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Elizabeth Fernandez

Existentialism in Bunuel and Gibson

By: Elizabeth Fernandez
College Now Course - HUM 1

J. Michael Straczynski said "I used to think it was a terrible thing that life was so unfair. Then I thought, 'what if life were fair, and all of the terrible things that happen to us came because we really deserved them?' Now I take great comfort in the general unfairness and hostility of the universe." This quote represents the philosophy of existentialism which is when a person's ability to function or make decisions is impaired because they are submerged into an environment which is full of chaos. The philosophy of existentialism was used by countless artists, musicians, novelists, writers and even film makers. "That Obscure Object of Desire," directed by Luis Bunuel and "The Passion of the Christ," directed by Mel Gibson, incorporate the philosophy of existentialism by using uniquely chosen characters and their lives.

Luis Bunuel directed the film "That Obscure Object of Desire" in 1977, which was set in Spain and was in French. The main character, Mathieu, was torn by the love games of a Spanish woman named Conchita. Mathieu seemed incapable of discerning between the reality and fiction of love. She constantly hurt him, but he seemed to allow her. The reason why the main character could not concentrate on the matters at hand was because of the chaos around him. In one scene, Mathieu is attacked and robbed by terrorists. He was so preoccupied by the chaos surrounding him that he could not tell that Conchita was simply playing games with him.

Mel Gibson directed the film "The Passion of the Christ" in 2004. It was based on the biblical story of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and was in Aramaic. I have chosen to focus in on the character of Peter. He was portrayed as one of Christ's loyal disciples. Peter vowed he would never deny Christ, and would even die for Him. In one scene, Jesus is being interrogated by the high priests of the temple. There Jesus is mocked, hurt and seems utterly helpless. Peter is inside and watching what is occurring to his Savior, yet he does nothing. There is a lot of commotion going on. There is a lot of screaming, yelling, heckling and moving. Peter seems to feel trapped and helpless himself. Peter is pushed among the crowd and at one point is singled out by members of the masses. They accuse him of being one of Christ's disciples. Although he had vowed to die for his Lord, because of the chaos around him, he did not dare acknowledge that he was a disciple or even knew Christ.

Luis Bunuel chose Mathieu to portray a character that was thrown into existence. Mathieu was subjected to the world around him and was unable to correctly perceive that he was being hurt, which reflects the basic ideas of existentialism. When director Mel Gibson places the character of Peter in a crowded and heaving temple of people accusing him, Peter is overcome by his environment that he denounces someone vowed to live for. Both directors also chose to use language as a factor, adding to their use of existentialism. "That Obscure Object of Desire" is set in Spain, yet is in French. "The Passion of the Christ" was made for modern day audiences, yet is in Aramaic. This adds to the intensity of the environment for the audience members. We must read subtitles to understand and this almost throws us into a realm of existentialism, making us victims of the world and factors around us.

"That Obscure Object of Desire," directed by Luis Bunuel and "The Passion of the Christ," directed by Mel Gibson, incorporate the philosophy of existentialism. Both directors use uniquely chosen characters and the environment that surround them to show how their reasoning and judgment are impaired. The directors also use language as a factor in the realm of existentialism for the audience members, showing that indeed this philosophy is existent and excludes no one.