Many people have emailed me or posted comments on this site wondering about the significance of the disfigured baby Satan is holding during the scourging of Jesus. Christianity Today puts the controversy to rest in this article.
“Please explain the symbolism in the scene showing Satan holding a bald baby. Thank you.”
That’s just one of dozens of e-mails we’ve received in the last few days, asking about a surreal scene in The Passion of The Christ where Satan is shown cradling a hideous baby who looks like he’s about 40 years old.
The scene occurs during the flogging of Christ. Satan is passing through a crowd of onlookers, cradling an infant in his arms. The baby turns to face the camera, revealing a sinister infant, creeping out audiences everywhere.
We took your questions straight to the source, e-mailing Mel Gibson’s publicist for an answer.
When asked why he portrayed Satan —an androgynous, almost beautiful being played by Rosalinda Celentano— the way he did, Gibson replied: “I believe the Devil is real, but I don’t believe he shows up too often with horns and smoke and a forked tail. The devil is smarter than that. Evil is alluring, attractive. It looks almost normal, almost good—but not quite.
“That’s what I tried to do with the Devil in the film. The actor’s face is symmetric, beautiful in a certain sense, but not completely. For example, we shaved her eyebrows. Then we shot her almost in slow motion so you don’t see her blink—that’s not normal. We dubbed in a man’s voice in Gethsemane even though the actor is a woman … That’s what evil is about, taking something that’s good and twisting it a little bit.”
But what about the ugly baby?
“Again,” said Gibson, “it’s evil distorting what’s good. What is more tender and beautiful than a mother and a child? So the Devil takes that and distorts it just a little bit. Instead of a normal mother and child you have an androgynous figure holding a 40-year-old ‘baby’ with hair on his back. It is weird, it is shocking, it’s almost too much—just like turning Jesus over to continue scourging him on his chest is shocking and almost too much, which is the exact moment when this appearance of the Devil and the baby takes place.”