"The Passion" should not be labeled a "religious" film, or something to be shown only in church basements. Compared to examples of recent Christian films ("Left Behind" is one of many very bad ones in this genre), "The Passion" is a work of high art and great storytelling.
The dialogue is in Aramaic and Latin. English subtitles are provided, and they are helpful in following the storyline. A decision about using them in the final version has not been made. Few liberties are taken with the Gospel account, and the extra dialogue added helps round out the characters without damaging historical or biblical accuracy.
Satan is cleverly played as an asexual being who at first seems to be an observer in the Garden of Gethsemane (and in other scenes), but the appearance of a snake slithering between the character's feet and attempting to wrap itself around the arm of the prostrate and praying Jesus identifies him and his evil intent. The film is an intense two hours. It uses unknown actors, which helps focus attention on the message. By the end of the film (a unique portrayal of the resurrection), the viewer is exhausted.
Thirteen years ago, actor Mickey Rooney wrote an editorial for Variety in which he said, "The on-screen depiction of religion is less than flattering, and, as a Christian, I pray the era of denigrating religion on screen comes to a screeching halt. And soon."
Rooney's prayer has been answered with "The Passion." It is a soul-stirring film that deserves wide distribution and viewing. Its message is not just for Christians, but for everyone. I doubt a better film about Jesus could be made.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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