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Redemption Enrobed in Staid Script
on 17 March 2004
In a film slowly becoming dated and due for a remake, we are told the story of a man's struggle to reconcile his guilt with his doubt, and his doubt with the persuasive faith of those he meets. Can a broken man be redeemed?
When watching newer movies, like Mel Gibson's "The Passion," it is easy to forget that it is movies like "The Robe" set the stage, and motivates modern moviemaker to bring in realism.
With Jesus Christ's death and resurrection in the backdrop, with a Roman Catholic-esque tone, Marcellus grapples with the reality of spiritual power. He believes it is in the robe Christ wore, but he quickly learns the robe is nothing. He feels angst and anguish when he touches it.
He meets Judas Iscariot, Simon Peter, Miriam and unnamed disciples. Like "The Mission," this movie is filled with complex characters, less wooden than first glance might lead a viewer to believe.
As guilty as any man could be of Christ's crucifixion, Marcellus knows the passion of his emptiness. He sets to find out what it is that is freeing Christians from circumstances beyond reason, like the joy one woman has despite her paralysis. Why do the Christians continue on, even though they face persecution?
The messages in the movie are more than Judeo-Christian. Hollywood blacklists come to mind as people are commanded under duress to give up names of followers. Living life with and for a purpose, and knowing what we really believe is encouraged. We are shown humility, desire for freedom and messages against bigotry and greed.
As a concept, the story has potential. The plot is strong, but falters in script form. Even the great Richard Burton is denied the opportunity to win an Oscar with dramatic sequences that only whisper could've been more boldly written. The sets may be award winning in their day, but now, we can see the painted stage walls that are meant to seem like a city.
I recommend "The Robe," with hopes that it will inspire a great filmmaker to pick up the script, rewrite it and show us what could be.