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As neither a theology scholar nor a historian, I am unqualified to comment on writer/director Mel Gibsonís THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST ($35) in any other capacity than the filmís relevance as a piece of cinematic art. In that capacity, I feel that THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is artistically brilliant, and a film that is certain to touch almost everyone at some level, whether it be spiritual, emotional, intellectual or physical. Now while I am of the opinion that this film should be seen, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is not a motion picture for everyone to see in its unexpurgated form. There are moments in the film, were my revulsion at manís inhumanity forced me to turn away from the screen, and left me with a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Considering the controversy that surrounded THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST and the filmís release, as well as its unprecedented success at the box office, I doubt that there is anyone out there that is unaware of the storyline, which depicts the last hours in the life of Jesus. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST fixates on Jesusí suffering, as the result unimaginable torture at the behest of corrupt clerics and at the hands of the Roman military, which culminates with his death through crucifixion. Gibson has stated that he derived his interpretation of the events in THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST from the gospels. However, with the graphic depiction of said events, Gibsonís vision makes the statement that the amount of suffering Christ endured, had to be equal to the amount of sin his death would ultimately redeem.

I can certainly understand Gibsonís artistic aspirations, and have to give the director all the credit in the world for sticking to his vision. Especially, when no Hollywood studio would put money into a property, which they deemed had zero commercial appeal. Heck, even I can understand the reluctance to invest in a movie that is being produced in Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew for release to American audiences. Sure, Gibsonís faith in the project was ultimately vindicated when THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST earned over three hundred and seventy million dollars at the American box office.

Even though much of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is painful to watch, Gibson ultimately realized through beautiful cinematography, superb production design and strong performances of a very capable international cast that brings it all to life. The cast of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST includes James Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Christo Jivkov, Francesco De Vito, Monica Bellucci, Mattia Sbragia, Toni Bertorelli, Luca Lionello, Hristo Shopov, Claudia Gerini, Fabio Sartor, Giacinto Ferro, Aleksander Mincer, Adel Ben Ayed, Chokri Ben Zagden, Roberto Bestazzoni, Luca De Dominicis, Pietro Sarubbi, Sergio Rubini, Francesco Cabras, Andrea Refuto, Jarreth J. Merz and Rosalinda Celentano.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. Both the original Theatrical Version and a Less Violent Re-cut Version of the film are present on the disc. Both of the 1080p presentations are generally excellent and pay tribute to Caleb Deschanel's superb cinematography. Image sharpness, clarity and fine detail are all exceedingly strong, which brings out the intricacies of the sets, props and costumes. Additionally the picture is highly dimensional. Colors are generally somewhat muted, but the blood reds do seem to contrast against the more subdued hues. Blacks are inky, while the whites are completely stable. Contrast is generally smooth and accurate, even in bright sunlit conditions. Shadow detail is very good. The elements from which THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST have been transferred appear relatively free from blemishes. There is a very fine layer of grain that is present throughout the course of the film.

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The sound design is very directional and very atmospheric, but in a more subtle way, which accurately reflects the period in which the film is set. Crowd noises fill the soundstage at the appropriate moments, while other, more painful, sound effects come across in an unnervingly realistic fashion. Fidelity is very strong thanks to the lossless encode, which enhances the musical component of the soundtrack. Additionally, the track has a weighty bottom end, which does impact key moments. Voices have a warm, natural quality, but I am at a loss to discuss how the intelligibility of the Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew. No other language tracks are present. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog and Portuguese.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across both discs of this set. Starting things off are four running Audio Commentaries. The first commentary focuses on Filmmaking and features Mel Gibson, cinematographer Caleb Deschanel and editor John Wright. The second commentary focuses on Production and features producer Stephen McEveety, second unit director Ted Rae and visual effects producer Kevin Vanderhan. The third commentary focuses on Theological aspects and features Mel Gibson, language consultant Father William Fulco, plus theologians Gerry Matatics and Father John Bartunek. The fourth commentary focuses on Music and features composer John Debney talking about select sequences. There is also an Enhanced Viewing Mode With Biblical Footnotes on disc one.

Moving on to disc two (an SD DVD), one will find the remainder of the supplemental programming. By His Wounds, We Are Healed: Making Of The Passion Of The Christ is a feature length documentary that runs one hour and forty minutes and covers the production in tremendous detail. Featurettes include Through The Ages, Paths Of A Journey, On Language, Crucifixion: Punishment In The Ancient World and Anno Domani. Deleted Scenes and a Panel Discussion are also provided. Still Galleries covering Production Art, Historical Texts, Characters And Their Actors and Unit Photography have also been included. Trailers and TV Spots close out the supplements.

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is a brutal, but moving, piece of cinema. The Blu-ray presentation is excellent. Very highly recommended.



The Passion of the Christ [Blu-ray] (2004)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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