Things left Unseen

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This is something I’ve mentioned before a few times in conversation: I saw The Passion of the Christ before it got overworked.

One of the missteps that is easy to make as an artist is not knowing where to stop. By working too much detail into a drawing or painting, you can end up losing focus even as you draw more clarity into the work. Many current realist painters do this, ending up with stiff, staged-looking images that would benefit from a lighter touch on the elements that aren’t essential.

I saw Mel Gibson’s flawed masterpiece at an advance screening before he had completed the movie. The music wasn’t all in place and special effects were incomplete. It was unlike any other movie on Jesus that I had seen: Christ was depicted as the ideal man rather than being given the usual cinematic treatment which either makes him look as otherworldly as an alien or as stiff as a pious holy card. It was bracing and exciting.

When I saw the movie again, it was in the theater. CGI blood and gore were thrown in during the scourging scene. Ineffectively animated demons jumped from the shadows at Judas. It all distracted from the story and veered into lurid territory. Gibson overworked it.

The Passion of the Christ is still a very powerful movie that is well worth watching. But it would have been better if it had left a few things unseen, if Mel Gibson had restrained himself a little, so as to draw people into the essential center of the story.

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