Upping the ante: the ever-increasing level of violence in crucifixion scenes on film | Street Jazz

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Upping the ante: the ever-increasing level of violence in crucifixion scenes on film

Posted By on Sat, Mar 30, 2013 at 12:41 PM

Whenever I watch a documentary or movie about Robert F. Kennedy, and we are drawn ever closer to his tragic shooting in that California hotel, I am sick with anticipation. I always know how it will end, but I am drawn in, and I am emotionally wounded as he lays on the floor of that kitchen, dying.

The same holds true for presentations about Abraham Lincoln; I know that John Wilkes Booth lunges in and shoots him in the back of the head, but I am still overcome with emotion.

I respect these men, and their deaths at the hands of cowardly assassins will never fail to move me.

When the cop played by William Petersen is suddenly killed in To Live and Die in L.A. (Sorry if you haven’t seen the movie yet) I was taken aback with shock.

I was emotionally invested in this movie, as I have been with other films when a major character has died. In Brian’s Song - a true story - I did not need to see the specifics of how cancer ravaged the body of football player Brian Piccolo to be drawn into the story. This is what good storytelling is all about.

The same holds true for the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross, a particularly vicious form of execution devised by the Romans to both punish and terrorize. When I was growing up, I saw Christ’s trial, his beatings, his carrying his instrument of death through the town, and finally, being put upon the cross in many films . . . and I was almost always moved - unless it was a badly made film.

Christ’s death upon the cross, though, as horrific as it was, is not nearly as important as his Resurrection three days later, or his teachings, which were so radical that they threatened the political power structure - and over which people still argue today. Many is the political activist who has been drawn to try to make a difference based upon what they learned in church.

But his death?

Some years ago Mel Gibson produced The Passion of the Christ, with its sadomasochistic set piece, which in turn “inspired” local productions of the Easter story (including the Eureka Springs Passion Play, according to some reports) to dramatically increase the amount of violence in their own plays, as if somehow the increased whipping would make one feel closer to God.

Instead, it makes the viewer one with the crowd, those who stood by and enjoyed the crucifixion for altogether different reasons. The rationale for attending may be different, but the blood lust is the same.

The History Channel production of the The Bible (with the Irish Moses) has upped the ante with even more beating and whipping of Jesus - almost as if this is what the whole thing has been leading up to - for therm, at least.

Well, at least we can be grateful - given the fact that this did run on what is still laughingly called the History Channel - that no “ancient aliens” made an appearance.

Has religious faith reached a point where subtle film-making and the impulse not to draw in the video game crowd are cast aside, and the faithful are expected to experience every lash, every blow? And for what? How is the emotional experience truly any different than watching King of Kings?

And it illuminates what - other than the lack of imagination on the part of part of the producers?

The truly radical parts of the life of Christ are his teachings, and, of course, the Resurrection.

Admittedly, it’s been a while since I have attended church on a regular basis (though in another life my ambition was to become a priest) but I’m pretty sure that the reason that Christ was crucified was because of the things he was saying to folks.

Ideas which are still pretty radical today. Rabble Rousing Reader.

Just imagine the uproar if a producer had said, instead of going for the least common denominator, and satisfying the blood lust of the crowd, had instead announced that a series about Jesus would be about his teachings.

It just sort of makes you wonder what will be in store for the next production of the death of Jesus Christ, and how over-the-top the violence might be then.

******

Yeah, and about that “sexy Jesus”

Is there a universal rule that news anchors must read off everything with goofy grins on their faces, and not go, “You know, this doesn’t make a damn bit of sense.”

Google was made for these poor lost souls.

After days of hearing the drivel about the new “hunky Jesus,” it seriously makes you wonder how bad not only our national IQ has become, but also our collective memories.

Hell, Christian Bale (Batman, for crying out loud) has played Jesus.

Jeffrey Hunter, first captain of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, played him.

Jim Caviezel (The The Count of Monte Cristo) played him - in the Mel Gibson movie, no less.

Hunky Jesus - what a load of self-serving PR crap. Of course, that’s what news anchors are for, half the time, to serve as PR flacks.

*****
Quote of the Day

‘Tis a sad but sober fact, that most men lead flat and virtuous lives, departing annually with their family to some flat and virtuous place, there to disport themselves in a manner that is decent, orderly, wholly uninteresting, vacant of every buxom stimulus. To such as these a suggestion, in all friendliness - why not try crime? - Kenneth Graham

rsdrake@cox.net

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