At the end of the review, I write that “some people may find they cannot watch The Passion the way they used to.” I’ll give you a tiny for-instance. I have written at some length — especially in a chapter for Re-Viewing The Passion that was posted here — about the use of point-of-view shots and other techniques that Gibson used to take us into the “subjective” experience of Jesus. When Jesus falls to the ground, the camera shows the world turning upside down from his POV, and so on. There is at least one similar shot in Apocalypto — a very shaky bit of film shot from the point of view of a newly decapitated head — and I find the technique much more crassly exploitative here. And because the person whose POV we are experiencing is barely more than an extra, the shot doesn’t particularly mean anything to us. It becomes just the latest reminder that the sadistic/masochistic technique may be more important for Gibson than the context in which he uses it.
Apocalypto — the review’s up!
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Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his award-winning film column for that paper, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He has also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005) and The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film (De Gruyter, 2016).