Is The Passion More Violent than Kill Bill?
Criminal bloodshed and the proper response to it are central themes in two of this week's new releases. Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill—Vol. 1 is primarily concerned with the styles, varieties of combat, and other genre conventions of kung-fu and gunslinger revenge epics. And Clint Eastwood takes the moral implications "eye-for-an-eye" much more seriously in his moody drama Mystic River.
Meanwhile, as cries of anti-Semitism continue to rise concerning Mel Gibson's upcoming film about Jesus, now the film's violent nature is becoming controversial as well.
(Note: In a story at Yahoo News, it appears that the title of the film has changed. It is now apparently called The Passion of Christ.)
At Easterblogg, Gregg Easterbrook of The New Republic writes that "Gibson has a reputation for movies that revel in gore, so there's legitimate worry that The Passion will depict an over-the-top, splatter-movie Hollywood version of Christ's final hours; and Gibson will sell this as historically accurate 'truth' when it is just one of many possible interpretations of an event no one can be sure about."
Elsewhere, Frederica Matthewes-Green is similarly concerned about how much Gibson plans to dwell on the violent means by which Christ was killed. "It's a mark of our age that we don't believe something is realistic unless it is brutal. But there's another factor to consider. When the four evangelists were writing their own accounts of the Passion, they didn't take Gibson's approach. In fact, the descriptions of Jesus' beating and crucifixion are as minimal as the writers can make them. Instead of appealing to our empathy, they invite us to awesome wonder, because they had a different understanding of the meaning of his suffering."
At the Catholic News Service, Archbishop Stefan Soroka of the Ukrainian Archdiocese of Philadelphia has seen the movie, and thus can report on the film itself. His response? "[It's a] shallow presentation on the life of Jesus and the significance of the resurrection. Frankly, without the hype, this movie will not interest many viewers because it fails to offer hope. I would not recommend the movie to my friends nor to the faithful—and particularly the young—because the film, while interesting in the way some things are portrayed, particularly evil, lacks content to really engage my interest."
Tarantino cuts Kill Bill in two; Christian critics cut Volume One to pieces
Last week, Film Forum summarized Quentin Tarantino's new film Kill Bill—Vol. 1 and listed a few early responses from religious press critics.
This week, Tarantino's bloody epic earned more scorn from Christian film reviewers—but it won a few defenders as well. The film, which stars Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox, Darryl Hannah, and Sonny Chiba, is an homage to the combat-oriented movies that Tarantino cherished as a young moviegoer. While many are offended that viewers could laugh at such rampant cruelty, those who laugh explain their reaction by saying that the scenes are funny because they are so preposterous and exaggerated. Tarantino does indeed find a lot of comedy in his tongue-in-cheek tribute. But he also strives to make us sympathize with his heroine and her quest for revenge the same way that we come to care about the missions of Braveheart and The Patriot. While we may not approve of violent revenge as a motive, surely we can understand it. The question remains open: Will "the Bride" eventually see the futility and damaging effects of her vengeful killing spree? Or will she finish her story as she began, believing that she is the punishing hand of God, justly delivering judgment upon those who so grievously wronged her?