Secret Pop

Feb 26, 2004

Till my trophies at last I lay down.

I went to see The Passion of the Christ this afternoon. It was emotionally exhausting. Relentlessly emotional and heartwrenching. But that may be my gravest criticism of it. That, from the moment the film commences in Gethsemane until it ends in the vacant tomb, the intensity and melodrama never flags. Is there a way to pronounce melodrama so that it sounds ridiculously inappropriate? I wish I knew what portion of the film was shot in slow motion. Or how many frames of film centered on Jim Caviezel's gasping open mouth. It was just agonizingly drawn out. To the point where I found it alienating.

And yet, it recalled to me an experience from my youth.

When I was a young girl on the island of Guam, my family attended a missionary church whose services were broadcast on the radio. The pastor at the time was called Tom Larmore, and I appreciated him very much. Never moreso than on that one Sunday when he preached a sermon about the punishment and crucifixion of Jesus, based on something that had been published, I think, in the New England Journal of Mediciine or some similarly prestigious title. That Sunday, he gave a harrowing and clinically detailed account of what those last days were like, including descriptions of the scourge and explanations of the mechanism of execution that crucifixion employed. That a crucified man died -- after a time -- of suffocation, once he was so exhausted that he was no longer able to counteract the hanging forces with the resistance of his legs and feet. Things like that. On a different Sunday, Pastor Larmore gave a similarly studious depiction of all that befell Jonah in the belly of that great fish. And I remember that these messages appealed to the academic in me. The intellect that was being steadily alienated by spiritual fluff and the absence of salient answers. This film -- Mel Gibson's film -- was a depiction of this same horrific tale. And I did catch myself feeling a weighty grief. An empathy for Mary in particular. I found myself blinking back tears and admitting silently that this is a story I was taught to believe -- to know intimately -- from the time I was the very smallest child. When my daddy used to read Bible stories to me and my sister in our beds and I used to raise my hand at the end and hope that he would let me answer the questions, because I knew the answers so well. Those days seem a far-off memory. A shade of what remains.

The mischiefmonger in me admits that there was a moment depicting the three crosses at Golgotha when I thought how much barer would be the metaphoric lexicon had it not been for this event. And how ever would we rid ourselves of vampires?

I called my dad after I saw the film. He hasn't seen it yet, and I am interested to hear what he thinks of it. I know he can be a stickler about biblical accuracy. Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth is one of the few cinematic Bible stories of which he approves, and even that has its moments. But I also told him that we saw Elijah Wood outside the theater, discussing the film with a group of friends and citing what he knew of the biblical account. He sounded surprised. And maybe a little impressed. And when I said it, I said "Frodo Baggins" instead of "Elijah Wood." That way he would know. And he did.

I am not always certain what I believe. But at the center of it, I know that I am a big softy, and that it doesn't take much to make me cry. I feel things easily. Almost with a cruel ease. I am vulnerable. Fragile. And I experience nearly everything with empathy. I wish I didn't cry so much. But it can't be helped. And maybe someday this mushy center part of me will be of value to some other firmer soul. As a means of providing ballast.

With the rain and the gloom, I almost didn't want to go back out, but Krissy and I eventually got good and gussied up and went to the Young Hollywood for John Kerry event at the Luxe Hotel. Billy Baldwin was handsome and charming, and I wished I had gone up and told him so, but I feared that I would end up confessing that I really just wanted him to act as liaison and to give a message to Alec that I think he's the bee's knees. Donal Logue also spoke at the affair. And my friend Murad, who I haven't seen since the one time we ever saw each other -- a sultry night in 2002 -- introduced us around a bit. And I drank cocktails, broke the lever on my Lomo, and fussed over my skirt, which was dangerously short. And I realized at the end of it all, as I have a dozen -- no, a million times before, that it's always better to go and see.

Krissy decided that she will begin exclaiming "Jim Caviezel!" in place of "Jesus Christ!" And I have already adopted this protocol. I can't speak for the rest of mankind, but this makes Krissy and me laugh like fools.

The rain continues to fill the cracks and crevices. I can hear the water spilling from the gutters, splashing down onto earth and concrete. Beading up on windowpanes. It's wet out there. And I am cold and longing to be cozy.

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