The Passion of the Christ

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

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 this film. Once things start getting bloody, they don't stop until near the 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 in. 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.

Tropes used in The Passion of the Christ include:
  • 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 only very briefly, Emperor Tiberius had recently sent him a threatening letter over complaints he'd received from the priests, and was busy purging Rome of anyone connected with the traitor Sejanus, who happens to have been 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.
  • The Bible: You were expecting, maybe, Dianetics?
  • Bible Times: Of course.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The original plan was to have the entire film 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.)
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: A Real Life example. During the filming, Jim Caviezel was struck by lightning, and assistant director Jam Michelini was struck by lightning twice.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Holy SHIT. Flogging, and public humilation and then Crucifixion.
  • Creepy Child: We have Satan's demon baby, and we have the demon kids that drive Judas over the edge. Take your pick.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to a normal passion play which started out as traveling French medieval theater (unless this is a case of see right below)
  • Did Not Do the Research: Several variations from historical record.
    • The priests would not have touched a bloody and dirty man with their bare hands.
    • Victims of crucifixion were nailed through the wrists, not the palms, because the flesh of the hand would simply tear apart under the weight. Mel Gibson apparently found the imagery of the nail-pierced palms too iconic to resist, so he included that and then added rope ties for support, doubling the inaccuracy.
    • Actually, National Geographic tested this and found that people can be crucified by nailing their palms to the cross and their hands won't be torn off, albeit so long as the feet were nailed as well for support (of course, the feet of Jesus were). Also, the exact method of crucifixtion is unknown and varied, and tying victims to the cross (or stake) was probably more common than nailing, so tying and nailing in combo is actually a possibility.
      • And if you want to get really dark, there is some evidence that multiple nails were used, perhaps as many as 14, and you could speculate that sometimes the hands and the wrists, and possibly the forearms as well, were all nailed to the cross, and not just that it was one or the other.
    • The Latin spoken in the film is the Ecclesiastical pronunciation used by the Catholic Church, NOT the kind that would have been spoken by the Romans in the time of Jesus. Further, almost everyone in that part of the Roman Empire at that time would have been speaking Greek, which was the language that the Septuagint and New Testament books were written in. The screenwriters stated that they knew this, but chose Latin because it's easier to distinguish from Aramaic.
    • Similarly the Aramaic in the film is not spoken any more and is not completely known, if this film were transported back in time the native speakers would likely need subtitles as much as the modern viewers.
  • Depraved Homosexual: King Herod, who is portrayed as a giggling, mincing gay-ish man in a wig.
    • This was how he was portrayed in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Jesus Christ Superstar" musical. Guess Gibson liked that one.
    • While various people throughout history have accused the Herod family 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.
  • Downer Ending: Subverted. He gets better.
  • Driven to Suicide: Judas.
  • Evil Albino: Satan.
  • Eye Scream: One of the thieves crucified with Jesus gets his eye pecked by a raven.
  • Flat Character: Jim Cavizel's Jesus. When not being tortured, his performance mostly consists of soulful gazing.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Don't tell anyone! Jesus dies. And is then resurrected.
  • Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: Subverted. Jesus has yellow eyes like a few desert people do, while Satan's eyes are pale and almost colorless.
  • Gorn: While real crucifixions and scourgings were very messy, Your Mileage May Vary if it's Justified Trope or not.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade/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 its of course seen here
  • Insert Cameo: Gibson's hands are the one nailing Christ to the cross.
  • It Will Never Catch On: A humorous flashback with Jesus building a modern, long-legged table.No, it's not Monty Python.
  • The Messiah: Of course.
  • Nightmare Sequence
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The beatdowns of Jesus last for more than half the movie, and at times are unbearable to watch.
  • One-Woman Wail: They almost had Lisa Gerrard scoring the film.
  • 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.[1]
  • Out, Damned Spot!: Pontius Pilate.
  • 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...
  • 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 Jewish, such as giving him some contacts to make his eyes brown. Something of an inversion given the classic (inaccurate) depiction of Jesus as extremely pale.
  • Satan: Appears as a creepy androgynous woman with a male voice.
  • Shown Their Work: There is nothing pretty about Roman Execution methods, then or now, and you get to see it.
  • Surreal Horror: Take a gorn movie with a fairly straightforward tone, then throw into the mix an androgynous pale being carrying around a terrifying, leering man-baby.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Boy howdy! Jesus gets this in spades.
  • 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 its still within shades of black.
  • Up to Eleven: The level of Gorn in the film startled even many seasoned moviegoers; Roger Ebert said in his review, "This is the most violent film I have ever seen."
  • 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.
  1. 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 uncomon theme is to show angels collecting the blood of Christ in golden chalices as it is dripping from his body on the cross.