Puff and I went and saw the movie the other night. It was... not very good.
I know many people wanted the movie to be good, and many have said they liked it. I had hoped it would be good, but, unfortunately, I just didn't think it was.
There were a bunch of things that got me. Being a nitpicker, I found many little problems throughout, and unfortunately I began bothering Puff with them early on in the movie, saying things like: "Wait! Is Pilate using stirrups?" (Stirrups were about eight hundred years into the future.) But the main problem was Jesus himself. He was played rather like a wimp. He sounded like he was about to break down crying with every third word. He was oddly sedate as he flipped over tables in the temple. And, I don't know why this bugged me so much, but he slouched as he walked. I just couldn't think of Christ as a late twentieth century metro-sexual slacker. Of all the Christ flicks, my favourite remains Jesus of Nazareth.
But sometimes it is better to just not put Christ into the movie at all. Think of the Robe, or Ben Hur, movies of that ilk. Jesus is there, but never present, although you may see the back of him. I wonder about that. If I were to redo a movie about that Passover, I think I would show the story from the perspective of everyone in Jerusalem other than the people mentioned in the Gospel account. Start with a shot of Jerusalem, and a voice over of a boy saying: "Why it this night different from all others?" Have scenes from the life of Jerusalem with the Passion narrative occurring in the background. A story that is rather like Brueghel's Landscape with the Fall of Icarus: a terrible tragedy happening in the distant background of everyday life. You could do something interesting with the soldiers. Something like this:
Scene: Roman Barracks, soldiers playing dice on the ground. Enter Centurion.
Centurion: Alright lads, not much happening today. Some crowd control. You lot over her are on that one. (groans) A few crucifixions later on. But before that, Pilate has just ordered another Messiah to be whipped. You lot put away the dice and take care of that.
Soldier: Aww, but centurion. We whipped the last messiah. Can't Marcus and his crew handle this one?
Centurion: (moving closer to the soldier): Doing well in the game, are you? Don't want to stop now while Fortuna is on your side?
Soldier: Well, um, as a matter of fact...
Centurion: What's your rank? (soldier looks at him blankly) You deaf? I asked you a question: What is your rank?
Centurion: Very good. And what's my rank?
Centurion: That's right. You're a legionary, and I'm a centurion. And that means that if I tell you to whip messiahs, then messiahs you will whip, and you will do it until your bleeding arms fall off. Understand?
Soldier: Yes, Centurion.
Centurion. Good. Clear up. You can bring the game along with you in case you have a chance to play later, and maybe Fortune will still be on your side.
Soldier: You think so?
Centurion: Nah, I wouldn't count it. She's a right whore.
And so on, with people in the crowd wonder what is going on over there, and with the conclusion being someone saying something like: Did we miss something?
Update: Here' Brueghel's painting.
With Bruegal's painting comes W.H. Auden's poem Musee des Beaux Arts, wherein he meditates upon this and another painting.
About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.