly secular Europe.) The fact that
                charges of anti-Semitism are flooding the media, that Jewish commentators
                are being politely asked for their opinion, and that Gibson is under such
                fire is surely prima facie evidence that in this context to be Jewish is
                anything but to be demonized. In fact the opposite seems more the case, and
                this not a little because modern American Christians by and large seem to
                hold the Jewish people in very high regard. I agree with all that you¹ve
                said about how the gospels have been used in the past, but as to this being
                an issue today, I think we¹ve moved well beyond that. In real terms ‹ and I
                say this kindly ‹ it¹s almost passé, flogging a dead horse so to speak. And
                so I agree with those Jewish commentators who are urging their fellows to
                move on from that mentality. This is not to say that anti-Semitism is not an
                issue, nor that people can stop being vigilant ‹ witness the violence at
                Columbia University (and again in Europe none of which emerges from
                Christian circles). But it is a bit odd for everyone to be milling around
                with hammers in front of an empty mouse hole when there is tiger coming in
                the kitchen door behind them. My guess is that the reaction to Gibson¹s
                movie is because there is growing sense of general unease, rightly so. But I
                also think its a kind of knee-jerk response where people go for the target
                that their tradition has told them (rightly) was the cause of much evil. But
                it¹s not the cause now and I¹m afraid it will divert the discussion from
                more pressing danger.

                Take care (appreciated your Œreview¹)

                Rikk


                On 4/3/04 7:07 AM, "Zeba Crook" <zcrook@...> wrote:

                > Stephen C. Carlson wrote:
                >
                >> >At 11:05 AM 3/3/04 -0500, Zeba Crook wrote:
                >> >
                >> >
                >> >Suppose someone were to make a movie about the massacre at My Lai
                >> >during the Vietnam War in a similar fashion, pretty much focusing
                >> >on the atrocities U.S. troops committed at that village. Would an
                >> >American viewing the film perceive it as anti-American? Or would
                >> >the viewer understand it as an indictment of war? Does it matter
                >> >how one thought about the Vietnam War or that terrible event before
                >> >going into the film?
                >> >
                > I know these conversations are off-topic, so I am grateful to the
                > moderators for being flexible.
                >
                > Thanks for this Stephen. This really is a good analogy. I think it
                > also helps to flesh out the ethics of the movie, and the question of
                > general Jewish discomfort with The Passion. Let me elaborate. Your
                > analogy is fine in terms of simple content, but lacks context. Imagine
                > (and I am being truly hypothetical here) that 2000 years from now,
                > America has been defeated by another culture, religion, country,
                > whatever. Imagine that America has been defeated *and* demonised. If
                > America has been demonised, and you make a movie in which it *appears*
                > that America is being a demon (My Lai massacre), how likely is it the
                > movie will be read as an indictment of war?
                >
                > Cheers,
                >
                > Zeb




                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Horace Jeffery Hodges
                Rikk E. Watts (in a parenthetical remark) wrote: (I m intrigued that no one seems to want to touch the phenomenon of the rise of a virulent anti-Semitism in
                Message 7 of 9 , Mar 4, 2004
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                  Rikk E. Watts (in a parenthetical remark) wrote:

                  "(I'm intrigued that no one seems to want to touch the
                  phenomenon of the rise of a virulent anti-Semitism in
                  an increasingly secular Europe.)"

                  On this list, you mean? Perhaps no one wants to touch
                  it because it's far off-topic.

                  For what it's worth, here's my opinion. The virulent
                  antisemitism in Europe has little to do with
                  secularity and more to do with the rise of a growing,
                  militant, Islamist minority, especially in France. Or
                  so it seems, based on the reports that I have read.

                  Jeffery Hodges

                  =====
                  Office:

                  Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges [Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley]
                  Department of English Language and Literature
                  Korea University
                  136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
                  Seoul
                  South Korea

                  Home:

                  Sun-Ae Hwang and Horace Jeffery Hodges
                  Seo-Dong 125-2
                  Shin-Dong-A, Apt. 102-709
                  447-710 Kyunggido, Osan-City
                  South Korea

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                • Jeffrey B. Gibson
                  ... Yes it is. So -- as important an issue as it is -- no discussion of this here, please. Jeffrey -- Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon.) 1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
                  Message 8 of 9 , Mar 4, 2004
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                    Horace Jeffery Hodges wrote:

                    > Rikk E. Watts (in a parenthetical remark) wrote:
                    >
                    > "(I'm intrigued that no one seems to want to touch the
                    > phenomenon of the rise of a virulent anti-Semitism in
                    > an increasingly secular Europe.)"
                    >
                    > On this list, you mean? Perhaps no one wants to touch
                    > it because it's far off-topic.

                    Yes it is. So -- as important an issue as it is -- no discussion of this here,
                    please.

                    Jeffrey
                    --

                    Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon.)

                    1500 W. Pratt Blvd. #1
                    Chicago, IL 60626

                    jgibson000@...
                  • Lisbeth S. Fried
                    ... That concurs with what I have read as well. Liz Fried
                    Message 9 of 9 , Mar 4, 2004
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                      >
                      >
                      > Rikk E. Watts (in a parenthetical remark) wrote:
                      >
                      > "(I'm intrigued that no one seems to want to touch the
                      > phenomenon of the rise of a virulent anti-Semitism in
                      > an increasingly secular Europe.)"
                      >
                      > On this list, you mean? Perhaps no one wants to touch
                      > it because it's far off-topic.
                      >
                      > For what it's worth, here's my opinion. The virulent
                      > antisemitism in Europe has little to do with
                      > secularity and more to do with the rise of a growing,
                      > militant, Islamist minority, especially in France. Or
                      > so it seems, based on the reports that I have read.

                      That concurs with what I have read as well.
                      Liz Fried

                      >
                      > Jeffery Hodges
                      >
                      > =====
                      > Office:
                      >
                      > Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges [Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley]
                      > Department of English Language and Literature
                      > Korea University
                      > 136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
                      > Seoul
                      > South Korea
                      >
                      > Home:
                      >
                      > Sun-Ae Hwang and Horace Jeffery Hodges
                      > Seo-Dong 125-2
                      > Shin-Dong-A, Apt. 102-709
                      > 447-710 Kyunggido, Osan-City
                      > South Korea
                      >
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