31 March 2008

The Passion On BBC

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I seem to be spending most of my time on Catholic forums and websites at the moment apologising for my ignorance, so my own site might as well be the same; and so I'll confess to enjoying something which, from the resounding silence I have noted elsewhere, everybody else has consigned to the "pretty bad" category.
I watched all four episodes of The Passion during Holy Week and on Easter Sunday and thought it was pretty good. It was telling that, when the character who had walked with the disciples to Emmaus broke the bread and the actor changed to the actor who had played Jesus, my daughter said "Oh! 'They recognised Him in the breaking of the bread.'" No messing about with the main part of the story; a fairly literal following of the order of things; lots of familiar words and expressions. Some flesh put on something we normally only experience in the imagination.
I tried watching the Mel Gibson version but was put off by the SSPXness of it all: Latin, in a country and at a time when everybody would have used Greek as the lingua franca; the emphasis on the blood and gore; what I might think of as a sort of post-Irish-neo-Jansenism: none of us are worthy of the Man who suffers like this, and we can but try to suffer like this to show that we recognise our unworthiness; and we'll still go to Hell, which we deserve to do, unless we confess with our last breath - but at least we recognise what sinners we are. (OK, maybe a bit unfair, but only a bit.)
This wasn't a production for Catholics, but it ended up as though, somewhere along the line, somebody in the production team decided that he didn't want to annoy anybody who was Catholic. So while the earlier part of the narrative went a bit wild about who did what, when, the Passion narrative showed Jesus and the Apostles from the Last Supper to the Resurrection and the road to Emmaus. It didn't try to suggest, for example, that there was a third thief crucified along with Jesus, or that Mary Magdalene wasn't a prostitute, or that Jesus commended Our Lady and John not to each other, but to some hypothetical counsellor who would make everybody feel comfortable with what had happened. It wasn't a Life of Brian for believers.
It wasn't wonderful: it was much better than Robert Powell's 1977 Jesus of Nazareth, and miles better than The Greatest Story Ever Told. It felt like a sincere attempt to tell the greatest story ever told without resorting to capital letters. At the end Christ had died, and Christ had risen, and that was a miracle that nobody in Judaea could understand, even Jesus' followers. That was worth my licence fee for the week.

6 comments:

David Palmer said...

Hmm... I agree to an extent, I wasn't overly impressed with the portrayal of our Lady, as a grumpy, bad tempered and (in places) somewhat faithless woman. I also wondered why anybody would have left everything to follow this Jesus (as he was portrayed) in the earlier episodes.

However that said, on balance it was a reasonably positive telling of the passion, it didn't duck the resurrection, and considering how bad it could have been, well I was pleasantly surprised. So all in all I think I would have to commend the BBC for this. Indeed it would be somewhat churlish to complain when they don't cover "religious stuff" at Easter and Christmas, and then complain when they do!

On the side of the angels said...

I couldn't get past the first five minutes - I was just incensed at the ignorance and lack of research from the start ; and when Fr Mildew commented on a few things they had done to distort the story [e.g. Mary: I didn't choose to have you] I simply refused to waste my time. I thought the casting was terrible - I've experienced more charismatic blank filing cards than the actor they had playing Christ ; and as for the apostles and Caiaphas and Pilate ? I know I didn't see it but the little I did see was enough to repulse me....

Mac McLernon said...

Ttony, you've been tagged!

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

I didn't watch it. I'm afraid I was put off by what I heard about the first couple of episodes and even though the Catholic Herald guy seemed to like it-he did so because it made out that Caiphas was a reasonable man!
I do like the Gibson film although I couldn't bring myself to watch it this Lent as I'd planned.

I've tagged you too. Hope you don't mind.

Moretben said...

the SSPXness of it all: Latin, in a country and at a time when everybody would have used Greek as the lingua franca; the emphasis on the blood and gore; what I might think of as a sort of post-Irish-neo-Jansenism: none of us are worthy of the Man who suffers like this, and we can but try to suffer like this to show that we recognise our unworthiness; and we'll still go to Hell, which we deserve to do, unless we confess with our last breath - but at least we recognise what sinners we are.

Yep! A palpable hit!

Moretben said...

...and like the Robert Powell thing, no more than a nod to the Resurrection; all Stabat Mater and no Regina Caeli. Not good.