Room with a View|Jul 27, 2004 8:55 AM| by:

A Passion gone Wrong?

Film: The Passion of the Christ; Director: Mel Gibson.

The film reveals the last day lived by Christ, complete with the betrayals that followed vis-à-vis all his closest disciples, the torture inflicted, the dilemmas of justice being doled out, the frenzied madness of a riotous mob, the hypocrisy of religion, and of course the eternal compassion of a man condemned towards the perpetrators of his most agonizing moments on earth.

This film had it all.

What it lacked was sensitivity.

Any work of art, or for that matter any work at all, has a source of origin, a level of consciousness from which it is inspired. Invariably, unless one is a master of sorts, that work will have a corresponding effect on the receiver, bringing him at par with that same level. Although there has to be a certain degree of openness towards things truer and beautiful, on the other hand, a work which is brought to life from a lower plane is often more successful with the mass of humanity, which unfortunately is still entrenched in those same planes.

The Passion of the Christ, said to be the film of the year, made by a well known and credible personality of the film world, seems to be a piece of work which has originated from an absolutely vital plane and as a consequence draws a lot of emotional support from the viewer… the whole gamut of grief, repulsion, anger, disgust… all of it stems suddenly in a single being, in an endless two hours. Ironic that a depiction of a spiritual personality is done from such an unspiritual plane of consciousness. Of course there may be an argument that Gibson was trying to bring out the immense compassion, which belongs to the plane of the spiritually enlightened, by contrasting it against the visuals – the more he was tortured, the more one was perhaps meant to feel his sacrifice and worth. However, reiterating the earlier point, again I feel that when a visual, word, action, thought… anything, churns up the passion yes, but negative or positive passion from the ignorant depths of our being, and our most superficial and reactive emotions, then that piece of creativity can only have stemmed from a similar plane, irrespective of how high its ideals or motives may have been from a mental point of view.

There is also a tangential issue that crops up in my mind. There is no dearth of violence in the average Hollywood /Bollywood /European cinema today, then why does the heart do a somersault watching an age old story, a story that Christians and non-Christians alike have known, or at least been told, of the cross, the crown of thorns, the torture and the unfairness of it all? Where one is already prepared mentally, one would imagine the pain of the onslaught of emotions to be less.

Perhaps the answer for this lies in the fact that a figure or a personality known for his compassion and forgiveness, known for his mission on earth, known for his intense suffering, as he carried the burden of mankind upon his back, a figure that is for the imagination to uphold as it likes – this figure is suddenly reduced to something tangible, real, made up of cries of pain and blood that drips, just like ours. Jesus who one may revere and relegate to the realms of the extraordinary, is suddenly bent over not just with his cross but with the director’s entire emotional burden, which is seeking to come out in every visual, every frame. And seeing one’s imagination of Someone so grand, in such a stark manner, without gearing up or preparing oneself for it, is like a punch that takes the wind out of the hardiest of us.

On the other hand, I saw a film the very next day which filled me with just the opposite reactions. Peter Pan. Again, one has grown up on his story and once more, the imagination has conjured an image of innocence that looks and feels and speaks and acts like Peter Pan. And then, here is another director who has also his own imagination and armed with that he creates a ‘real’ image on the screen. Played by a real human boy, Peter Pan is now nearer to us than ever. And with a mix of good and bad, evil and virtue, child-like games and grown-up issues, the film enters into our lives with what seems like just the right fix of fantasy and reality. The film has a setting where unknown and known worlds meet each other with acceptance. To create a magical piece of art is not as simple as it looks, although one must admit, that to many it will simply be a fairy tale of sorts. But look deeper and you may find that underneath the special effects of modern technology, there is a lot more to learn from Peter Pan.

Two films, distinctly different in nature, subject, direction, depiction.

Most importantly, two films distinctly different in the levels of consciousness from where they originated, and the subsequent levels of consciousness that they have targeted and evoked.

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