whereas if I understand you correct, ie that he wanted us to appreciate the violence as a beautiful thing in and of itself, then his film was a total success.
Not quite. I think the violence is indeed meant to impress you as awful and horrific. But in that awfulness and horridness, you are to find the ultimate good and to approve, finally, that it took place, instead of deploring it. Think of it, if we love Jesus, should we not then hate what he had to endure? But if this movie wants us to love Jesus all the more for having endured torture, then it is implied that the torture was worth the going through, and therefore contributed an ultimate good to the world, and therefore should be worshiped for accomplishing that ultimate good. I think the crucial point is that we're shown so much suffering not so that we'll stop thinking there was any good in it, but so that we'll be impressed by its goodness all the more. When Gibson says we are to "get back to the message" that Jesus suffered for us, what he means is that it's time for us to get back to worshiping the Judeo-Christian god for
his suffering, as opposed to, say, lamenting that it happened. Ask yourself, how many people walked out of the movie saying "what a terrible thing that that
happened." I wager no one. Nor is anyone meant to.
So I think you're right that Gibson wanted shock us out of our collective inurement to the story of Christ's sacrifice, but the only accomplishment of this is to refocus the religion back on its most barbaric and disgusting element, its use of a human sacrifice to achieve divine favour. There are a ton of things that Jesus can be legitimately appreciated for; why should his torture and murder be the central one if not because Gibson believes it was in the end great and good?
However, just as I said before, most evangelicals, fundamentalist, as well as Gibson himself would suggest that what is portrayed is victory despite suffering, as opposed to victory because of suffering. Realise I am not defending the violence of the film which I find repulsive, just a misrepresentation of the perfectly valid Christian soteriology presented in it as well as in Dreyer's film.
And I say they are wrong for the simple reason that Christ's victory is through
his suffering in Gibson's version. It is the suffering and the sacrifice in itself which completes the divine act. It is not ancillary to that act. How can anyone say his victory is in spite of his suffering when it is for that very suffering that we are meant to love him and from which we get salvation (in Gibson's version at least)?EDIT:
just to hammer this home slightly more: for a goodness to come "in spite of" something means it is an accidental or unintended consequence/byproduct. You can see how what came from Christ's murder was not accidental or unintended, not since it was engineered by an omnipotent and omniscient deity.