Derb on “The Passion”

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was just reading over John Derbyshire’s column on NRO. And in part of that column he mentions that why he will not be seeing the film. Your Maximum Leader will quote that portion:

No, I don’t think I’ll be going to see Mel Gibson’s Passion. Frankly, his movies are much too bloody for me. Even those movies in which he had no directorial role are way too gory. (And I suppose that even for those, he must have read the script and been attracted to them somehow.) When I do word association on “Mel Gibson,” I come up with simulated eviscerations (Braveheart), heads and limbs carried off by cannonballs (Patriot). and spurting arteries (We Were Soldiers, Gallipoli, etc., etc., etc.) A Mel Gibson movie is basically a highfalutin splatter-fest vv Blood Diner in historical costumes. I really don’t have the stomach for it.

The obvious riposte to this is: Well, that’s the way things were. Cannonballs did carry off heads, gunshot wounds do cause fast exsanguination, etc. I don’t doubt this is true. (From an account of Waterloo quoted in John Keegan’s The Face of Battle: “At the same time poor Fisher was hit I was speaking to him, and I got all over his brains, his head was blown to atoms.”) It is also true, however, that you can make a very fine and thrilling historical movie without buckets o’blood, as any number of older sword’n’sandal epics demonstrate.

I note that a couple of reviewers vv though unfortunately both from the left-secularist press vv agree with me about Mel Gibson’s over-the-top approach to movie violence. (Though I am working here from a New York Post review of their reviews.) David Denby at The New Yorker calls Passion “surpassingly violent.” Peter Rainer at New York magazine tagged the film “the bloodiest story ever told.”

I think Mel has a problem. Roman Catholic friends to whom I have expressed this opinion say: “Yes; but he’s put his problem to good use here.” Possibly so; but there is something peculiarly Roman Catholic about this (and Mel’s) point of view. Meditating on the gory details of Christ’s passion is a very RC thing. I recall a schoolmaster of mine, a Church of England stalwart, remarking that while the RC approach to Christianity had much to be said in its favor, “they make too much of the Crucifixion.” That is part of the general Protestant prejudice: that Roman Catholicism is an over-the-top style of worship, filled with gaudy statues, elaborate rituals, convoluted theology, and so on. Turning the Passion into a splatter flick is just another aspect of that. This is, however, a matter of religious taste, than which nothing is more doggedly intractable; so I shall say no more.


There is something to be said of avoiding the film due to the blood and gore. Your Maximum Leader is torn. He does want to see the film. (For artistic and religious evaluation.) But he also doesn’t want to sit and watch a man be tortured to death for two hours. (It is one thing to do it in the bowels of the Villainschloss for free, it is another to pay $8 and sit in a cinema for it. Okay, okay… Mrs. Villain doesn’t allow the torture to go on and on like she used to…)

Your Maximum Leader just liked the last lines of the Derb peice. In a way it says it all. Look in a Catholic Church and see the crucifix with the corpus. It is there to remind the faithful of Jesus’ passion. Look in a Protestant Church and see the crucifix alone. It is there to remind the faithful of the ressurection.

Carry on.

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