March 17, 2004

Satan in Gibson's Passion

I came across this take on Mel Gibson’s Passion and thought I’d pass it along.

Hollywood’s typical recent representations of Satan are of a sinister, threatening, and overpowering “dark force” without specific form. But he is brutish and frightening. His very presence is malevolent and makes one shudder. His voice is shrill and foretells disaster.

But director Mel Gibson may have gotten it about right in The Passion of the Christ. Satan is so amorphous that we are not even sure if he is male or female. S/he isn’t shrill or threatening. S/he doesn’t menace or portend harm. S/he certainly doesn’t announce a demonic presence by the smell of brimstone or some gaudy, outlandish attire.

The Satan of The Passion is the one I’ve encountered and battled for all my life. S/he blends into the background. S/he speaks in whispers rather than with shouts. S/he makes good sense. You’d deny s/he is anywhere at hand.

So Satan whispers to Jesus and tells him the task he has taken upon himself is too hard. One person can’t fight this battle. It is impossible for him to do anything that could rescue humankind from the morass of confusion and deadly error into which we have fallen.

Satan works the edges of the crowd to get them to take up his chant against the Son of God. He can’t be who he claims to be. He demands too much or presumes too much or claims too much. Jesus – not Satan – is the real threat. Something must be done to get rid of him!

Worse than the beating Jesus takes at the hands of two sadistic Roman soldiers is Satan’s temptation for him to give way to despair. To abandon his Father’s plan. To leave the despicable humans to the fate they deserve.

Almost everyone with whom I have spoken about The Passion has had something to say about Rosalinda Celentano’s character. Its believability. Its shocking accuracy. And if someone replies that some of us seem to know Satan too well from up-close encounters, I can only wince and grieve that he has not been perceptive enough to realize how close s/he is to him.

The movie cast the character well. It may have been about as close to perfect as anyone will ever get Satan on the big screen. Maybe it will make some of us more aware. More alert. More determined to resist.

Believe it or not, Karol and I have yet to see the movie.

Posted by Ted at March 17, 2004 6:53 AM

Hey Ted and Karol, just read the link on your take on mel gibsons portrayal of Satan. Quite intrigued. We have yet to go see the movie as well. Did you and Karol get the pictures of Nuriel? Let me know. Love you guys.
John, Suzanne, and Nuriel

Posted by: John M Cook at March 18, 2004 10:54 PM