I.N.R.I. (1923), directed by Robert CALIGARI Wiene. I think it has the most disturbing crucifixion on record — the effulgent golden tinting doesn’t prettify it at all. Grigori Chmara’s performance, and his “look” courtesy of the hair & makeup dept, somehow surpasses all the frenzied bloodletting of Mel Gibson and co.
Chmara also played the lead in Wiene’s RASKOLNIKOV. Both films deserve to be released in opulent restorations — it’s long been a puzzle how Wiene’s cinema can be so clearly important and yet so undervalued and unavailable.
But would all the Christians run out and buy this? Alas, no. The stylised sets and slow pageantry make the events depicted seem more distant and alien — the opening really looks like a school nativity play only with a bigger budget and adults in the roles. Gibson’s PASSION OF was a big hit with the churchgoers because it seemed to offer the experience of time-travel, a front row seat for the torture and killing and resurrection — the violence and the modern filmmaking provided the illusion of “realism,” and it didn’t matter that the ancient languages were all wrong, as long as you couldn’t understand them — Gibson said he’d prefer people to watch without subtitles — it’s all aiming at a You Are There aesthetic.
Wiene’s film is the exact opposite — nothing looks quite real until Christ’s death. The moment when the film transcends its theatricality.
“It is accomplished! Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”