Many actors have controversial personal lives for a variety of reasons. Off of the screen they may be the violent, alcoholic, drug-addicted, racist, and overall crazy people the tabloids love reporting on, but on-screen they have enough talent to make us forget (albeit sometimes temporarily) of who they are as actual people. Mel Gibson is no exception. Established as an “action hero” with such film series as Mad Max (1980) and Lethal Weapon (1987), Gibson also has talent for other genres including drama in Hamlet (1990), historical in The Patriot (2000), and sci-fi in Signs (2002). But this week’s two films are not about Gibson’s acting career, per sé. While it’s difficult to see someone’s personal life when they’re acting, sometimes when they direct their beliefs emerge. This week’s two films examine Mel Gibson’s directing career.
The Passion of the Christ
Length: 127 minutes / 2.11 hours
If there’s one thing that American audiences can’t stand, it’s subtitles. As such, it’s curious that Gibson would choose to present the violence of Jesus’ death in a way that would require audiences to read. If they wanted to do that, they’d just go to the Bible. Still, the powerful imagery seems much more alive with period languages being used (even if they probably would have all been speaking Greek anyways). This film was inspired by Gibson’s deep-seated Catholicism and is not meant as a verbatim recreation of the events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion. It’s more of an artistic interpretation of what had happened, but with the Biblical story set as its foundation. Two years later, Gibson released Apocalypto, another violent film with period language being used in place of English. In fact, both films have given him the niche of filming in dead or ancient languages.
There have been many films about the life of Christ, but few of them focused on the last hours of his life. With some flashbacks to provide background to the story, the brunt of the plot is based on the Stations of the Cross, which covers Jesus’ betrayal at the hands of Judas Iscariot and the resulting trials (both legal and physical) that Jesus had to endure before finally being executed by crucifixion. The entire ordeal is portrayed as an overly violent series of events which has induced criticism of the film, despite the fact that the crucifixion itself is a brutal process. It is granted that the Romans reveled in violence (just think about the gladiators of the Coliseum), so the beatings Christ received might actually be pretty accurate, all things considered. At any rate, Passion ends not with the defeat of the Son of Man, but rather with his victory over death.
Length: 177 minutes / 2.95 hours
Gibson had been acting for just over fifteen years when he made his directorial debut with The Man Without a Face (1993). And yet, Mel Gibson’s fame as a director didn’t actually come until two years later. In fact, on top of starring in the leading role, Gibson Directed and Produced Braveheart, which ended up winning him two Oscars: Best Director and Best Picture. The remaining three Oscars it won were for more technical merits, but the fact remains that this film cemented Mel Gibson’s status as a director as well as an actor. There’s no denying the cultural significance this film has had on popular culture, with the famous speech by Gibson’s William Wallace being oft quoted for other situations involving freedom. And let’s not forget about that blue war paint! In fact, a rise in Scottish tourism resulted because of the success of this film.
In the late 13th century, the king of Scotland dies and leaves a vacuum of authority with no heir to rise to power in his stead. As a result, King Edward (Patrick McGoohan) conquers the defenseless Scotland and wins the land for England. Because of this coup, William Wallace is sent to Rome to be educated and to be kept safe from the English. While Wallace (Mel Gibson) is gone, things get worse in Scotland, so when he returns to his homeland, he has to marry his childhood sweetheart in secret. Fighting against the injustice the Scots are experiencing on behalf of the British, Wallace gathers up a group of rebels who fight against King Edward in the Battle of Falkirk. And even though they were not victorious, Wallace still holds on to his ideals of freedom, even until his gruesome death. However, just like The Passion of the Christ, the ending of Braveheart shows a greater victory by the Scots.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great Gibson epics
Bacon #: 2 (Lethal Weapon / Tom Atkins -> Lemon Sky / Kevin Bacon)