PictureThe Passion of the Christ comes to Blu-ray with a theatrically correct widescreen 2.40:1 ratio, using the AVC/MPEG-4 codec at 1080p. This is a substantially better transfer than my earlier one disc non definitive version where most, if not all, of the encoding errors are now removed. That earlier disc showed some noise, light blocking and consistent edge enhancement. None of that is apparent here, although some very slight enhancement is still apparent around some of the buildings starkly contrasted against the bright skies.
Colours, specifically the midnight blues at the start of the picture and the blood red soaked wounds apparent on Christ, come across very well indeed. Rich, deep and well defined. The rest of the colour palette is a narrow affair, colours of Benetton this is not. There are some glimpses of green in the flash back to Palm Sunday. Skin tones are excellent, mostly pale though, with only Roman commanders and Pharisees showing some reddish life in their faces.
Contrast is good with deep blacks and pristine whites, and those shadowy areas in the Garden of Gethsemane at the start reveal roots of trees like I have never seen before. This level of contrast adds to the overall effect of the film, with some scenes certainly displaying that elusive 'pop' factor. There is superb depth in the court of Pontius Pilate and in the narrow streets Christ is forced to carry his cross down. The print itself is in great shape with no damage at all, there is a fine level of grain throughout, enhanced during some of the darker scenes, and this only adds to that cinematic feel. Detail is well defined throughout with the textures of hessian cloth, stonework and the Roman body armour all having a little more substance to them.
A good, strong transfer which beats my earlier version, really only slightly let down by a little enhancement.
SoundAs you will be aware there is no English language track for this film, indeed there are no audio tracks other than the director intended original Aramaic/Hebrew/Latin presented in 5.1 channels using the DTS-HD MA codec. Of course most films should be watched in their original language, but here you have no option.
I was not expecting too much from this track, however how wrong I was. From the outset you are enveloped in a subtle sound field, with the surrounds providing an immersive experience with slight sounds from the garden, voices from the crowds, and some minor weather effects.
The majority of the audio though still comes from up front, with the dialogue firmly rooted in the centre channel and always crisp and clear. There is some steerage from left to right, but nothing to write home about. The frontal array works well with John Debney's background score widening the stage somewhat. Tonal range is limited, there's very sparse use of LFE for instance, but that doesn't detract from the overall effect of this track.
On the first disc there are four full commentaries; Mel Gibson, Caleb Deschanel and John Wright are up for the first, Stephen McEveety, Ted Rae and Kevin Vanderhand step up to the plate for the second, there is a score commentary by John Debney and finally Mel Gibson, Father William Fulco, Gerry Matatics and Father John Bartunek round off these extensive commentaries.
All of these are only available in the theatrical cut of the movie, and the score commentary only kicks in during certain scenes. Of these I was looking forward to the theological commentary the most, but even that is a stale enough affair. It does have some insight into the period, the events and the people surrounding Christ's life, but it wasn't as detailed as I was hoping it would be with Gibson himself popping in every now and again justifying his 'artistic' choices or how his film parallels what is written in the Gospels. The first three I found a little tiresome.
This disc is essentially broken into three sections, Film-Making, Legacy and Galleries.
- By His Wounds We Are Healed: The Making of The Passion of The Christ. - 1:40:05
Broken into 21 sections with Mel Gibson predominantly having his personal say on the whys and wherefores of getting this project to the big screen. This is an excellent feature detailing most of the production avenues which Gibson went down in producing this film; scripting, languages, cinematography. He calls in experts on scripture to confirm, and back up, the decisions he took. Regardless of your opinion on the subject matter of The Passion of The Christ, this is a good detailed look at how a project goes from the mind, to the written page to the final silver screen version, including topics such as cinematography, production design and an excellent piece on the make-up and special effects.
- Below the Line: Panel Discussion. - 0:13:50
4 of the film makers in front of a studio audience answering questions on the film. A standard Q and A session with little information which cannot be gleaned from the earlier documentary.
- Deleted Scenes.
2 scenes, Pilate and Don't Cry. These don't really add anything to this film and are worthy of their place on the cutting room floor. The first has Pontius Pilate saying to the baying crowd that Jesus' blood is not on his hands, the other Christ again falling as he walks with the cross, being helped to his feet by Simon of Sareen and asking the crowd not to weep for him but for themselves.
- Through the Ages. - 0:11:57
How throughout history art and religion have sometimes gone hand in hand, discussing some of the religious icons which have been sculpted or painted and how they reflect the word of scripture. This really is a very brief examination into some of these works and doesn't really go into any depth on any one piece of art or any one artist for it to be truly interesting.
- Paths of a Journey. - 0:09:24
A story of the journey some Christian pilgrims take, walking the path Jesus had to take from his trial with Pilate to his final destination on the hill of Golgotha. This is a good enough introduction to the Stations of the Cross, something which Christians, and specifically Catholics, will be more than familiar with.
- On Language. - 0:12:45
Why the language choices used in this film were chosen in the first place and even though no one is likely to understand them why they work so well. A good enough piece but a little repetitive from the earlier film-making section.
- Crucifixion:Punishment in the Ancient World. - 0:17:27
An examination of crucifixion and why it was used in ancient times. Its history, the countries that used it, how the Romans took it as their own form of capital punishment and how they eventually came to ban it once they turned to Christianity. A good enough, if short, documentary.
- Anno Domini. - 0:10:03
Another all too brief featurette, this one trying to examine some of the characters involved in Jesus' life, their histories and their possible movements after the resurrection.
This section contains still images for the production art, historical texts, characters, photography as well as the trailers and some television spots.
The extras are well thought out and well structured over two discs. All of the commentaries are naturally on the first disc. There tends not to be too much repetition between them, but I have to say the one which could have been the most interesting, the religious one, was a little of a let down.
On disc two the extras are separated between those concerning the film and its making and those of a theological nature. The first are excellent and whilst the latter are interesting enough I do feel that if these extras were pressed onto a second Blu-ray disc then they may have been a little longer, a little more informative. In saying that though the extras package taken as a whole are exemplary and well worth a look. Like the film if you are a believer in Christ then you will get more from these. Please note that this second disc is a standard DVD and is Region 1 limited.
VerdictLike so many other films that are reviewed here, or elsewhere, this will divide opinion and for this film I believe that division will be both intense and vocal. Such is the nature of people's reaction to religion; some believe and stand in their corner, some vehemently do not and resolutely stand in theirs. Those attitudes will, in the main, be reflected whilst viewing this film, some will enjoy, some will not. However those of a non religious stance can and have enjoyed this film, perhaps only being let down by the absolute brutality that permeates most scenes.
That brutality though, that humiliation, suffering and eventual death is part of the life for those people who do in fact believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. To these people they can watch the film and to some small degree partake in the suffering that this man had to endure. For these people, for them that is only a good thing.
Like no other film I have reviewed, and unlikely to review in the future, this is the most personal film I have ever come across. I would recommend anyone to at least see this disc. The cinematography is excellent and comes across much better on this Blu-ray release than any other I have watched. The package cannot be faulted with a good set of detailed extras. Whether you buy this though and add it to you collection is purely a personal choice. I for one am glad to have it and always will be. It's a difficult watch at times but one which I always go back to every year or so.
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- By His Wounds We Are Healed: The Making of The Passion of The Christ. - 1:40:05