Mel Gibson’s presentation of Satan in The Passion of the Christ

Subject: 🎨 Art
Type: Critical Analysis Essay
Pages: 9
Word count: 2253
Topics: 🎞️ Film Analysis, ✝️ Christianity
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The Passion of the Christ is a biblical film depicting the passion of Jesus according to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The film is written by Mel Gibson and Benedict Fitzgerald and the director is still Mel Gibson. Some of the main actors in the film include Jim Caviezel starring as Jesus Christ, Maia Morgenstern starring as the Virgin Mary while Monica Belucci stars as Mary Magdalene.  The film covers the events of twelve hours before Jesus’ crucifixion and ends with a short description of his resurgence. In spite of the movie being among the highest earning films domestically with an estimate net of six hundred and twelve million dollars. Despite the success, the film has been criticized due to the depiction of certain events and the representation characters in the film. The film has been receiving opposed interpretations where critics have found the film to be unwarranted and promotion of anti-Semitism. The film has received three Academy Awards from the 2005 nomination and boasts of being the highest R-rated movie in the United States to date.

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Thesis: The research analyzes the representation of Satan in the film The Passion of the Christ while contrasting with the De. Mille representation of Satan. The film is a representation of Christianity but there is the aspect of Satanism as a topic. The passion of Christ represents Christianity but in order to understand Christianity it is also important to understand Satanism in the film.

The film explores several themes that include love, hope, forgiveness and faith. Examples of featuring   stylistic devices in the cast are imagery used in the Dark and Light and irony that is heavily seen in the films portrayal of Satan where he has been seen to be beautiful and graceful to help in making alluring. These styles used in the film have made the film to differ with the traditionally known passion story of Jesus (Lawrence 59). The movie starts with the scene of Jesus at the garden of Gethsemane praying while Satan is trying to tempt him asking whether one man can carry the weight of humankind’s sins. Jesus then steps on the serpent and Satan disappears creating a good example of a metaphorical theological setting borrowed from Genesis 3:15 where God cursed the woman’s and serpent’s offspring. These examples portray Satan as Jesus’ main protagonist the opposite of the conventionally known Jews.  It can largely be seen when the devil mimics the Virgin Mary when Jesus is carrying the cross to his crucifixion at Golgotha and the compelling suicide of Judas Iscariot canvassed by the devil child on the tree that Jesus had differentiated as the tree of life. Judas tried to return the money that he was given so that Jesus would be freed but the priests refused. The film also shows the bad relationship that existed between the High Priest Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate, where the High Priest refers Jesus to him but he finds no crime.

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Since Jesus was from Antipas, Pontius Pilate then refers Jesus to Herod Antipas who also does not find Jesus guilty of any crime and refers him to Pontius Pilate. He then offers the crowd the option to either release Jesus or Barabbas who had been convicted of robbery with violence but the crowd demands to have Barabbas released and Jesus crucified. Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins to be forgiven, but the events that led to Jesus being crucified might have been stimulated by Satan. Pontius Pilate orders that Jesus be flayed and not crucified. The Roman soldiers enjoy whipping Jesus while mocking him until they are indignantly stopped by Abenader their officer. Jesus is then taken to the byre where the soldiers place a thorn crown on his head while saying hail the king of the Jews. Jesus is then presented to Pontius Pilate after being hit on the head by one of the soldiers and the High Priest together with the crowd push for Jesus’ crucifixion for being an impersonator. Pontius Pilate washes his hands in an attempt to show that he takes no responsibility for ordering the crucifixion of Jesus.

On the way to Golgotha, a woman tells Jesus to wipe his face with her cloth but as she tries to give him some water from her pot, she is dispelled by a soldier. On the cross Jesus prays to God and asks for the forgiveness of those that had wronged whilst he offers salvation to the thief crucified besides him because of his faith and penance. When Jesus surrenders his spirit to the Lord leading to his death, a single droplet of water falls from the sky and triggers an earthquake leading to the destruction of the temple and the ripping of the curtain temple into two. In the film, Satan is shown screaming because of defeat in Hell while being consumed by the eternal fire that gives Hell an ignited appearance. Jesus is then buried and resurrects from the dead with a body that has already healed with only visible holes on his palms.

When Satan appears at the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus is praying, he tempts Jesus asking him how could one person carry the weight of all of humankinds sins but Jesus does not fall for this. In the process, a serpent appears under Satan’s cloth and Jesus steps on it, this is contrary to what is written in the gospels about what happened at the garden of Gethsemane and Christian teachings and beliefs. Also the scene where Judas Iscariot is tormented by children who seem to be devilish thereby leading to him committing suicide is not mentioned in any of the gospels in the Bible. The film also sheds light on the nature of the relationship between Pontius Pilate and Caesar to a point where Pontius Pilate discusses with his wife about the imposition of orders to avoid Judean insurrections and Simon of Cyrene being of Jewish descent. Simon of Cyrene is referred to Jew by a Roman soldier which is the opposite of the biblical gospels which refer to Simon as a pagan and only give the place where he came from.

The inscriptions on the cross in the film are in Hebrew and Latin while those from the biblical context are in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Moreover, the inscriptions in the film inhabit three lines. The film uses other sources apart from the Bible, which have led to the opposite of what is written in the gospels and what Christian believe. The teachings have also been affected though the main intention is to uncover what has not been covered in the Bible. A notable outside source that was used is The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. An event that has been directly picked from The Dolorous of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the absence of the cock crow in the film since it clearly states that the cock did not crow but was instead felt (Hutch 86). Though there is no gospel that clearly depicts the crow of the cock, this scene has come to be clearly inscribed in Christian teachings and other films relating to The Passion of the Christ. Other scenes not mentioned in the gospels but distinctive to the film include the crow poking on the eye of the thief who had mocked Jesus, Jesus’ remembrance of when he was constructing a three legged stool for a Roman and the scene of Satan carrying a devilish baby. The portrayal of Satan carrying a devilish child in the film has been used to demonstrate Satan and the antichrist. Certain Christian iconography illustrate a crow over head the bad thief and a dove or an angel on the thief who had repented.

From the film, Satan’s character has been seen to be beautiful and graceful. As usual, the film has used the fact that people are attracted to beautiful things. This adds to the alluring nature of Satan that makes it easier for people to sin, making them to live in the ways that Satan desires. It is based on this description of Satan that humans would first be appealed by Satan’s appearance that people would associate with him resulting in them laying their trust in him. Satan would finally tempt them and they would easily commit sins.

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The use of devilish children in the film signified the coming of the antichrist. These children tormented Judas Iscariot to committing suicide after the betrayal of Jesus. The use of these children signified the future times, when the antichrist will come and deceive humanity off their values and everything they stood for.  It signifies the coming of false messiahs when people will deny the existence of the father and the son and the world will be characterized by lawlessness. The death of Jesus for humankind’s sins did not signify that sin had come to an end but signified that all the sins committed by man were forgiven. Therefore, humans were to think and be in a position to determine what is right from what is wrong while having faith in God that all that they endure in their daily encounters would come to pass just like Jesus believed in God.

From the film, Satan has been seen to mimic the Virgin Mary during the journey to Golgotha where Jesus was to be crucified when he was crying pleading to the people to reconsider their move against the crucifixion of his son. The representation here has been used to tempt Mary the mother of Jesus who was considered to be gracious to sin. By sinning, it would have been seen that Mary’s faith that Jesus would overcome death and evil was not strong. It would have however created the illusion that God had forsaken his people and the mission that Jesus was to die for our sins would have been fruitless.

This events in the Passion of the Christ are contrary to the representation of Satan by Cecil B. De. Mille in the film The King of Kings. From the film, we see that Satan is symbolized in the evil deeds of the people that Jesus healed (Liedtka 124). Here, Jesus heals Mary Magdalene off his adulterous sin and protects another woman who had been tangled in adultery after driving away Satan who had gone the extra mile of promising Jesus an earthly kingdom. Caiaphas, a High Priest in the film is annoyed with Judas for having led the people to Jesus whom he had viewed as a false prophet. In a bid to clean his personality, Judas agreed to betray Jesus which leads to him having a weakened faith. During the last supper when Jesus broke the bread and gave it to his followers saying this is my body and blood…

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Judas refuses to drink the wine and intentionally lets the portion of bread fall to the ground. When Jesus heads to the garden of Gethsemane to pray, he is captured and beaten by the Roman soldiers before he is presented to Pontius Pilate. On seeing the suffering of Jesus, Judas takes the rope that had been used to tie Jesus on the wrists and runs away. Jesus’ humility can be seen when he is being taken to be crucified yet he stops and heals a crowd of cripples after Caiaphas the High Priest entices the multitude to shout at Jesus despite pleas from Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene to spare the life of Jesus. During the crucifixion of Jesus’ enemies hurl insults at him, a move that can be seen to be influenced by an evil hand. The film is shot in black and white indicating the fight between good and evil, and just when evil seems to have won, Jesus resurrects as prophesied and the scene is now shot in color an indication that good will always prevail while emphasizing the importance of Jesus’ resurrection to the world.

Religion is an important aspect of the current society because it connects people with their supreme being. The movie talks about Christ and the use of evil on children, which is a practice that affects people in the current society. Jesus is a symbol of salvation for Christians and the cross symbolizes the strength of Jesus because he died to save mankind. A combination of religion and creativity in Gibson’s movie captures all audience despite the age because everybody learns that the world exists with both evil and good. People have the right to choose between wrong and right, but some circumstances guided by evil can make people chose bad deeds. The choice and the setting of the movie favors the current society and people from different parts of the world especially Christians. It is an expensive film because of the various setting that the production was done to create a perfect background for viewers. Most good things often come with consequences, for example certain uses good things to attract people or act evil, for example, if someone desires good living conditions like money and the person does not have the means, stealing can be alternative but the consequences of stealing or killing can result to life sentence. The movie explains before some executes the idea of killing or stealing, the devil plays an important role in ensuring the individual steals. On the other hand, God allows people to make decisions but offers guidance on what is right and wrong.

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  1. Hutch, Richard. “Mel Gibson’s Big Gamble: The Passion of Christ.” Pastoral Psychology,  vol. 53, no. 4, 2005, pp. 337-340.
  2. Liedtka, Theresa. “Silent Films, 1877‐1996: A Critical Guide to 646 Movies2006102Robert K. Klepper. Silent Films, 1877‐1996: A Critical Guide to 646 Movies. Jefferson, NC: McFarland 2005. ix + 586 pp., ISBN: 0 7864 2164 9 £34.50, $49.95 Paperback reprint of title first  issued in hardback 1999 (ISBN 0 7864 0595 3).” Reference Reviews, vol. 20, no. 2, 2006,     pp. 46-47.
  3. Lawrence, Louise. “Book Review: Jesus and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ: The Film,   the Gospels and the Claims of History Jesus and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ: The Film, the Gospels and the Claims of History, ed. Kathleen C. Webb Robert L. (Continuum2004), 198 pp, £9.99 pbk.” Theology, vol. 108, no. 845, 2005, pp. 390-391.
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