Off The Record: 'The Passion' - I'll take His word for it

February 26, 2004|HERB BROCK

I am not going to see "The Passion of the Christ." But not for the allegedly noble reasons others are citing for their no-shows.

It's not because the movie may be more faithful to the "Gospel of Mel" than to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, though that is a concern.

It's not because the movie may be anti-Semitic, though that is a worry.

It's not because the movie's dialogue is in Aramaic with English subtitles, though that would give me a headache.

It's not because the movie is produced by someone who is more of a swashbuckler and than a Biblical theologian, though that is a legitimate complaint.

It's not because the movie theater will be crowded, though that would cause my mild form of claustrophobia to kick in.


No, I wish I could cite an intellectual reason for staying away from the movie but I'm afraid my excuse is more emotionally - maybe even mentally - based. I'm afraid it reveals that I am not a macho man. That may not be a bulletin for most people who know me, but it hurts to admit it just the same.

The fact is that I do not like movies with a lot of violence, even if it's a movie in which the violence supposedly is meant to graphically portray the horrible physical sacrifice the hero endured to save sinners and, thus, endear him even more to those who worship Him.

My squeamishness and queasiness at movie theaters goes back to my childhood. Or, to put it another way, my hysterical reaction to violence is historical.

Decades ago, I was with my older brothers at one of those absolutely awful "Godzilla" movies. My brothers reacted to the movie like it was a comedy. They were hardly frightened. They laughed at the cheap cinematography featuring something that looked like a giant lizard made out of papier mache rumbling through the streets of Tokyo. They guffawed at the wildly out of synch English voice-overs that were not even close to matching the Japanese spoken by the actors.

While they were getting their yucks, I felt yucky. I had my left hand over my face. Oh, occasionally, I would open my hand in such a way that my fingers were like miniblinds and I would peer through them, but I would shut them almost as quickly as I had opened them.

And then there were the many cowboy-and-Indian, war, and monster movies we used to see. Correction: that my brothers used to see and I used to squint at.

The cowboy-and-Indian movies of the 1950s didn't bother me so much because they basically featured white men wearing QT skin-darkening lotion and black wigs with pony tails falling off their horses automatically at the sight of the brave U.S. cavalry, whether they had been shot or not.

The war movies of the 1950s were a bit more violent, but essentially the same as the cowboy-and-Indian flicks. In these movies, the Nazis would automatically fall from their sniper nests atop buildings in French villages and the Japanese would automatically fall from the palm trees on the Pacific islands as Billy Bob from Kentucky, Guido from Brooklyn, Chatsworth from the Hamptons and a host of others from the melting pot of U.S. soldiers drafted by central casting picked off the homogenous, they-all-look-alike enemy one by one.

But the monster movies of nearly a half century ago did scare me a lot, and remember they were made at a time when special effects were blood stains by Heinz seen through a pair of 3-D glasses. Well, Frankenstein's gross creation, the werewolves and the vampires probably were violent as well as scary, with all those angry, torch-toting villagers, fang-pierced necks and stakes in the heart, but I barely saw them. If I didn't have the miniblinds closed, I was pacing in the lobby.

Now for "The Passion of the Christ." It's not a cowboy-and-Indian, war or monster movie, but it is violent by all accounts, including that of violence-prone producer/actor Mel Gibson. And since I've had a hard time watching "savages," foreign enemies and disgusting monsters violently lose their lives, I hardly believe I'd like to see a hero lose His the same way.

Call me old-fashioned but I find books tell the best stories. Even though the language in books can be graphic, they generally allow the readers to use their own imaginations, if they want to. And there is a certain, rather famous best-seller that most critics agree probably tells the best story of Christ's last 12 hours on earth. Nothing against Mel and his cast, but I think I'll rely on the book's account of that climactic event in world history.

As far as the passion of the Christ, I'll take His word for it.

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