Recently I saw "The Passion of the Christ". Considerable controversy has swelled up about this movie, and I decided to go see it, expecting some violence and perhaps a few moments where tears welled up in my eyes. What I got was the most beautifully filmed, passionate movie I had seen in some time.

To say that "Passion" is simply "beautifully filmed" is an understatement. As Jesus hangs from the cross, a shot of Mary, his mother, weeping and clutching his disciple John, is amazing. The angles from which Jesus' face is shot in the Garden of Gethsemane, his terrified face lifted up to the moon, the image of Judas swinging from a tree as he hangs himself, and even the eerie, androgynous face of the black-cloaked Satan, all hold a certain degree of beauty that makes the viewer want to continue watching, to see the blood covered Jesus because he shines so in the sun.

It is a violent movie, and it is not something you "enjoy" or "love watching" and for most it probably is not an experience one would like to go through again. It is a collection of moving, bloody images that evoke too many emotions for one to sort through in the two hours and ten minutes of this film. Whether or not one believes that Jesus was the Christ, or anything more than a political insurgent or upstart, simply knowing that crucifixion existed, and that the procedure really was this torturous and vile, makes one wonder about the violence in the nature of man; how could we come up with this? What makes rational human beings suddenly become a mob, angry, screaming, and hate filled, that enjoys the pain of another human?

The strength of the women who were part of Jesus' life is touching and amazing. All of Jesus' disciples, aside from John, leave him, except for Mary Magdalene and his own Mother Mary. Those three are the only people who stay with him throughout his crucifixion, and I cannot sufficiently describe how heartbreakingly loving Mary, his mother, is. Also, while Jesus falls for what feels like the hundredth time as he is on his way to Golgotha, the only one of his followers brave enough to step forward and clean his face is Veronica, a woman who is roughly, after a few moments with Jesus, shoved away back into the crowd. The strength of all three of those characters is part of what makes the movie as wonderful as it is.

I came to the movie also expecting a certain degree of inaccuracy on the part of Mel Gibson, perhaps because the media constantly said there were mysterious "anti Semitic" undertones throughout. I found certain creative licenses were taken, such as the conversations between Pilate and his wife, and the horrid punishment the thief on Jesus' left goes through at the hands of nature, but none of these were anti Semitic or blaming the Jewish people in the least. Jews do make up most of the angry mob, but Jesus himself and his mother and all of his followers were Jewish. Also, plenty of members of the mob are disgusted at its enjoyment of the spectacle. Simon, Jewish and not even a follower of Jesus, at first reluctant, helps Jesus carry the cross willingly by the end of his march to Golgotha. The only "evil" Jewish people in the movie are Caiphas, the high priest, and the rest of the Sanhedrin. But the movie doesn't even condemn them, as numerous priests voice disapproval of the "trial" of Jesus and leave, unable to be part of such an injustice. The only characters that come across as vicious and hate filled are the Roman soldiers, as they laugh while beating Jesus, another painful scene that I certainly had to look away from.

The portrayal of Pontius Pilate may or may not be inaccurate, as he seems to be a kind, weak man in the movie, when in history we are told that he was a ruthless killer, so much so that the Caesar chastised him. But history also tell us that perhaps that was why he so reluctant to kill Jesus; if he had another killing, he could well have been punished by Caesar.

The movie has also been labeled "too bloody" and created "more of out hate then love". Where are those so concerned critics when movies like "Pulp Fiction" came out? That is hailed as one of the greater movies of our time, yet it is far more violent than "Passion". What about "The Silence of the Lambs"? The violence in that is much more disturbing and frightening than in this movie, yet no one claims its "created out of hate". Those same concerned critics also worry that "Passion" will stir up feelings of hatred for Jews. Jesus constantly says that he dies out of his own will, admonishes his disciples to "love their enemies" and asks his father to forgive the Romans nailing him to the cross. If that is not a message of love, I don't know what is, and never once is it implied that Jesus' crucifixion is the fault of all Jewish people, throughout time. It is stated that he died because he wanted to, not because anyone forced him to. Anyone claiming either of the two points above simply does not want this story told, because it will make anyone who watches it feel uncomfortable, and uncomfortable in such a different way than a movie like "Pulp Fiction" ever could.

While certainly the movie has some downfalls, such as the slightly out of proportion amount happiness the Romans have in torturing Jesus, and the perhaps melodramatic "tear drop from God" that falls to the ground after Jesus' death, none of them have to do with anti Semitism and certainly won't inspire anti Semitic feelings. As the existence of a man named Jesus who died by crucifixion is relatively accepted as fact, it is archaic to try to hide the brutality humans are capable of. Crucifixions were bloody, cruel, and vile affairs, and to try to pretend that they were not so violent or to hide the bloodshed that happened is unrealistic and silly.