culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Monday, February 23, 2004
Betrayed by more than Judas. In all the media froth over the so-called historical/realistic accuracy of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, shouldn't it be acknowledged that slow-motion depictions of violence, especially graphic violence, are not "accurate"?

Despite Gibson's conceit of setting the film's entire dialogue in Aramaic and Latin, his supposed devotion to realism is not total. Slow motion is itself a photographic lie, creating a fake spectacle of prurient fascination that romances the violence rather than uplifting its audience to higher spiritual enlightenment. The heavy-handed use of slow motion often reveals when a violent scene has crossed over the line from cinema into pornography.

But it's good for box office. Gibson's motivation may not be as pure as his public zealotry would have us believe — or he's too indoctrinated in the visual cliches of action-movie Hollywood to know the difference. Although we can argue his religious motivation or filmmaking talents, no one can question his talent for public relations.

Jesus has been betrayed once again, this time by Mel Gibson. Jesus will die yet another death, not as a god, not as a man, but this time as a Hollywood action figure. He will be yanked back and forth in the tugs of war between spiritual meditation and earthly merchandising — another religious war without meaning or purpose beyond profiteering and politics.

UPDATE: I had reached the conclusions above based only on seeing the commercials and their slow-motion glorification of violence, but
David Denby reaches similar conclusions having screened the picture itself.

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