• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as current film releases with spiritual significance, and a few bits and pieces on the Bible.

    Monday, June 27, 2016

    The Canon in the Early Silent Era pt.2

    In my previous entry in this series I was looking at how the stories from the Hebrew Bible that the earliest filmmakers adapted into the first silent Bible movies. The idea of canonicity naturally leads to thinking about which books of the Bible have been covered and which haven't, but there's also something of a disconnect here because few films have sought to adapt an entire book of the Bible. There are obviously those which adapt a gospel word for word (Luke 1979, Genesis 1979, Matthew 1994, Acts 1996, Gospel of John 2003 and the various entries in the Lumo Project 2014-present) then there are others which haven't gone to this extreme but whose films have been substantive adaptations of a single book (Il vangelo secondo Matteo, some of the Bible Collection films, Moses the Lawgiver to name but a few) but not word for word.

    However, in general terms, complete books of the Bible have not naturally lent themselves to being film scripts. Indeed even those word for word adaptations cannot really be counted here as they are part of a specific project rather than the need to find a good plot for a film. In fact films tend to gravitate more naturally around specific character(s) than specific books. So when we think about canonicity in relation to the biblical narratives it is perhaps more helpful to think about narrative units within the Bible (which may even span the divides between specific books as some films do), rather than individual books, as is usually the basic unit which is discussed in regard to canonicity.

    Which leads onto the Gospels. Aside from the few films intentionally based on a single gospel, most of the films about Jesus have harmonised the available selection of stories from the four (canonical) gospels. A few films have even widened the net here to include incidents from other, non-canonical gospels, such as The Young Messiah's use of the Gospel of Thomas. Again this is because these films tend to be about the lead character of Jesus and then filmmakers tend to pick the particular stories from the gospels which best portray their vision of Jesus. And just as I think we see certain trends in which narratives from the Hebrew Bible get made into films, I think we also see a similarly uneven pattern when it comes to which parts of the Gospels get covered and which don't. Peter T. Chattaway, for example has recently highlighted numerous narratives which "most Jesus films miss"1 suggesting that whilst some parts of the Gospels are not really considered part of any theoretical filmic canon.

    Of course many of the very earliest films were films about Jesus - most commonly about his passion - but even before the start of the 20th century, films depicting the miracles of Jesus, such as Georges Méliès' Le Christ marchant sur les flots (Christ Walking on the Water, 1899), were being released. One complicating factor in trying to discern any patterns in the release of early Jesus films is the way that many of these films were not released as complete units, but were available for exhibitors to pick and choose which parts of the story they wished to display. The situation is further complicated by the fact that many of these collections of tableaux were expanded over time, the "films" being re-released with new tableaux added in, or some of the older footage re-shot, often retaining the same mise-en-scène.

    The most prominent example of this practice is the various films released by Pathé usually known by the title La Vie et Passion de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ (The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ). I've recently read more detail about the various films/releases under this title in "The Silents of Jesus in the Cinema (1897-1927)" (edited by David Shepherd) I'm tempted to go into more detail on the various version, but I think that's something for a later post. Suffice to say for now that it appears that the popular DVD version which is usually dated as being 1902-1905 should in fact be dated to 1907 and that in addition to these two versions there was the original release in 1899 and a final release in 1913.2 With each release the number of available tableaux grew. The original 1899 version "contained sixteen tableaux; a second edition in 1902 contained thirty-two.3 By the time of the 1907 release that number had grown to 37 and this had grown again by the time of the final 1913 version to 43.4

    All of which is a long way of saying that when it comes to looking at the idea of canonicity in relation to Bible films, it makes more sense to base such discussion on the basic unit of each "episode" or incident rather than individual books/gospels. Some of those may only appear very rarely, such as those highlighted by Peter in the link above; others appear far more commonly, such as the crucifixion.

    Returning, then, to the early silent era we discover this is borne out by the films we find from this era. It is difficult to be precise with figures, particularly because many of the films from this era are presumed lost, some of those that remain are related to others from the period, and it is difficult to be certain in many cases whether the version that remains is the original version. Indeed the DVD version of the latest film from this era Christus features a resurrection scene entirely lifted from a different Jesus movie (there's a little bit on that here, including the comments).

    Nevertheless, even treading carefully in light of the above, there are a number of observations that can be drawn. The first and rather unsurprising conclusion is that Jesus' death and birth are very much a part of this "filmic canon". Of the thirty or so films made about Jesus in the early silent era (not counting the six films about Herodias' daughter) around 18 feature the events of Jesus' Passion. The "canonical" status of this part of the story was established early on - of the eight Jesus films made in the 19th century only Georges Méliès' Le Christ marchant sur les flots (Christ Walking on the Water, 1899) was not primarily about Jesus' death.

    The second is that, as a group, episodes from Jesus' ministry appear appear more frequently than the events of Jesus' passion. As mentioned above just over half of the thirty Jesus films depict Jesus' death, but twenty include at least one incident from his ministry (and that is excluding the six films about Herodias' daughter, which could also be considered to be "stories from the ministry of Jesus"). Of those twenty, only nine are films that features both Jesus' ministry and death, the majority of the rest are films made about single incidents.

    A look at these single incidents is instructive in and of itself. The parable of the Prodigal Son was adapted four times. The only other parable to be covered is the Good Samaritan. Then there are the miracles which include the coin in the fish's mouth, the resurrection of Lazarus and the healing of a blind man. Lastly there are more general incidents such as Jesus' encounter with the woman of Samaria.

    The films that featured both Jesus' ministry and his death tended to be longer and include several episodes from his Ministry, many of these would not appear much in the future films about Jesus' Life. The 31 films from the 1903 Lubin series The Passion Play featured episodes such as "Christ and the Disciples Plucking Corn" and "Christ Calling Zaccheus from the Tree". Several films featured Jesus meeting those from outside Judea such as the woman from Samaria (several films) and the healing of the Widow of Nain's son in the earliest remaining Jesus film The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ (1898).

    Of course we also see other incidents cropping up that would continue to feature in a large number of films such as the woman taken in adultery, the woman who anoints Jesus' feet, the Sermon on the Mount and the feeding of the 5000.

    One final point at this stage is that many of these films about Jesus do not include his resurrection. The most obvious example is From the Manger to the Cross as it is the only of the films covering both his life and death not to include these incidents, but also many of the "Passion" only films did not feel the need to include the resurrection. This is interesting as later films which excluded the resurrection were heavily criticised for doing so, even if, like Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) they were a variation of the passion play tradition.

    1 - Chattaway, Peter T., "10 Obscure Gospel Moments Most Jesus Films Miss" 22nd February 2016 in Christianity Today - http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/february-web-only/10-obscure-moments-most-jesus-films-miss.html
    2 - Boillat, Alain and Robert, Valentine. "La Vie et Passion de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ (1902–05)" in "The Silents of Jesus in the Cinema (1897-1927)"; ed. Shepherd, David. p. 27
    3 - Boillat, Alain and Robert, Valentine. "La Vie et Passion de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ (1902–05)" in "The Silents of Jesus in the Cinema (1897-1927)"; ed. Shepherd, David. p. 27
    4 - Brant, Jo-Ann. "La Vie et Passion de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ (Pathé-Frères, 1913/14): Pathé’s Inclination to Tell and Maître’s Instinct to Show" in "The Silents of Jesus in the Cinema (1897-1927)"; ed. Shepherd, David. pp.158-178

    Church use paralleling modern period
    Say something about gender (popularity of susanna and female pioneers, vs subsequent periods).

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    Saturday, June 18, 2016

    La naissance, la vie et la mort du Christ (1906) - Scene Guide

    For a long time I've been meaning to sit down and actually watch La naissance, la vie et la mort du Christ (The Birth, Life and Death of Christ, 1906) and last night I finally did. I'm going to save my proper review until I've done a bit more background reading, not least David Shepherd's Chapter on it in "The Silents of Jesus in the Cinema (1897-1927)". The film, which was directed by Alice Guy Blaché for Gaumont is 1906, is in many ways quite a different film from Pathé's various cuts, though interestingly it also uses intertitle cards to literally give the title of the scene we are about to witness, which makes compiling a scene guide relatively easy. It's been a while since I did one of these so you might want to refresh your memories as to how I use gospel citations in scene guides.

    This is one of those films that's known by several other names as well so for the record it's also known as La naissance, la vie et la mort de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ; La vie et la mort du Christ or simply just La vie du Christ in French or The Birth, the Life and the Death of Christ or just The Life of Christ
    Arrival at Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7)
    Nativity and Arrival of the Magi (Matt 2:1-11)
    The Sleep of Jesus (Extra-biblical episode)
    The Samaritan (John 4:1-42)
    The Miracle of Jairus Daughter (Mark 5:22-43)
    Mary Magdalene Washes the Feet of Jesus (Mark 14:3-9)
    Palm Sunday (Mark 11:1-10)
    The Last Supper (Mark 14:12-25)
    The Olive Garden (Mark 14:32-26)
    The Night Watch (Mark 14:37-42)
    Judas's Betrayal (Mark 14:43-50)
    Jesus before Caiaphas (Mark 14:53-65)
    The Denial of St. Peter (Mark 14:66-72)
    Jesus Before Pontius Pilate (Mark 15:1-15a)
    The Torment (Mark 15:15b-20a)
    Ecce Homo (John 19:5)
    The Bearing of the Cross (Mark 15:20a)
    Jesus Falls for the First Time (Mark 15:21)
    Saint Veronica (Extra-biblical episode)
    Climbing Golgotha (Mark 15:22)
    The Crucifixion (Mark 15:24-32)
    The Agony (Mark 15:33-37)
    Descending from the Cross (Mark 15:46a)
    Committed to the Tomb (Mark 15:46b-47)
    The Resurrection (Matt 28:1-6)
    A Few Notes
    I can't quite remember where I got the version I watched last night from, but it's intertitles were in English, whereas some of the version on YouTube have French intertitles on charming cards complete with pictures of angels. I've kept these in English, which seem to be a pretty good translation.

    In nearly all cases the scene announced by the preceding title card consists of only one shot. There are two exceptions. The first is "Saint Veronica" where the first shot captures the moment Veronica captures Jesus' image on her cloth, and then cuts to a slightly later mid-shot of her alone holding the cloth. The second is "The Resurrection" where the scene starts inside the cave where the tomb is while we see Jesus be resurrected and the guards react in fear. Then we move outside the cave to see the arrival of the woman, and then we are taken back inside the cave where the women witness the empty tomb.

    Interestingly, if you were solely looking at the images in the resurrection scene, one might assume that the soldiers' fear is because they see the resurrected Jesus, but given how the angels work in this film, not least the way they appear and re-appear, it does leave open the interpretation that the soldiers cannot actually see the angels or the resurrected Jesus, they just see the empty tomb. It is only the audience who sees the full picture.

    One of the interesting things about this film is that even though it came to be known as simply The Life of Christ there is relatively little "life" in comparison to the "birth" and "death" scenes which are also included in the full title. Of the 25 scenes, only three ("The Samaritan", "The Miracle of Jairus' Daughter" and "Mary Magdalene Washes the Feet of Jesus") are connected with neither Jesus' birth or passion. The first of these scenes was popular in the early silent era, but for many years was ignored, at least until more recent times.

    What is noticeable about these three scenes is that they are three, relatively rare, episodes of the gospels where the main character, apart from Jesus, is a woman. That, combined with the way that the film includes Veronica and ends on the women finding the empty tomb without the male disciples are among the factors that have led to some to see this as a feminist picture.

    It's noticeable as well how many of these scenes can be traced back to Mark's gospel. Whilst obviously my own citation policy prioritises Mark, it is striking, for example, that all of the incidents leading up to Jesus' death are found in Mark. Obviously the birth scenes are not based on Mark (as Mark starts with the adult Jesus)

    Finally there's a really useful page here with lots of promotional material for the film and Alison McMahan - who has written one of the books about Guy Blaché - has a piece on the film at her own website, where she gets into the relationship between Guy's film and Tissot's work.

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    Tuesday, June 07, 2016

    From Text to Image. What Silent Shakespeare Gets Right and Modern Bible Films Get Wrong

    A common response when I mention silent film versions of Shakespeare is confusion. A look that says "but how would that even work?", usually followed by a question as to how they "do the speeches". And it's not just my friends. I'm really enjoying Daniel Rosenthal's book "100 Shakespeare Films" at the moment, but of the 100 films he discusses, there are only 5 that date from cinema's first 30 years. Yet there were 300 or so films from the silent era that were based on the works of Shakespeare.

    I think part of the reason I notice this is that it's not a question that ever occurred to me, at least not until I started talking to others about it and, I guess, it's an understandable response. Shakespeare is after all known as England's greatest ever writer. And yet, for all the great speeches there are also a host of great images. Shakespeare is not just "To be or not to be", it's also about a man holding his former jester' skull; it's not just about "Now is the winter of our discontent" but also about the hunchbacked king"; "When shall we three meet again"  only comes into fullness when paired with a vision of a dagger and, of course, that damned spot.

    The reason this matters is that film is primarily a visual medium. The best adaptations of Shakespeare, whether silent or otherwise, are those that capture the tone and mood of Shakespeare's words. It's the shot through the staircase from Ophelia below to Hamlet high on the top of the turret in Olivier's Hamlet (1948), or Branagh's bloody, exhausted yet joyously victorious Henry V at the end of Agincourt.

    But this also means that the best film adaptations of Shakespeare, are those that start not in the service of the text, but of the final image. Those where the aim is not to do dutiful service to the Bard, but to create something special for the screen. Shakespeare's plays may be a means to that end, but it just sort of happened that way. It wasn't a drive to make Bill "more accessible", but to make a good film which, on this occasion, as it turns out, happened to mean using Shakespeare.

    The best film I've come across in this respect yet isCharles Kent and J. Stuart Blackton's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1909, pictured) where the focus is clearly Puck who is played by a fairly young girl who flits about the screen with innocence and delight, floating I the air with her lightness of spirit. This isn't about flashness or technical wizardry - it's on a par with decent youth theatre and probably far easier to spot the wires - it's about the lightness of the image. The recent BBC adaptation of "Midsummer" was full of whizzes, wizardry, impressive effects and all the speeches but it didn't touch me anyway near as much as the 1908 version.

    No doubt some will dislike its portrayal of Puck as to being true to the play, but again this isn't necessarily the right question. The quality or importance of a film isn't about the source material it is adapting - that's what reading the book, or watching the play on-stage is for.  What matters is the final film, the images on the screen and whether what is created is of merit on its own terms. The are some pretty torpid adaptations of Shakespeare out there where everyone is dutifully performing so that the audience can undergo the literary equivalent of eating their greens. All very respectful and faithful, but bad, bad cinema.

    All of which got me thinking about another literary pillar often adapted for the big screen - the Bible. like Shakespeare, people say it matters, they want. To be respectful of it and often believe that it'd be good for people to have better appreciation and understanding. The two collections inspire in many a kind of earnestness.

    If anything these tendencies are even greater with the Bible.  And so many people start with the idea of making a film based on the Bible. They're not asking the question, of all the topics available what will enable me to make the best moving visual image I can make, they're starting with a text that they want to get across. And then they're surprised that their project has become such loathèd medicine.

    For some of the insights in this piece I'm indebted to Bryony Dixon and Judith Buchanan whose recent BBC programmes on silent film adaptations of Shakespeare and been interesting, informative and really enjoyable. (Dixon appeared in BBC Birmingham's "Silent Shakespeare"and Buchanan ib BBC Radio 4's "An Excellent Dumb Discourse". At the time of writing both are available to view online in some regions.

    Saturday, June 04, 2016

    The Canon in the Early Silent Era pt.1

    At the end of last year I started a series looking at how the idea of "canon" relates to the Bible on Film. There's not been much on it recently maybe because I decided that to write on the subject with any authority I needed to do some proper research and produce the fullest list possible of filmed version of the Bible so that I could do some analysis on them. That in itself has become a project in and of itself and I'm hoping to write more about that soon. For now however the logical place from where to continue the series is at the beginining, in that earliest part of the silent period I discussed in the previous post in this series.

    In the period up to the end of 1915 (prior to the release of D.W. Griffith's Intolerance) at least 114 films based on the Hebrew Bible were produced. From a quick glance of these, it seems all the usual suspects are present. Moses, David, Adam and Eve, Abraham and Samson all feature fairly prominently and there are also films about Joseph, Esther, Noah, Solomon and others who have consistently proved popular for filmmakers, preachers and Sunday School teachers alike.

    But it's not long however before other far less usual names start to occur. In 1910, the year when perhaps more biblical films were in cinemas than at any other point in history, Gaumont released the fourth entry in their Les Sept Péchés Capitaux series, La Luxure which told the story of Susanna and the Elders (based on the deuterocanonical story of Susanna - Susanna/Daniel 13). This tale of attempted sexual coercion and false accusation is fairly dark for the period although it's not hard to imagine its message of the importance of female virtue might be something the filmmakers wished to stress.

    The following year Gaumont released Fils de la Sunamite (1911, The Son of the Shunamite) directed by Louis Feuillade. This story, based on an episode from the life of Elisha, has less dramatic potential, but obviously a strong emotional element, and its appeal is based more on miraculous elements than the spectacular. Elisha's only other screen appearances are as a cartoon, from the Animated Stories from the Bible series, Elisha: Man of God (1994), Riding for a Fall, part of the Bugtime Adventures series and the subversive online animation Don't Dis Elisha from Extreme Bible Stories (which I discussed here).

    Just as active in this period were Pathé Frères who released Athalie (1910, dir. Michel Carré) about queen Athaliah, the daughter/sister of King Ahab who seized the Jewish throne after Jehu's revolt (2 Kings 8 & 11). It's a fascinating story that contains more than enough drama to fill the film's 20 or so minutes, but which has, to my knowledge, only been attempted two other times in the entire history of biblical films - two sixties, made for TV, productions from France (1962, dir. Roger Kahane) and Italy (1964, dir. Mario Ferrero). The following year Pathé Frères produced a slightly more familiar Old Testament film - Jaël et Sisera (1911), one of the many biblical films directed by Henri Andréani in this period. This is, as far as I can tell, the only time the events of Judges 4 have found their way onto the screen and it's curious that even in this case, the story's usual leading lady - Deborah - is omitted.

    In some ways it's surprising to find these stories covered at all - across all of film history there are only seven versions of these four stories. After this early silent period when we get these four treatments they were almost never covered again and that the stories are relatively obscure to modern believers and audiences.

    In effect there are three measures:
    1. How many times was the film adapted in this first era of cinema?
    2. How many times was it covered subsequently?
    3. How well known is it to modern believers/audiences?

    These film versions of Athaliah, Elisha, Susanna and Jael/Deborah are notable because whilst they were covered in this early period, even then they might be considered one-offs. Furthermore, they score poorly on the last two measures. Other stories covered in this period however score more prominently in one of the other categories, but still lack a lot of coverage in the modern period.

    One such story is the story of Jephthah. The tragic story of Jephthah's daughter was covered no less than four times in this earliest period (Vitagraph, Gaumont, Pathé and Warner), but has only had one subsequent adaption - Einat Kapach's Bat Yiftach [Jephtah's Daughter] (1996). It is similarly obscure to modern audiences, but this subsequent swerve to obscurity is made more surprising by its popularity within this period. Perhaps this is down the first film performing particularly well at the box office, but there is relatively little evidence to support such an assertion.

    Another story to buck these trends is that of Judith. Arguably the most famous Hebrew Bible film in this era is D.W. Griffith's Judith of Bethulia (1914), not least because its director was subsequently catapulted into controversy and stardom. However, by the time Griffith's version had arrived there had already been three other films produced about the story (from Italy, 1906; France, 1909, pictured above; and the UK, 1912). But whereas interest in films about Jephthah and his daughter had begun to peter out, Judith films continued to appear, albeit far more rarely than most other stories, and largely in Catholic countries, hence there was one other film in the silent era (dir.Negroni, 1928), at least seven television films from 1959-1969 as well as a few later entries in 1979, 1980 and 2007. More details about these films can be found here.

    Whilst this story remains fairly obscure to modern audiences, particularly to those in Protestant churches/countries, there is one story that is well-known to modern audiences and was popular in the silent era and yet has hardly been adapted in subsequent periods: the stories around Daniel.

    The first films about Daniel were the amongst the very first biblical films, the earliest being two from Pathé in 1905, Le Festin de Balthazar and Daniel dans la fosse aux lions. These were followed up by no less than seven other Daniel films in this earliest period (five of which were from Gaumont). All the more surprising then that following the last of these in 1913, it was not until 1953's Slaves of Babylon before the story was covered again and then another gap of 25 years before the story was covered again in the Greatest Heroes of the Bible series. So it's perhaps surprising that the story has see something of a revival in recent years, mainly due to animated, church-targeted, productions or adaptations of Verdi's opera "Nabucco".

    What is also noticeable about films based on Daniel is the lack of a major production of the Daniel story. Slaves of Babylon is perhaps the highest profile, but even then, the Daniel story is somewhat in the background. Whilst this part of the biblical canon has been covered in film on a number of occasions, none of these have really entered into a (theoretical?) canon of Bible Films.

    In the next parts of this series I'll look at New Testament portrayals in this period and at some of the reasons that might lie behind the findings above.

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    Monday, May 23, 2016

    Prefiguring Jesus in Jeremiah (1998)

    Way back in 2009 I compiled a scene guide for The Bible Collection's 1998 film Jeremiah and concluded a write up of a few additional comments on it by saying:
    I'm going to make a separate post another day to look at the way that the Jeremiah of this film prefigures Jesus, particularly the Jesus from the later film in the same series.
    So I thought it was probably about time I got around to it, particularly as somebody asked me about this the other day.

    I don't think there is a cast iron case for saying that the filmmakers were trying to make the Jeremiah of their film into a "type" of Christ. However, there are a few points of interest where the film makes a few additions/interpretations which move things in that direction and particularly in the direction of the Jesus of the Bible Collection's own, later, film Jesus (dir. Roger Young, 1999).

    This tendency is most pronounced at the start of the film. Early in the film, when Jeremiah is still a child, he goes to the temple and we're led to believe - by his wide eyes if nothing else - that this is his first time in the city itself. There are quite a lot of similarities, between these scenes and those of The Bible Collection's Jesus being left behind at the temple. The visual identification here is quite strong, not least because the both films are shot on the same set, but there are also similarities in the way the two scenes are shot as well. The scenes include shots from behind the groups as they enter through an archway which frames the temple, and point of view and reaction shots as the two boys both take in the sights of the temple for the first time. It can be argued that this is, if not an actual coincidence, then just a result of the nature of the Bible Collection project, but I'm fairly happy with the school of interpretation which takes each film as a visual "text" not limited by authorial intent.

    An additional factor in this scenes is that when Jeremiah enters the temple the shots from his point of view and the accompanying reaction shots convey a mild sense of disgust. It's difficult to pin down what this is due to but it's something that the film expands on when Jeremiah returns to the temple as not only an adult, but significantly as an adult who is now seeing these sights through God's eyes as well as his own. (It's interesting that these later PoV shots, then, become a shot from God's PoV, not just Jeremiah's).

    Before all that however, we have the scene where Jeremiah hears God's call. It's notable how the film very much interprets and embellishes this scene - in the Bible Jeremiah says he's "young" but that could mean a young man and there's no specific mention of him being caught up in a vision. These combine then to mean that rather than Jeremiah being a young adult who hears God's call, that this Jeremiah is someone who knows from a very early age that they are in some way very special, chosen by God and set apart for a particular role. Again this nudges the portrayal of Jeremiah towards that of Jesus and increases the similarities between the brief, corresponding scenes of young boys with a special divine calling on their lives visiting the centre of worship for the first time.

    A while after this the adult Jeremiah revisits the temple and again we get these PoV shots and the suggestion that Jeremiah is unhappy with what he is seeing. As this opening act of the film progresses it becomes clear that there are two things which are disturbing him.

    The first seems to be linked to the slaughtering of the lambs. Whilst this isn't verbally expressed it appears that this is more than mere squeamishness, there seems to be some suggestion that Jeremiah thinks his message, and living faithfully before God, means that this rather unpalatable system is a little defunct.

    Secondly, however, these point-of-view / reaction shots are also very familiar, for those who have watched a good number of Jesus films at least, to the shots that frequently precede Jesus' clearing of the temple. And true enough, a little while after this Jeremiah ventures down some of the side streets in the temple region and there he encounters some kind of market trader who is selling idols. The seller tries to persuade Jeremiah to buy something, but Jeremiah's outrage at this affront to God is palpable. And so he turns over the tables, in a way that is classically reminiscent of all those other turning the table scenes (for example, no-one lays a hand on Jeremiah or confronts him, they all just stand back and let him get one with it). This is the film's clearest attempt to draw parallels between its protagonist and Jesus - there's no corresponding passage to this in Jeremiah, it pure invention, or perhaps I should say borrowing.

    Another such embellishment is the romantic relationship Jeremiah has with one of his near neighbours. The text of Jeremiah does make it clear Jeremiah is not to marry (16:2), but this is a general command of celibacy, there's no indication that this prevented him from marrying a specific woman.

    Whilst the Gospels are silent about Jesus' marital status, in Young's film we find a very similar scenario: Like Jeremiah, Young's Jesus has to reject the woman he looks destined to marry to focus on God's call. This is a not uncommon feature of the Bible Collection series which inserts an extra-biblical love story into several of the biblical narratives which it covers, but the similarity is particularly notable here because in both films the lead character is in love but feels the call on his life in incompatible with this particular romantic relationship.Whilst Jeremiah has things work in a different way (the girl is sold as a slave), at its heart Jeremiah still has to reject the girl because of the call God puts on his life. There are several points of similarity with Jesus (1999) - the relationship appears chaste, but at the stage where an engagement looks on the cards. The girl still lives with her family and both families seem to approve. Then the girl is told it is off suddenly and that this sudden change of course is due to God's call.

    There are several other notable similarities between these two films. Firstly, some of the parental relationships are similar, in the first half of the film there are strong relationships with at least one parent and the protagonists is very much still under their wing. Ultimately, however, the lead's parents don't fully understand their child's call and things transition from the son being at the heart of the family home at the start of the film to almost no connection with parents in the respective films' second halves. The protagonists' fathers disappear in the second act having once been very prominent and close to their son in the first half of the film. The reasons are, of course,  different - Jeremiah's father's suffers an extreme embarrassment whereas Joseph dies in Jesus - but it seems strange that family relationships that are presented as being so close at the start of the films just disappear without a great deal of regret or mention of them in the second part of the film.

    Not unconnected is the similar kind of plot structure the two films share. We start with the protagonist in the family home, there's a brief scene of their childhood, and they look like they are following in the family trade. Then there's a break in those family relationships as God's call on the hero's life starts to come into effect and they leave home. There's a pivotal scene in the wilderness and then their ministry starts, getting up the noses of some, but crucially in both films not all, of the religious and political establishment. Of course, Jeremiah never dies, but there is a scene where he's tied up in a cage in a cruciform pose and hung up high for all the see (and when he's released the camera focusses, briefly, on the damage to his wrists).

    A couple of other things that might have been on my mind when I wrote that comment 7 years ago Firstly in the opening scenes - when all is supposedly well in the tribe of Judah - Jeremiah's family arrives in the temple in the middle of some kind of celebratory procession with lots of palm branches being waved in a very similar fashion to those we tend to see in many depictions of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. There might be something in the text behind that decision, but, if so, I don't recall it.

    Then there's the way that Jeremiah's family are kind of seen as outsiders.At one point Oliver Reed's character asks "Why would God send a prophet from the wilderness when you are surrounded by schooled priests?", but Jeremiah was the son of a priest so this is kind of an odd thing to be added in to the text. Jesus of course was from an unknown family and a backwater town. "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"

    Finally there's the presentation of Jeremiah himself. The biblical Jeremiah's suffering is obviously one of his most well-known characteristics, and this is very much to the fore (corresponding to Jesus which doesn't really give much motive for his persecution at the hands of his enemies, but also Jesus as the suffering prophet in general), but other aspects, particularly ones that are quite unlike Jesus (such as chapters 40-49 where Jeremiah prophesies against other nations) are omitted.

    This isn't to say that the filmmakers are seeking to present Jeremiah as a type of Christ, or even that the parallels between the two men, or rather the two portrayals is remarkable, but there are certainly some parallels and some of those go a way beyond what is gleaned from the text itself.

    Incidentally a previous post on this subject referenced Neil MacQueen'S outline to the film which has since been moved. It is now available (again) at Sunday Software

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    Friday, May 13, 2016

    Interview with 40 Nights's DJ Perry

    I reviewed 40 Nights, the first entry in DJ Perry's The Quest Trilogy, last month and Perry was kind enough to do me an interview to share with you all. Whilst he's clearly motivated by his faith it's good to read a Christian filmmaker discuss his work without feeling he's using God as the key element in a sales pitch.

    BFB: When did you first start dreaming about this project and how did it start to come together?
    The Dream:
    I've always had a natural relationship with God from a very young age. There are so many amazing, breathtaking things in our vast known universe that the idea of God is an easy fit for most to understand. But Jesus? For me I've always been fascinated by Jesus, also realizing that everything we know has been subject to the flaws of memory, translation and additions and deletions meant to serve the human agenda. As a child of five, I recall looking deep into people's eyes who said they KNEW Jesus and I realized that for many, they were just words. It would be like, I KNOW GEORGE WASHINGTON, but they don't. They might know some words he spoke and actions he took but do they KNOW him? Now add a few thousand years or so and Jesus becomes more myth than man. Could a story about the humble beginnings of this man change that? Could people feel like they KNOW Jesus? I've always said, if Jesus came back the medium of film for storytelling (entertain and educate) might be something he would use to spread his message.

    The Process:
    I had played Benjamin in "The Book of Ruth, Journey of Faith" and many remarked on my look, it was reminding people of Jesus. I was also chosen from a 27 country search to play Jesus in a major studio release that put the entire Jesus story in the modern day. I had agreements in place and things looked good for the epic but it went south and was put into turn around. (Studio kill) My studies into the man kept bringing me back to the 40 nights in the wilderness. It was before all the grand stories we all know. I felt the conflict and weight that he must have felt, that sacrifice would bring. The inspiration to actually put the story to the page just came to me. I like to use the story of Noah as an example. If God came and told Noah to build a boat you don't question, you just do. So we built our "40 Nights" boat and just hope it floats. It lacks the mega P&A money for a wide theatrical release but it does play wonderful on the BIG SCREEN. Lightworx Distribution/Randy Maricle was the last piece of the puzzle that made it all come together. They are handling distribution our QUEST TRILOGY.

    BFB: What was the budget for the project and how did you go about getting it together?
    This film and actually all three in the trilogy are made for a modest amount of money. I felt these films NEEDED to be made and not sit in development hell for a decade. I've done much larger films but everyone cast and crew worked for a modest wage. For actors it was scale across the board and people came on board because of the love of the story. Let's just say that everyone who knows the budget is amazed at the end product. We also pride ourselves at staying on schedule and on budget which we continue to do. All the money came from private investors and we often have to turn investors away. I don't want to have more money just to have more money. But all our budgets are coming from private investors who really feel the power in our scripts/stories.

    BFB: I like that there's a bit more steel about this Jesus. Satan says at one point "I like this anger in you Jesus it shows that you are human". How much of this is because essentially what we're seeing is spiritual/internal or will this continue into the other films? Have you had much reaction to that?
    I've had so many people while filming and after viewing our movie shake my hand and tell me how much they appreciate the strong take on Jesus. He has been painted as this character floating through - a victim of circumstance. This is a man who worked with his hands and walked great distances. His intensity was showcased in the temple when he was flipping tables. He is weakened by choice to know what human weakness is. Our film does show Jesus in a stronger light versus many other films. The reaction to the choice has been extremely positive.

    BFB: With you being producer, writer and star I'm really interested in how your working relationship with Jessie Low functioned?
    My relationship with all directors is one of respect. They respect the business of what we are doing and I try to provide as much creative freedom within those lines. I was more hands on in this trilogy since they are all part of a greater vision. The camera work and music are two things that remain true throughout the three films. The directors will all likely be different. Jesse Low directed "40 Nights" and Bret Miller directed "Chasing the Star" and "The Christ Slayer" is TBD.

    BFB: (Was he (Jesse) someone you brought in once the wheels were in motion, or was he there from the earliest stage, did it have to be him, or was he a choice from a few options.
    I interviewed many directors to find the one who shared my approach for the trilogy. The wheels were in motion first as a Collective Development Inc. development project but once Jesse was brought in we spent weeks going over every scene, line and moment. Once we worked through that process he was given a lot of freedom.

    BFB: Where did the lines lie with artistic vision etc? Were there any choices he wanted to make and you weren't sure but deferred to him?
    If the choice did not affect the "business" I tried to defer to him. The producers and our director (Jesse) as a team worked through casting, crew, locations and such. Once I've signed off on the script I like to direct all creative questions towards the director. I also try to protect the subjective and creative "lines" making the choices of our director Larry weight once he is in motion. A few words and phrases, scenes changed and Jesse's visual stylistic choices are all over the film. Jesse Aragon our director of photography also worked great with our overall vision.

    BFB: The experience of going without food and water felt very much more real in your film than the other Jesus films. Is this something that you and the team have much experience of (method-acting? or as part of your faith?)
    I am very method in my approach to acting. That said, I did not truly fast while filming but being in the Yuma desert gives you that real stimulus. I did find myself NOT drinking as often on set to create that thirst in your eyes. I really did travel that harsh place in robe and sandals bleeding daily to get our scenes. This is a good place to bring up one funny question. People have said, I thought Jesus's robe would be longer. I'm sure Jesus has short, medium and long robes and a heavy goat coat for when it was cold. When you ACTUALLY walk through the desert your robe hikes up and anything past the knees will trip you up. You would be tearing the robe off at a certain point to allow free travel. I think that is the result of too many Jesus actors walking around on sets versus in the actual harsh desert. So functional is the word when it comes to robes in the wilderness.

    BFB: 40 days is the first of three films, so what made you decide to do it that way?
    I wanted to participate in some long format story telling with is why Netflix, Amazon, Hulu opening studios is exciting because I think TV series might be in our future. I was also greatly inspired by the Star Wars original trilogy. I love the look and the dramatic impact of the characters. That can be seen in our films. So if you want to see biblical stories told with a Star Wars twist take a watch. You can see the influence in there I'm sure.

    BFB: Which parts of the story are you going to cover in the next two films?
    The next film now in editing is "Chasing the Star" and is about the quest of the magi seeking the newborn Jesus. All three films share topics of sacrifice and the personal quest within them. The last installment entitled "The Christ Slayer," is a beautiful story that combines two events from the bible into a deep and moving conclusion to our trilogy. We're talking with directors and a few actors - many who are seeking us out upon hearing what we're doing.

    BFB: The film everyone will want to compare this with is Ewan McGregor's "Last Days in the Desert". Have you seen it? If so what did you think/If not do you plan to? (I haven't yet). Do you think it helps your film or might reduce your audience? Did Ewan call up for tips?

    I have heard about but I've not seen Ewan McGregor's film. I will likely watch it on Netflix or such when it comes to TV. I think it can only help and I believe the films to be different. As I understand it - their story fictionalizes a side story as Jesus is leaving the desert. I would love to have a beer with Ewan and talk about our shared experiences playing Jesus. Call me Ewan:)

    BFB: Anything else to add?
    I'm proud of the people who worked so hard on this film and hope it will be around for many years. I hope people take away a better understanding of the man and are inspired to be better people overall. I think the film has something for everyone and it doesn't require you to be a Christian to get the message. It challenges us to be better. I will accept that challenge.

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    Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    Ben Hur (1925) with Live Orchestra Comes to Birmingham

    In addition to watching and writing a lot about Bible films, I'm also a big fan of silent movies, so when the two come together I'm always pretty interested. And when the two come together for one night only, with a live symphony orchestra it's like your birthday has come early. Unless it actually is your birthday. I which case you get to take your family along for the ride too.

    The event is happening at Birmingham's Symphony Hall this Friday, 13th May. There's a good range seat prices and younger viewers are only £5 a piece.

    I've not seen this, 1925, version of Ben Hur in it's entirety since the very early days of this blog in 2006. You can read my thoughts on it here, and a more detailed review of it from Movies Silently.

    Incidentally, fans of the various incarnations of Ben Hur might be interested in Barbara Ryan and Milette Shamir's book "Bigger than Ben Hur: The Book, Its Adaptations, and Their Audiences" which I will be reviewing shortly.

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    Saturday, April 30, 2016

    40 Nights (2016)

    At a basic level filmmaking is all about choices. Where to position the camera, how to deliver a particular line, how to arrange the characters in the shot and so on. With Bible films these choices become all the more significant - you're adapting a text that has been interpreted so many times before, sometimes with the same choices being repeated so often that they almost stop being choices. They've become ingrained to such an extent that many people just see them as the way things were. So for me the most interesting Bible films are the ones that make brave and informed choices; that are deliberate about how they are doing things and the way they want to do them.

    It's clear right from the start of 40 Nights (2016) that the filmmakers were not afraid to make interesting choices. The opening shot is from a low angle and nicely filtered. And it's in proper widescreen rather than the made for DVD 16:9 that is typical of so many Christian-sponsored Bible movies. Then there's the nature of the project. Rather than adding another sprawling, objective-feeling epic, this one is more personal and psychological. It's restricted to Jesus' 40 days fasting in the desert and it's never quite clear how much of what we see is real and how much is just in Jesus' head. There are flashbacks, of course, to some of Jesus' earlier experiences, but even these are subject to the human weaknesses of his memory and in several cases to his memories of his parents' memories as well.

    Indeed perhaps the only scene to be presented subjectively is its opening one - a prologue of sorts with John baptising Yeshua (as he's called at least once) in the River Jordan - but the Holy Spirit descends as a dove only figuratively, not literally and whilst Jesus is affirmed in his sonship, we don't hear the words that he does. The kind of interesting choice that some people will take umbrage with, but is utterly in keeping with Mark's gospel.

    The script also inserts a couple of nice scenes in here before Jesus heads into the desert. There are some initial interactions with James and John a night-time vision of the devil and talk about practicalities such as provisions, all of which establish Jesus as a human person. These opening scenes are vital as they ground the character in reality and make him someone the audience can relate to and identify with. From here on his experience is outside of our normal experiences and determined largely by what is going on inside his head. The prologue is slight, but it's a significant bridge into all that is to come.

    No less significant are the flashbacks that repeatedly break-up the desert time. We see the Jesus' birth, experiences as a boy Jesus, leaving his parents (who he calls "Abba and Eema" - a nice touch) and the death of his father. These are jumbled up, rather as our own memories come out in no particular order and fleeting, more driven by what Jesus is experiencing in the desert than shipped in as an orderly presentation of his early life.

    There are other deft links to the other parts of the gospels as well. Early on Jesus recites the Lord's Prayer and elsewhere he mutters lines from the Psalms, or from his future teaching "The Father desires mercy not sacrifice". There's quite a strong nod towards John's Gospel here, particularly the passages that talk of food and water (John 6 & John 4). It's as if Jesus is practising what he will say, still working it out. As if the message he has is growing inside him yet but it's not fully formed. Twice we hear "I am the way to truth" which sounds like John 14:6, but isn't quite. Perhaps this is just a translation I'm not familiar with, or a paraphrase to keep the audience thinking, but it feels like Jesus hasn't quite fully pinned it down yet. His later work is still being formed and we're privileged to see part of the process. As the film draws to a close he stops to talk to a shepherd boy, who happens to be descended from one of the shepherds that visited Jesus as a baby, and it's him that uses the phrase "the Good Shepherd" first.

    This isn't to say that the film is wordy and weighed down in dialogue, in fact it's surprisingly visual and tactile. Jesse Low's camera repeatedly lingers on the physical/earthy aspects of the world to which Jesus is confined, drawing our attention to the water, light, wind and animals which inhabit this rocky world. The choice of locations is really inspired, it's not just a sand-pit on the back of a studio lot, it's a fascinating place of contradictions - a world that's barren yet beautiful; a place where one person might feel close to God whilst another felt deserted by him; where on one level the locations all feel the same and yet on another they're very much the same. It's notable that in this film Jesus isn't just fasting from food, he's fasting water and there are various little touches which quickly make what Jesus is experiencing far more real than any other Jesus film I can think of.

    Credit for a lot of this must go to Low and his director of photography Jesse Aragon who find the beauty in the landscape to for Perry as producer who seems to make what I imagine was a fairly low budget stretch a long way. By avoiding a sprawling running time, star names and expensive crowds of extras and investing instead in getting the right locations and a decent technical team, the filmmakers enable 40 Nights to move a notch or two above the level that many more expensive films achieve.

    Of course any film of this nature depends to a degree on the portrayals of Jesus and Satan. Jesus is played by the film's write-producer DJ Perry who has a couple of other Bible films under his belt (The Book of Ruth (2009) and Judges (2006) a loose modernisation). Perry is closer to St. John's "not yet fifty" than Luke's "about thirty", but gives a fairly solid performance in the lead role and gives Jesus the right mix of strength, vulnerability and humanity that this particular version of the story requires.

    But what's more interesting is the decision to cast Satan not as one actor but as several. This isn't apparent at first. When we first encounter Satan he's a teenager, little more than a boy. This is perhaps one of the most interesting choices in the whole film. Whilst Last Temptation of Christ portrayed the devil as a young girl, this was a deliberate act to confuse and disorientate. Jesus is meant to be confused and perhaps mistake her for an angel rather than a devil.

    Here though it's clear who this young man is, it's just a bit of a shock. We're used to Satan being a middle aged man, a disembodied voice in Jesus' head or a seductive young woman; but a teenager? With those more familiar appearances we're used to the accompanying means of temptation, the seductive urge to impress someone beautiful (even if she is a devil) or the mix of rationality, cynicism, power, menace and experience of the older characters. The genius of this choice, and of actor Drew Wise's performance, is it never occurred to me before to think of Satan as being annoying. Now that I've seen it, of course, it's obvious. People so often give way and do the wrong thing just because they get nagged into something, or they have just had enough of the voice telling them to do something and just want it to go away. And not only do Wise and Low conceive of the idea, they also execute it with efficiency. Never mind forty days, I only lasted about ten minutes before I realised I would have been ready to eat the bread, jump off the temple and declare myself king just to get the thing over with.

    The other incarnations of the devil are less noteworthy. Satan number two is more middle aged, and probably the worst decision the team made in the film was to occasionally use some kind of effect on his voice, and briefly we get the devil presented as a younger woman too, but the final incarnation presents the devil as an old man giving the encounter a sense of progression and of a journey which is drawing to its conclusion.

    The importance of what's at stake becomes more apparent here as well. Whilst Jesus' initial encounters focussed on where he had come from, his need to satiate his stomach, his moving away from his parents, in this final stage the flash backs go back further and start to mix with flash forwards. There are brief shots of Moses striking the rock and of Adam and Eve, for example, indicating that what's at stake isn't just to do with Jesus' own personal sense of godliness, but that of both his people and of all of humanity. In an extra-biblical scene we witness his mother saying to him "Your smiles have become rare, your laughter less", indeed even she appears to have "tempted" him to stick to the safe path. Unsurprisingly we see Jesus making a go of picking up Joseph's carpentry business, but wrestling with the sense that it's not his ultimate purpose. Not dissimilarly there's the occasional flash forward hinting at the crucifixion and his destiny. Jesus seems to grasp much of what his role is about, yet you get the impression he's still trying to make sense of things. Sometimes he persists because of his understanding, but at other times it's just because of his experience. "God's love is like a warm dwelling on a cold night".

    It's tempting (if you'll pardon the pun) to systematically work through all the other interesting choices the film makes, like ending the film with Jesus "breaking the fourth wall", or including all the minor embellishments the film makes that really add a sense of needle into Jesus and Satan's encounter, or but to do so would be to rob the film of what makes it such rewarding viewing, the little twists and turns that make a few lines of ancient text an interesting and engaging hour and a half's viewing. I must admit that I wasn't really expecting to like this one: but now I'm not only looking forward to watching it again, but I also have high hopes for the next two entries in Perry's Quest Trilogy as well.

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    Monday, April 25, 2016

    Silent Bible Film Mystery - #02 Joseph's Trials in Egypt

    Last week I posted a silent Bible film puzzle that I was struggling to identify and as I've been struggling with others all week I thought I might turn it into a series. (There's a very old couple of posts that fit with this series as well at that link).

    Anyway, this one revolves around a film about Joseph (son of Jacob not Jesus' guardian) which was released in the US as Joseph's Trials in Egypt in 1914. Now there are a number of other films about Joseph released around that time. The first is Thanhouser's Joseph in the Land of Egypt (1914), which is available to view on Vimeo. It was directed by W. Eugene Moore. Another US film was released the same year - Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors - directed by produced by Sawyer, directed by Louis N. Parker and released by the Dormet film company it ran to six reels. There's some record of both of these films having the alternate title Joseph and his Brethren, but these two films do seem to be separate.

    The confusion starts with the other well attested Joseph film of the era, Henri Andréani's Joseph, Fils de Jacob. David Shepherd discusses this film in some detail in his book "The Bible on Silent Film" (pp.149-154). Interestingly addition to the detailed description of the plot he also explains that Andréani had split from Pathé just before the release of the film and produced the film himself (although Pathé still distributed in).

    The IMDb (which I don't consider particularly reliable on obscure old films like this) considers this film to be the original title for the one in question, Joseph's Trials in Egypt. It's not surprising that the films have been linked as various sources refer to Trials as being French in origin and produced by Pathé.

    However, I'm not sure the IMDb is correct on this point. Firstly none of the people who have compiled lists of these films before seems to list this as an alternate title to Joseph, Fils de Jacob. That may not seem so remarkable for Campbell and Pitts, but it seems unlikely, to me at least, that if there was an established link that Shepherd would not have heard of it given the depth of his research; or that if he had heard of it that he wouldn't have mentioned it.

    Secondly there is also the fact I mentioned above regarding Andr&eacue;ani's split from Pathé. This may have left Pathé feeling that they needed to make their own Joseph film to round off their series. Verreth lists the film by its English title, but also provides a French translation Les épreuves de Joseph en Égypte. Might this have been the film's original title?

    Or am I just over-complicating the issue? Should I have just gone with the IMDb's verdict and list Joseph's Trials in Egypt as an alternate title to Joseph, Fils de Jacob? If anyone has any evidence on this one way or the other I would be interested in hearing it.

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    Sunday, April 17, 2016

    Silent Bible Film Mystery - #01 Gaumont's Esther (1910)

    At present I'm doing some work on a list of films from the Hebrew Bible. It's one of those tasks that you start off thinking will be a big job and then it turns out to be massive. The end is in sight but I'm left trying to figure out if certain films are the same with different title or different films, which is particularly tricky when you delve into the silent period and the period between 1907-1914 when films were short, often released together but also often sold section by section.

    Which brings me to the film/series Esther from 1910. It was made by Louis Feuillade for Gaumont and starred Renée Carl, Léonce Perret, Madeleine Roch. But according to the AFI it was released as two films on two different dates - The Marriage of Esther on the 11th June 1910 and Esther and Mordecai a week later on the 18th June 1910. Dumont (2009) lists these as two films, one simply called Esther and the other called Esther et Mordochée. The IMDb joins them together under the title The Marriage of Esther although if you view it on the iPad app the title is changed to Esther. It lists all three titles as alternatives.

    David Shepherd discusses the film briefly in "The Bible on Silent Film". He lists it as simply one film Esther and indicates that it exists in both the BFI and the Gaumont Pathé archives and describes it on pages 104-5 which you can read in Google Books. It sounds like he has seen it. One key point though is that he describes it as part of a trilogy, though I'm not sure what evidence exists for this aside from his own assertion. Campbell and Pitts mention this only in passing (as part of the easily missed section on page 5 of other Gaumont films) but mention it as two films Esther and Mordecai and The Marriage of Esther, in that order.

    So whilst my hunch is that these films were originally released as one in France, I'm going to list them as two as that appears to be how they were released in the US and that it seems to be the only way to clear up the relationship between the three titles. Unfortunately, whilst I like to call the films by their titles in their original language that would be problematic here so I will have to opt for their English titles. The more I go into this project the more I realise just how many twists and quirks there are.

    A couple more bits of information on this one. Firstly. There are some excellent frame grabs of this film at NitrateVille thanks to Bruce Calvert of the Silent Film Still Archive. These also show that the film was hand coloured rather than just black and white. Disappointingly I can't seem to find this anywhere to buy or view. Neither it, nor any Bible films are part of Kino's Gaumont Treasures Vol. 1 DVD despite the fact that two of the three discs are dedicated to this films director Louis Feuillade and star Léonce Perret. Indeed given that the other disc is given over to Alice Blanche Guy it's a little disappointing that not a single Bible film makes the cut. Opens the door for another project perhaps...

    Lastly, the IMDb also includes a couple of photos of the film and there's also a nice summary of the two parts taken from "Moving Picture World".
    PART ONE: "The Marriage of Esther" King Abasueris, who is now generally understood to have been Xerxes, and who ruled over India and its provinces about B.C. 521, is recorded to have cast aside his wife and directs that it be heralded throughout the domain that he is in search of a new spouse. He issues instructions to have brought before him for his approval the most beautiful young girls of all his lands. Accordingly, the maidens are led to the palace, and we see them being sumptuously gowned and bejeweled before being brought into the presence of his Majesty. Among the number, the king is greatly impressed by the beauty and grace of a handsome young Jewish girl. This one is Esther, who was adopted by her uncle, Mordecai, and by him brought to the palace of the king. Esther's beauty surpasses that of all the others and she is crowned Queen by Abasueris. Mordecai is appointed to sit at the king's gateway.

    PART TWO: "Esther and Mordecai" Mordecai is appointed to sit at the King's gateway. While on duty he discovers a plot to assassinate the King and discloses the facts, whereupon the King orders that this brave deed be recorded in the Annals of the Kingdom. Among the King's favorites, Haman is supreme. He soon becomes violently jealous of Mordecai and plans his destruction. As Mordecai is a Jew, Haman makes preparations to massacre the entire race and thereby complete his revenge on Mordecai. About this time the King decides to make a review of the Annals and to his amazement finds no record there of the good deed of Mordecai, whereupon Haman is ordered to give honors to Mordecai. This only serves to increase the jealousy of Haman. Through the gracious intercession of Esther, Mordecai soon has another and greater victory over Haman. As the time for the massacre of the Israelites approaches. Esther, who has been told all by her uncle, Mordecai, invites Haman to dine with her and the King at the palace. During the feast she discloses the fact that she is a Jewess and declares that all those who are enemies of the King and are not worthy of his favor, whereupon the King, who has been informed of the full facts, orders Haman delivered up to the guards and has him hanged on the very gallows Haman had designed for Mordecai. The victory of the Israelites is now the cause of great rejoicing.
    It's a shame that the BFI have taken all the details of their archive details off their website, as that might have been a potentially useful source of information. I don't understand that decision at all...

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    Tuesday, April 12, 2016

    More Films About Jephthah

    Back in 2013 I wrote a piece about the portrayal of Jephthah on film. Since then I have become aware of several other films about Jephthah, so I thought I would bring them all together here. I'm aware of five in total, though in an age when anyone can own a video camera and video editing software there are probably a few more. Most of these however were released in just a five year period, from 1909 to 1913. Here are some details.

    Jephthah's Daughter (1909)
    Vitagraph. Dir: J. Stuart Blackton
    I discussed Blackton's film at some length back in 2013, but there's also a bit on it in David Shepherd's book "The Bible on Silent Film". He notes
    Much as in The Judgement of Solomon, the characters of Jephthah's Daughter offer the depth and range of emotional responses only hinted at in the biblical narrative itself, but increasingly expected by audiences steeped in the melodrama of early twentieth=century cinema (p.70)

    La Fille de Jephté (1910). 
    Gaumont. Dir: Léonce Perret
    (Pictured above - there's another image at IMDb)
    Whilst this film is sometimes attributed to Louise Feuillade, it was actually made by it's star Leonce Perret (who plays Jephthah) and features additional performances from Luitz-Morat and Jeanne-Marie Laurent. It's apparently based on a scenario by Abel Gance having been inspired by the poem by Alfred de Vigny. It was also released in English speaking countries as The Vow

    A summary of the plot, from a 1910 edition of "Moving Picture Magazine", is also available on IMDb.

    Jepthah's Daughter (1913).
    Diana Film/Warner Bros. Dir: J Farrell MacDonald
    1913 saw the release of not one but two films about the errant judge. I discussed McDonald's entry in 2013 and there are a couple of stills with my review as well.

    Surprisingly David Shepherd doesn't mention this one.

    La Fille de Jephté (1913). 
    Pathé. Dir: Henri Andréani
    Andréani produced a string on Bible films for Pathé in the 1910s - at least six biblical films in 1913 alone. Whilst Shepherd lists this film in his filmography, and discusses Andréani at length in the book, he doesn't really discuss this film. However, there is a summary in the Pathé archive which suggests that the film seems to broadly follow the biblical account. Here's a translation of that summary:
    Jephthah was a brave warrior of Gilead; disinherited by his brothers, he withdrew to the mountain, began to lead a band of adventurers and indulged in a kind of banditry. He thus acquired a great reputation for boldness and courage, and soon the leaders of his tribe - enslaved by the Ammonites - came to him and asked him to put himself at their head to drive out the oppressors. Jephthah agreed, but on condition that after the war he would remain the head of Gilead.

    He completely defeated the Ammonites on the banks of the Arnon. He had vowed, if triumphant, to sacrifice to Jehovah the first person who would come out of his house to meet him. Upon his return, his only daughter walked first to the sound of instruments, at the head of her companions. Jephthah, overwhelmed with grief and despair, tears his clothes and in tears announces the promise that his mouth has uttered. The girl, resigned, asks for a grace period of two months with her companions on the mountains of Gilead, to mourn the disgrace of being neither wife nor mother. Then she offers the sacrifice to fulfil the vow of Jephthah

    Bat Yiftach [Jephtah's Daughter] (1996). 
    Dir: Einat Kapach/Eynat Kapach
    The only modern film about Jephthah of any note is by Israeli filmmaker Einat Kapach (who may spell his first name with a "y"). There's a clip from this film on YouTube which I've embeded below.

    There's also a little more about Kapach here and the same site contains some more information about the film including this synopsis.
    The year is 1984. A Jewish family is on its way by foot from Ethiopiato Sudan, from where they will board a plane for Israel. The father, whom the family’s life depends on, is seized by brigands. Things change when his eldest daughter comes across the place. The story is typical of what happened to hundreds of Ethiopians on their difficult journey to Israel, in the 1980’s, when they crossed the desert, in order to reach the Promised Land
    You can actually pay to watch the film online.

    A few more notes on this one. It's 19 minutes long. The English title does appear to be Jephtah's Daughter with only two aitches. And there appears to be a variety of release dates from 1996 to 1998 (and even 2003). I'm a little pushed for time but I might try and review this one if I can.

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    Friday, April 01, 2016

    Killing Jesus (2015)

    Killing Jesus (2015), based on Bill O'Reilly's 2013 book of the same name has the veneer of being history, but very little of the substance. At a glance the veneer is fairly convincing. Jesus (Haaz Sleiman) is of Middle-Eastern descent - Lebanese to be precise, and likes to embellish various historic-sounding details, like giving Joanna the wife of Chuza a far greater role than in any Jesus film before it, but strip away the veneer and below it's chipboard. There are chunks of real wood in it, sure, but it's not the solid history that we were promised in the trailer.

    Which isn't to say the piece is something to be overlooked. For one thing it's usually fairly nice to look at, Sleiman and various others' fake-looking beards aside. The film's $12 million is largely up on the screen with expensive filters, costumes and sets lending the production an air of authenticity. And Sleiman's performance is fairly solid whilst also being fairly different from the majority of performances in the role. I'm not sure I necessarily warmed to this Jesus, but I think that says more about me and my phony expectations than it does about the film.

    There are a couple of good scenes as well. In one, early in the film, we witness Jesus and his family eating together. Whilst the script doesn't insist that these are Jesus' biological sisters and brothers, it certainly has the feel of a close knit family, who are accepting of one another even if they have some concerns over the path Jesus is taking. In another Jesus holds firm to a boy who is said to be demon-possessed but seems, to our modern eyes, to be suffering from an epileptic attack. The people fear the boy is killed but Jesus remains steadfast and the boy is restored. It's a nicely open-ended portrayal which puts the emphasis on Jesus' love, patience, faith and forebearance, even as it refuses to force a particular view as to what actually happened.

    However, the films problems stem from the heightened expectations of a more authentic version of the story which the filmmakers have been keen to encourage. At the heart of the story is a power play between five men - Jesus, Caiaphas (Rufus Sewell, also with beard troubles), Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate and Judas - but the film gets the power dynamics all wrong. Historically speaking Pilate held all the cards. His position was difficult, certainly. The numbers were not in his favour and so he had to rely to fear of reprisals to keep the people in check. But the few bits of history we do have about Pilate suggest that, if anything, he was over capable in this area Luke 13:1 tells us about certain "Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices". Similarly, Josephus tells us that eventually the governor was recalled to Rome for the severity with which he dealt with some Samaritans. A man too harsh for the Romans is a harsh man indeed.

    Instead we're treated to the same weak, vacillating, ponderous Pilate so familiar in the Jesus film genre and so unlikely from an historical angle. And again we're treated to a scheming stereotype-laden Caiaphas who pulls all the strings and strives to get Jesus killed off even if he gets a speech here and there where he tries to convince us he's doing all for the people. In contrast Herod Antipas, historically speaking a nasty piece of work if ever there was one, not only needs his arm twisting by his wife and her sexually-precocious daughter, but also needs Pilate to tell him to kill John as well. Then there's the moment when Judas chucks away his 30 pieces of silver, not in a grand gesture of repentance, but to buy a bit of rope to hang himself on.

    These faults aren't unique to Killing Jesus of course, they are far too common to Jesus films, but this films promoted itself on the basis of being more historical to them. Yet it's put to shame, historically speaking, by the BBC's handling of the power dynamics between Pilate, Caiaphas and Jesus in The Passion (2008).

    Then there's also the screenplays strangely literal accommodation of the contrasts between the canonical gospels. Jesus prophesies th fall of the temple twice: once at the start of his ministry in words (Mark's words but John's location) and once during the week before his death (Synoptics). Similarly Peter benefits from two miraculous catches of fish, one at the start of his time with Jesus (Luke 5) and one afterwards (as per John 21).

    It's that second depiction on which so much hangs, because rather than this following the suggestion from a mysterious man on the beach to cast his nets out Peter is shown to be all alone, praying in the heat of the day. Peter looks skyward, slightly surprised, and seems to take this of proof as a miracle. Presumably we're supposed to see as convincing him of the resurrection because we never see the resurrected Jesus, but the music and imagery is upbeat as if we have.

    The only other post burial scene we see if of a group of men and women discovering an empty tomb. And here there is a similarly unsatisfactory compromise between the gospel accounts. The women (and men) don't flee in fear of the empty tomb (as per Mark), nor do they get the reassuring explanation from an angel (Matthew) a dazzlingly attired man (Mark) or two (Luke) or Jesus himself (John). Yet suddenly everything makes sense and it's all smiles.

    The problem is that this more "sceptical" ending is that it fails to give any reason why these people interpreted an empty tomb and a luckily located shoal of fish as proof of Jesus' resurrection. And this absence is highlighted all the more powerfully by the voice-over which concludes the film by telling the audience about the traditions surrounding the deaths of the disciples. Peter's upside-down crucifixion is referred to, but it's hard to believe that but for a second decent-sized catch of fish he would have remained the petrified sceptic of the High-Priest's courtyard.

    From another angle, however, this all just seems like excessive literalism. Even some relatively conservative believers will concede that perhaps John moved this story to the end of his gospel due to its metaphorical power. To depict it as a literal event that happened in reality, but which Peter profoundly misattributed is a severe failure to understand the genre. Likewise whilst the empty tomb was unexpected it seems unlikely that all of those present would simultaneously jump to the same conclusion, particularly as Jesus had not really predicted his resurrection in a great deal of detail.

    Such an ending, then, falls between two stools. It's not nearly sceptical enough for the sceptic, nor is it devout enough for the faithful. It's neither bold enough to form a solid proposal of what really happened that day, nor is it trusting enough to depicit the events as they are described. And no amount of cinematic polish is going to restore its credibility.


    Monday, March 28, 2016

    In the Footsteps of Judas

    Following on from the success of 2012's documentary In the Footsteps of St Paul and last year's In the Footsteps of St. Peter (2015) the BBC's main Easter offering this year was In the Footsteps of Judas. This time however, the programme was fronted by Rev. Kate Bottley rather than actor David Suchet who starred in the previous entries in the series.

    The change of personnel, if nothing else, is quite significant. Suchet will always be best remembered for playing Agatha Christie's Poirot and his approach to the previous two documentaries carry with them the cerebral, thoughtful air of a literary detective on a case. Bottley is best known as the vicar from Channel 4's Gogglebox which, for those who don't know, is a reality show where we at home are invited to watch others in their homes watching the same telly we've been watching the previous week. It sounds dreadful, but it's actually rather entertaining and has proved very popular and Bottley will have challenged many of the "more tea vicar?" stereotypes that still persist.

    It was only a matter of time, then, before Bottley was given the chance to try and breathe fresh life into a BBC religious documentary which, if left to their own devices, do tend to drift towards being overly remote and unengaging (even if some of us kind of like them that way). So it was no surprise to see Revd. Kate's face popping up in the Easter schedules offering a fresh look at Judas.

    Looking back through my archives I was surprised to see that there hasn't really been a TV documentary of Judas - at least not in the UK in the ten years I have been running this blog, and (from memory) in the ten or so years before that. It sounds like the kind of subject Robert Beckford would have explored back in the noughties, but the best we got was a segment in Beckford's 2008's Secrets of the 12 Disciples and even then it gave a wide berth to the "Gospel of Judas" (which got it's own National Geographic Documentary back in 2006 which Mark Goodacre reviewed here).

    In this film, the "Gospel of Judas" is given fairly short shrift and even then it's primarily a way of introducing one of the five main theories around Judas' betrayal of Jesus. According to the featured consultants, (who for the programme as a whole were Peter Stanford, Prof. Helen Bond, Revd Canon Dr Anthony Cane, Dr. Simon Gathercole, Dr. Janet Robson and Prof. Joan Taylor) the "Gospel of Judas" claims Judas was Jesus' best and most trusted friend and his 'betrayal' was actually part of Jesus' plan. There are flirtations with the thorny issue of Judas being forever berated for a role he had to play in order for God's plans to work, but they hardly go the full Lee and Herring, rather more a kind of uncomfortable "anyway...moving on...".

    Each of the five theories are presented in turn in the middle section of the documentary as a way of countering the suggestion that Judas was merely a thief who betrayed Jesus out of greed (It's pointed out that 30 pieces of silver might only have been a months wages so such a horrific betrayal would be unlikely). The other theories put forward are that Judas might have been part of the Sicarii, who ultimately rejected Jesus for being too sympathetic to Rome; that he may have hailed from a village called Scaria somewhere in the south (and so may always been an outsider amongst these other northerners); or that Judas was trying to force Jesus into the action he thought needed to be taken.

    The fifth theory here is more around what Judas' role was rather than his motivation. Having visited the Garden of Gethsemane, Bottley then visits a cave called Gethsemani and it's suggested that perhaps Judas wasn't there to identify his now famous master, but more to take the soldiers to this secret location. Of these five theories this last is the only one I hadn't come across before and whilst it wasn't argued particularly compellingly (very much the style of this, and indeed the majority of BBC docs) it was an interesting theory and I'd have liked to hear more. But it makes the middle section fairly fast flowing, even if a little choppy, This strikes a contrast with the first part of the programme which was mainly to establish Judas' importance and his traditional role for those less familiar with the story. It's loaded of Lady Gaga and Bottley stressing her desire for a more redemptive and sympathetic look at Judas.

    However, it's the final section that seemed to be causing the most interest on Twitter and contained the part that I found most thought provoking. One of the theories that is put forward in this final section is that Judas became the Church's "poster boy" for avarice just as capitalism was taking root. As capitalism began to become the churches number one enemy so the man who changed to the side of this growing threat had to be put beyond the possibility of mercy and redemption as a way of discouraging others from making similar compromises.

    The film essentially switches between four types of material - Rev. Kate talking to camera; experts giving their words of wisdom in the classic "talking heads" style; location shooting, often with Bottley visiting places from her own parish to key sites in Jerusalem; and dramatised footage of actors playing the roles of Judas (Hicham Bahloul), Jesus (Mohamed Quatib) and the other key players - and it's here that they come together to greatest effect as Rev Kate, full of empathy, asks the camera:
    Who found him? Who came across this young man? Who cut him down from the tree? Who took his body away? Who buried him? Who mourned him?
    It's not a question that is often asked and instantly I started thinking about the general absence of answers to these questions in the dramatised films about Jesus. Theories as to why Jesus betrayed his master go back to the silent era and most of those discussed here have been raised in one Jesus film or another. But these questions - what happened to Judas after his death, essentially - never seemed to be asked, let alone answered. Another interesting contrast with the majority of Jesus films that Judas is notably better looking than Jesus, which surely enables the audience to feel far greater sympathy with him than the man he betrayed.

    So instead of ending by looking at sympathetic movie portrayal of Judas, the programme turns instead to a piece of art engraved on glass. Bottley heads to St. Nicholas and St. Magnus church in Dorset to view a piece by Laurence Whistler. The depiction of Judas - more details here - has him turning towards the light in his final seconds of death, whilst the silver coins fall into the ground, unexpectedly producing flowers where they land.

    All of this suggests the possibility of redemption for him at the last minute, a change of heart after his irreversible act of suicide. And as an image it nicely summarises the documentary as a whole - a compassion for all people, that dares to hope that even those as desperate or far away as Judas, might be drawn to the light. A God of a love so powerful that not even Judas could be beyond the possibility of his redemption.


    In the Footsteps of Judas was produced and directed by Sian Salt and is available for those inside the UK on iPlayer.

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    Saturday, March 19, 2016

    Je vous salue, Marie (Hail Mary-1985)

    Jean Luc Godard had been established as one of the masters of cinema for over thirty years by the time he wrote, directed and produced his fascinating exploration into the nature of the incarnation in 1985. Godard began as a writer for "Cahiers du Cinema" in the early 50s before graduating to making his own films from 1955 and becoming the most recognisable name amongst the directors of the French New Wave.

    If, by the time the eighties came around, his output had begun to wane and lose a little of his early vitality, there was no shortage exploring ideas; It's no coincidence that his adaption of a key story from the Bible was followed by his re-working of King Lear (1987) and notable too is the film's repeated use of the historic-sounding intertitle "At that time" (Godard's interplay between the written text of intertitles and visual image is one of the most striking features of his body of work).

    In essence the idea is a simple one - telling the story of Mary the Mother of Jesus as if it were to happen today - but hanging on that premise is the exploration of a number of themes including Marie's obsession with her changing body, her struggle to persuade Joseph of the baby's divine origin, her continued virginity, the contrast between the profane and the divine, the idea of a godly figure born into such a lowly background and Marie's struggle to come to terms with her new, and constantly evolving, roles. Many of Godard's films give an importance to, and occasionally verging on the deification of, his female leads. Indeed as David Thomson puts it "It was the discovery that he loved [actress Anna] Karina more in moving images than in life that may have broken their marriage".1 Hardly surprising, then, that eventually he would turn his attention to the mother of God.

    As those familiar with Godard's work might expect there's no shortage of cinematic concepts and contrivances. Those familiar with Il vangelo secondo Matteo by Pier Paolo Pasolini, who collaborated with Godard on 1962's RoGoPaG with Godard, will recognise that Godard uses the same part of Bach's St Matthew's Passion as his Italian counterpart. Godard also plays around with the continuity of his editing, focussing for long stretches on single scenes, or even shots before jumping ahead several days, months or even years. And then there's his characteristic humour for example towards the end of the film Marie's child, who has now grown to the age of young school child, asks a new-found friend his name and then proceeds to change it to Peter.

    From a visual point of view the film is shot in the 1.37:1 that he favoured at the time. Godard uses this more equally-proportioned canvas to focus attention on an array of circular objects, most notably the full moon and the seemingly enlarged sun of numerous shots; the basketballs that Marie and her team-mates use to play; as well as a glowing spherical light shade, which sticks out from the edge of one shot like a huge white pregnant tummy, dominating the screen. Reflections of the sun's light are everywhere from the opening shot of sunlight skipping across ripples of the water's surface, to eighteen shots of the moon, "a Marian symbol of virginity and femininity".2

    Not dissimilarly there is a lot of talk about "holes" and it's notable that the film ends on an extreme close up of Marie's lips; freshly glossed and open in a circle as if signifying that now Jesus reached a certain age she is finally sexually available. Indeed just a scene or two earlier had been Jesus telling his mother he is going to do his "father's work" and we don't see him again.

    But the film's most central visual theme is the body of Marie herself as the camera focuses on her naked body in scene after scene. The intention of this seems to be to focus on the idea of Mary's own confusion and conflicting emotions about her body being taken over by this patriarchal God. As Godard later explained "I was trying to make the audience see not a naked woman, but flesh, if that's at all possible"3. However despite his claim that his "purpose was to try and shoot a woman naked and not make it aggressive, not in an X-rated picture way...more the purpose of an anatomical drawing."4, the film quickly becomes uncomfortably voyeuristic. Given that the subject of this voyeurism is a teenage schoolgirl, these shots, in light of present day attitudes, make these scenes all the more problematic.

    The degree of nudity in the film may well be why it received such heated criticism from many quarters. Pope John Paul II allegedly claimed it "deeply wounds the religious sentiments of believers" - although I can find no original source for this quotation even if it did cheekily appear on the cover of one of the film's DVD releases - and it was banned in Brazil and Argentina. Indeed Godard himself tried to withdraw the film from distribution in Italy and was personally attacked (albeit with a shaving-foam pie in the face) when the film screened at Cannes.5.

    Nevertheless, I'm always struck by the fact that this film is, theologically speaking, very conservative. It clearly pre-supposes that Mary is a virgin before and during her pregnancy and yet was banned and heavily criticised. In contrast, just four years later the far more revisionist and critical Jesus of Montreal was given the Cannes Ecumenical Jury prize, as voted for by religious representatives. The most likely explanation is that this is due to the film's heavy focus on Mary's naked body. Perhaps this at least, a victory of images over script, may have given Godard some pleasure.

    At its heart there is an interesting question - "How would Mary have felt about the changes to her body throughout her pregnancy?" After all the giving of her consent was momentary, but she paid a high cost for that over the next nine months, and forever after. As Marie herself says at one point "Being a virgin should mean being available or free, not being hurt". Many expectant mothers feel a degree of animosity about the difference between their initial expectations about pregnancy and the reality. It's more than possible that Mary's attitudes also swung back and forth a fair bit, as we see here in the scene of Mary's "long dark night of the soul". Nevertheless the way the film explores these issues fails to draw them out as well as it might have.

    None of which is to say that there is a shortage of ideas in the film. Indeed there's no shortage either of the kind of philosophising that was so typical of the French New Wave. Early on a professor tells his class "The astonishing truth is that life was willed, desired, anticipated, organised, programmed by a determined intelligence" and the film in general seems to move between an acceptance of God's existence but a rejection of his methods. In one of Marie's lengthy monologues she mutters "God's a creep, a coward who won't fight, who counts on ass alone...a vampire who suffered me in him".

    The use of "vampire" here is probably a reference to Dreyer's 1932 Vampyr. As is typical of Godard Hail Mary cites the work of numerous artists including Dreyer. As Marie gives birth to Jesus we hear a man speak the words "What a strange road I had to take to reach you". It's a quote from the final scene of Robert Bresson's Pickpocket and it's followed up almost immediately by a shot of a donkey, doubtless referencing Bresson's Christ-figure film Au Hasard Balthazar. There's even a shot of Mary posed like Mantegna's painting "Lamentation of Christ".

    But Mary's language here is also an example of the way the film plays the sacred against the profane. "Here's $500 for God's sake" says Gabriel to persuade Joseph to drive him to the petrol station where he delivers the annunciation under the unblinking light of the forecourt. It's clear that this Mary will remain as chaste as the biblical Mary, even as her use of swear words sets her apart from the Mary of church tradition. All the leading characters, be they saints in waiting or angels, swear or take the name of God in vain. Confronted with the news of Mary's pregnancy, Joseph blames "Guys with big cocks". Mary uses the "c" word as she wrestles with God's unusual calling.

    Gabriel is accompanied here and elsewhere by a young girl. The pair reappear miraculously later in the film - emphasising their divine mandate - and Gabriel appears once more at the film's close. Also making an appearance is a character called Eva, her biblical significance underlined by her taking a bite from an apple close to the camera. She is contrasted with the chaste Marie, in a similar fashion to 1 Tim 2 contrasts Mary and Eve. Eva gives herself freely but is left alone towards the end. Mary stays with Joseph ans takes pride in her son. Many Annunciation paintings represent the Garden of Eden around the peripheries of the main picture and here the inclusion of this seemingly unconnected story works in a similar fashion.6

    This constant attention to, referencing of and subversion of Christianity's visual traditions is what sets Hail Mary apart from so many other Bible films. Godard my only have been grabbing headlines on this production due to the ensuing controversy, rather than his artistry, but the fingerprints of a great master are all over this piece. Even if we're ultimately forced to concede it's far from his best work.

    Je vous salue, Marie (Hail Mary, 1985) - Frequently accompanied by The Book of Mary by Anne-Marie Miévielle

    1 - Thomson, David, The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, (4th Edition, 2003) Little, Brown. p.342
    2 - O'Brien, Catherine, "The Celluloid Madonna: From Scripture to Screen" (2011) New York, Columbia University Press, p.137
    3 - Dieckmann, Katherine in Sterritt, David, "Jean-Luc Godard: Interviews" (Jackson, 1998) p.169
    4 - Dieckmann, p.169
    5 - "Godard Has A Bad Day In Cannes...And Tries To Withdraw 'Hail Mary' In Italy", Aljean Harmetz, The New York Times, 11th May 1985
    6 - O'Brien, p. 45

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