A film directed and produced by Mel Gibson about the Passion of the Christ — the last hours of Jesus Christ's life. All the dialogue is in the ancient languages Aramaic and Latin. The initial cut didn't even have subtitles, though they were added to the theatrical cut on the insistence of test audiences.Much of it is based on The Bible, but not all of it; some parts are based on more mystical Roman Catholic literature detailing what happened during Jesus' last hours — specifically, the documentations of the visions of a Stigmatic nun named Anne Catherine Emmerich.Infamous because it portrays the sheer horror of what happened to Jesus in unbearably prolonged, bloody and gory detail. Gorn doesn't even begin to describe the content of film. Once things start getting bloody, they don't stop until near the very end.This was rated R, presumably because it had only violence and deeply disturbing imagery. (Roger Ebert and many others called the ratings board out on this.) Mel Gibson recommended it to people 13 and up. Some Christian parents and even youth pastors chose to take advantage of the "accompanied by someone over 17" clause to get children under that age into the movie. In the UK, where film ratings aren't advisory, under 18s weren't even allowed in the cinema, although some Christians have been known to recommend the DVD to under 18s.Stars Jim Caviezel as Christ and Monica Bellucci as Magdalene. The rest of the cast is mostly unknown theater actors from Italy and the Middle-East.
Anti-Villain: Pontius Pilate, neither the first nor the last politician ever to wimp out in the face of death.
While the film touches on this fact only very briefly, Emperor Tiberius had recently sent him a threatening letter over complaints he'd received from the Jewish priests, and was busy purging the Roman administration of anyone connected with the traitor Sejanus (the former consul), who happened to have been Pontius Pilate's sponsor for his position as governor of Judea. The priests complaining to Tiberius that he was no Amicus Caesaris—friend of Caesar—would have gotten Pilate sent to the chopping block.
This is also why he tried to pass the buck to Herod when it came to handing down sentences.
Artistic License - Religion: Gibson made several mistakes when it comes to Jewish laws and traditions. Most notable when it showed the Seder he is eating leaven bread instead of matza. Also he makes them eat while sitting upright despite a Seder is supposed to be eaten while reclining, one of the 4 questions makes this perfectly clear.
There is considerable dispute among Catholic theologians as to whether the Last Supper actually started out as a Seder meal or not. It may well be that Gibson had not intended to depict a Seder at all.
No Jew ever gave the order to crucify Jesus—there are only four death penalties permitted according to Jewish law—beheading, strangling, burning and stoning—and crucifixion is not one of them.
However many theologians do say that the Pharisee's needed Jesus to be recognized as a criminal under Roman Law, not their own.
It's commonly accepted among historians that nails were driven through the bones of the wrist rather than through the palms, given that the soft tissue of the hand couldn't support the weight of the victim. A pretty straightforward case of Artistic License, since Gibson more or less acknowledged that the power of imagery won out over historical accuracy.
Bilingual Bonus: The original plan was to have the entire film in Aramaic with no subtitles at all. As it stands, only lines central to the plot are subtitled, leaving a lot of lines from bystanders and Romans which someone who knows the language can translate themselves. (As a side note a few of the languages are actually wrong, for instance the Roman characters all speak Ecclesiastic pronunciation.)
While various people throughout history have accused the Herod dynasty of all kinds of depravity, this particular ruler had more of a reputation with his detractors as a notorious womanizer; make of that what you will. The original reason for Herod being portrayed as a libertine is because the Jews didn't like their Hellenized royalty, who were seen as sell-outs who'd abandoned their Jewishness in favor of decadent Greek high culture.
He's Dead, Jim: Enforced. When an experienced Roman soldier (who's doubtless seen a few deaths in his time) assures his boss that Jesus is gone, his boss tosses him a spear and tells him to make sure of it. A quick lancing confirms his analysis.
Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: Subverted. Jesus has yellow eyes like a few desert-dwelling people do (mutations due to the hot climate), while Satan's eyes are pale and almost colorless.
Historical Hero/Villain Upgrade The exact events are lost to history outside religous tradition, however Pontius Pilate and the Sanhedrin both existed in historical record. Pilate moves up and the Sanhedrin down in classic Biblical accounts, and it is, of course seen here.
Insert Cameo: Gibson's hands are the ones nailing Christ to the cross.
He also plays him during the flashback with Mary Magdalene, hence why he's only seen from the back in that scene.
Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: Jesus bleeds up more than the entire adult blood supply when he's flogged, then bleeds out three or four people's worth of blood when he's crucified. *
To all Christians, but in particular to Catholics, that is the whole point, as it is the blood of Christ that is offered to God in atonement for the sins of the whole world — the same blood that Catholics, and to a lesser extent certain Protestant denominations such as the Anglicans and Lutherans, profess a belief in receiving at Communion under the form of wine that has been transubstantiated into Christ's blood. In fact, in medieval devotional paintings, a not uncommon theme is to show angels collecting the blood of Christ in golden chalices as it is dripping from his body on the cross.
Passion Play: Naturally. One of the more famous modern examples.
Punch Clock Villain: The Roman commander overseeing the crucifixion. He is obviously disgusted by the gruesome state of Jesus and the behavior of his cruel soldiers, but does his job anyway.
Or utterly fails to do it, when you consider a commander is responsible for the behavior of said soldiers...
Considering that his soldiers are more or less *supposed* to be cruel (to deter others and to make the punished people die quicker) I'd say he's doing a pretty good job.
Race Lift: While we can't know what Jesus looked like, he was a Middle-Eastern Jew. James Caviezel's father is of Slovak (maternal) and Swiss (paternal) descent, while his mother's ancestry is Irish. However, it is beyond unlikely that Jesus was at all Slovak / Swiss / Irish. Hence, the makeup crew did what they could to make Caviezel look more Middle-Eastern, such as giving him contacts and dying his hair darker. Something of an inversion given the classic (inaccurate) depiction of Jesus as extremely pale.
Satan: Appears as a creepy androgynous woman with a harsh male voice.
Shown Their Work: There is nothing pretty about Roman execution methods, then or now, and you get to see it.
Truth in Television: While this particular case and film is not without its issues, crucifixion was a common punishment in Ancient Rome. If any of them were less cruel it's still within shades of black.
You Bastard: The Virgin Mary's unblinking stare (also a Heroic BSOD) directly into the camera over her son's corpse smacks of this trope. After all "Jesus died for our sins." Minor Easter eggs such as the fact that Mel's hands are the ones nailing Jesus to the cross are there to add symbolism for this point.