Passion of the Christ - poetic license or history

***I’m not sure where to post this thread, so please feel free to move it mods. Thank you.

I was wondering as I watched Passion of the Christ today, how much of it is Mel Gibson’s insertions, and poetic license? For example, I have studied the history of crucifixions, and I don’t recall reading or learning that the cross was ever turned over on the other side, for the soldiers to hammer the other side of the nail downward, like it shows happening to Jesus, in Gibson’s movie. I’m just curious if this is Mel Gibson using poetic license? Also how Christ carried the entire cross, is often different than historical accounts of crucifixions whereby the prisoners would carry a part of the cross, usually the part where their hands would be extended. It only matters in the sense, that why would Mel Gibson choose something that is not historical. My thought is that perhaps he wanted Christ to stand out amongst the typical of executions done by crucifixion. It’s possible that He did carry His cross in such a way, and that the soldiers did turn the cross over. Perhaps, to be exceptionally brutal to our Lord. :frowning:

Another scene with Judas being chased by the ‘imaginary’ little kids whose faces are distorted and demonic…obviously, poetic license, it has been historically accounted that Judas had gone crazy after betraying Christ, and thus commiting suicide. I liked Mel Gibson’s insertions there.

Just wondering…what do you think about some of the poetic licenses that Gibson used?***

I’m not sure on the part of hammering the point ends of the nails. This may be something that history never learns because nails were precious in the ancient world and would have been “recycled” as much as possible. Also, curiously enough crucifixion nails were considered to be good luck charms (don’t ask me why…I can’t imagine) so there’s little chance there would be any left for archeologists to discover. I remember seeing a webpage that in all of archeology the body of only one crucifixion victim has ever been discovered. I’m not saying it’s a fact, only that I remember reading it. And there is certainly an absence of true historic information about crucifixions.

Yes, it was “typical” for the victim to carry only the “bar” of the cross–the standing part was often re-used especially in a land where trees were/are very rare.

As for Judas, see Acts 1:18. There might be an ancient tradition about Judas going insane and that would correspond to the account of Judas’ death in Acts.

Most of what we see in the film actually has some historic or spiritual background to it. Yes, it is hollywood but Gibson was at least true to the sources although those “sources” are wide-ranging.

Remember too, Gibson based the Passion on the writings of (Venerable? Blessed?) Anne-Catherine Emmerich, which on my understanding are pretty detailed. I don’t think most of it was totally made up out of Gibson’s head or anything.

And clearly, to do what Judas did, He WAS tempted by the Devil, just as Jesus was almost certainly tempted by him to give up the idea of going through the Passion, hence the Agony. These are filmic depictions (somewhat licenced, certainly) of reality - since we don’t know what if anything the Devil might have looked like on such occasions.

But certainly Mel was on the right track to avoid traditional horns and cloven hooves - they’d make any potential temptee run a mile! I like best of all the depiction of Jesus’ temptation in the desert in ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told’ - the devil simply looks like an ordinary harmless old man, which makes you wonder whether the Devil simply uses those around us instead of bothering to put in a personal appearance!

***thank you fr david…I think that makes sense. I remember watching a documentary on the reenactment of “a” crucifixion, and how Jesus would ‘have had’ to have been ‘Divine,’ and I believe it caused many ‘secular’ historians to convert, and believe in Christ’s divinity, over ‘testing’ the theories. It’s nothing short of fascinating how God has proven Himself to us, mere men and women, unworthy of His explanation. :o I think that Mel Gibson did a beautiful job in depicting Christ’s final hours with grace, honor and dignity…yet showing us the brutality as well. I have read that Christ’s scourging was probably far worse than what the film depicts, as He was unrecognizable. ***

Yes, I think that the devil takes on human forms, as to be most tempting. Most of the time, people are tempted by close friends, family, loved ones to sin. It’s rare that a total stranger has an effect on us, as I tell my kids…someone you are close to in life, will the very person who tempts you to sin, someday. Could be a ‘best’ friend, could be a girlfriend, a boyfriend…even a spouse. The devil is clever, no doubt. :frowning:

***We know the end of the story, but for some reason, I feel exceptionally sad right now. I cry so much watching that film…perhaps, my own shame from past sins, that although I have been forgiven, the fact that those very sins helped to nail our Lord to the cross, just makes me ache. ***

Never read Emmerich, so I don’t know if those words or anything like them are in there or not.

Frightening? :hmmm: See, I don’t think so right at first, although without a doubt very eerie and unsettling. The depiction IMHO gets mroe malevolent as the film goes on. I suppose that makes sense too - the devil would put his (its?) better face forward in Gethsemane, after all

It’s being broadcast here tonight (don’t have a DVD, though the parents do). Might take another look, and maybe will have a different opinion after that.

You know what? I just realized something. Many DVDs have a “director’s commentary” which is a voice-over of the director or someone else describing the making of the movie. I don’t have my copy handy as I’ve loaned it to someone for a few days, but are there any other readers out there who can check if the disc has this feature?

I’ll have to look at it again…I remember watching behind the scenes footage, during the year the film was put out in movies, and remember Mel’s commentary about the devil sccene, and how he wanted to do the scene showing the first nail being driven into Christ’s hand…it was Mel’s arm that you see coming down. He said he chose to do that because of his own sin that nailed Christ to the cross.

Even if it’s poetic license, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily false when it comes to the spirit behind it. This is going to sound like a strange comparison probably, but I was thinking of Goodfellas. That movie plays fast and loose with the literal facts that make up the true story it’s based on, but I think without a doubt Scorcese captures the truth of being in the mob at that time and in that place.

Same with Mel Gibson, I think. We have nothing to tell us that Judas saw those demonic children, but it seems reasonable to believe that after he realized what he had done, he may very well have gone crazy, or had a foretaste of Hell, or was haunted by something evil throughout the end of his life, or however you want to put it.

Besides, JPII apparently saw the film and said, “It is as it was” (link below). That’s good enough for me :thumbsup:

opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/?id=110004442

As with any artistic production, be it a play, movie, song, painting, etc. - there is going to be ‘license’ taken by the artist to some degree or another.

The depiction of the Passion in Mel Gibson’s movie, is in my opinion, while not 100% accurate is the best cinematic version ever produced.

It really helps stem the tide of depictions of what I call the “Band-Aid Death of Jesus”. By this I mean productions such as “Jesus of Nazareth” where at the Crucifixion, Jesus looks like He might have fallen into a thorn bush, but that is it. Some scraps and such is the extent of His injuries. Everyone get out a band-aid and fix Jesus – coupled with the fact that most people today have never witnessed a public execution, so they can easily be duped into thinking – “maybe Jesus really did just faint and the bumbling Romans took Him down while He was still alive, He revived and scurried away to India” (or other such nonsense).

The wounds Jesus received in the scourging were probably enough to kill Him if He would not have received prompt medical attention. I tend to hold the idea that when Jesus cries from the Cross, “It is finished”, that that is the moment that no power or medical science this side of Heaven would have been able to prevent Jesus from dying. And shortly thereafter, He did die.

The Romans were not going to under any circumstance allow Jesus to not die. They would not have mistaken a faint for a death. These were professional and one-minded killing beasts. Their whole existence was to kill and maintain order by violence. They were truly one-minded, they swore oaths to be loyal only to the Legion (over and above even familial ties). They were effective in their execution of executions (pun intended). They were not efficient, there are hundreds of more efficient ways to kill a man – which the Romans demonstrated on the battle field. But this was sport, this was their daily entertainment. They relished in prolonging and intensifying others suffering. Their creative powers were put into finding more and more ways to kill a man.

This is what Mel Gibson’s film attempts to show an audience that has become ignorant of this once brutally common part of life.

The ‘Director’s Edition’ does have commentary from Gibson and others.

I was watching a little last night and Gibson himself commented on the significance of the turning upside down of Jesus, as it happens.

He said it comes from a visionary, Maria of Agreda. In her vision, this very thing happens to Christ, and Gibson explains how it “was simply not allowed by God that his face should even touch the ground, so you’re seeing a kind of supernatural occurrence there…”

I dont think the regular dvd has this function, although I’m speaking as an English viewer, don’t know about U.S releases!

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