Yesterday, I posted Jody Dean's review of The Passion of Christ.
What a difference a day makes.
Today, MSNBC has a review of the same movie up by someone named David Ansen.
Ansen's piece is titled "So What's the Good News?". A rather myopic rubric to a dissertation that in my view goes down hill from there.
I have no doubt that Mel Gibson loves Jesus. From the evidence of "The Passion of the Christ," however, what he seems to love as much is the cinematic depiction of flayed, severed, swollen, scarred flesh and rivulets of spilled blood, the crack of bashed bones and the groans of someone enduring the ultimate physical agony. This peculiar, deeply personal expression of the filmmaker's faith is a far cry from the sentimental, pious depictions of Christ that popular culture has often served up.
Peculiar, deeply personal expression? I haven't seen the film yet but from what I've heard it's rather faithful to Scripture... so could there be, perhaps, a problem with "the sentimental, pious depictions of Christ that popular culture has often served up?" Donald Sensing seems to think so here and his piece speaks to Ansen's opinion.
But back to his review:
The film that has been getting rapturous advance raves from evangelical Christians turns out to be an R-rated inspirational movie no child can, or should, see. To these secular eyes at least, Gibson's movie is more likely to inspire nightmares than devotion.
It's the sadism, not the alleged anti-Semitism, that is most striking.
I can't help but think that Mr. Ansen is woefully ignorant of much of Scripture, and much of the basic tenets of orthodox Christianity. Then he says:
The Oscar-winning "Braveheart" reveled in decapitations and disembowelments, not to mention the spectacle of Gibson himself, as the Scottish warrior hero, impaled on a cross.
I don't recall the film acting out the death of William Wallace as Ansen describes. The man was brutally tortured, drawn and quartered. He was not, to my knowledge, impaled on a cross.
So Ansen's ignorance is not, apparently, restricted to Scripture or orthodox Christianity.
He closes with:
Others may well find a strong spirituality in "The Passion"—I can't pretend to know what this movie looks like to a believer—but it was Gibson's fury, not his faith, that left a deep, abiding aftertaste.
A lesson here, perhaps, for those intent on thinking that this film will evangelize those who know Christ not.
I have always understood that God draws those to Himself. He may, or may not, use Gibson's film.
UPDATE: Terry Mattingly, over at Get Religion, has a commentary up that speaks to press screenings of the movies. Check it out.
MORE UPDATES: MSNBC has another review up, again less than favorable. Gibson's 'Passion' is bloody empty - Controversial film simply 2 hours of brutality, gore is the title.
AND MORE UPDATES: The folks at WorldMagBlog have chimed in now. Check it out.