Monday, March 24, 2008

The Passion - retrospectively

Last night saw the final episode of the BBC production "The Passion". The above photo comes from Friday's episode and shows Mary at the foot of the Cross, and I've chosen it because the focus on Mary provided such a powerful means of engagement with what was happening. You can see much more about the film, and leave your own comments, here.

The drama succeeded on many levels, for my money, not the least because it managed to avoid crassness. It left questions unanswered and raised more, and provided thoughtful insights into the background pressures of the time. I'd not seen Joseph Mawle in other parts, which I felt was a good thing, but I realised that James Nesbitt was convincing me in the part of Pilate even though his face and voice were so familiar. Main impressions? The incredible dusty confusion of the Passover-crowded Jerusalem, the lack of ceremony with which some of the key moments were played out, the casual brutality of the crucifixion, the matter-of-fact attitude of the soldiers, the eyes of Mawle as he looked at the disciples and the gasping agony he brought to Jesus' death. And Mary, his mother, played by Penelope Wilton, in the agony of watching her "beautiful son" so tortured - a clever move, to spend such a long focus on her face at the foot of the cross, or as she ran gasping over the dusty hillside to confront the soldiers with her grief.

The resurrection appearances of Jesus were played by two different actors - one near the tomb, one on the road to Emmaus - who shared only a slight resemblance to Mawle. The dream-like reality was convincing, I felt, though I was glad to see the recognisable Jesus among his disciples at the end. What did this suggest? Was it saying that they became convinced by faith? or longing? or was it simply a way to convey the strangeness of the original story - that at first Jesus was not recognised by those who had known him best?

I'd like to watch it again - but not now. Too immediate, too real. But cheers for the Beeb. It's quite something to get people actually interested in the first Easter these days, and to refuse to be hidebound by convention. Definitely the best Passion film since Pasolini's "Gospel according to St Matthew" - and that's a gap of over 40 years. A lifetime, in fact.


  1. Anonymous7:43 PM

    I watched the first one, Chris, and for some reason decided it wasn't for me. I'm regretting it now!

  2. Well, Kenny, I recorded it on my hard drive - so now you've stopped smoking you could always have a film-fest here!

  3. I only saw clips of it but liked what I did see. I was also pleased to see the BBC do what looked like a worthwhile production of it.

  4. I think most of it's still on BBC iPlayer.

  5. Anonymous2:53 PM

    I found the series very interesting and credible. My only criticism is that the tomb appeared to be in the midst of the desert rather than in a garden. Why would Mary expect to see a gardener in such an arid place?