April 23, 2011

Half the world is still observing Good Friday now. In line with the occasion, Cautionary Women profiles Jesus Christ's Enemy.

In Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, the Apollyon slithers around as an androgynous figure, as angels, fallen or otherwise, are thought to be. Italian actress Rosalinda Celentano emits cool, calm and collected nefariousness as an asexual Satan, taunting Jesus throughout the film.

While such roles have not yet been run into the ground, female Devils have certainly been done before, most notably by Elizabeth Hurley in Bedazzled. But The Passion is a film that takes itself seriously, and the Adversary has no time for jokes here.

Celentano's treatment of the Father of Lies, or should we say Mother of Lies, makes for a very perturbing, sometimes startling, performance. The film makes it easy to see the Devil and Mary as polar opposites. In one scene, Celentano holds a spooky, wizened baby, clearly a travesty of the Madonna and Child. In another, the film oscillates between the Queen of All Saints and the Queen of All Sin, racing through the crowd with Christ on the road to Calvary. Of course, every Catholic knows who wins in the end.

Mary's feet crushing the Serpent. Image via PenceDoctor

Critics have generally no problem with The Passion's depiction of the Devil. They do have a devil of a problem with the overtones of antisemitism in the film. Others had no idea then. The Passion was released in 2004, a couple of years before The Revelation of Mel Gibson After Arrest for DUI.

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