I should perhaps give a brief intro to the film (although read my review for more detail). Tony Childress (Matthew Modine) is a film producer who is making a controversial movie about Jesus, based in part on the Gospel of Mary. Mary is played by an actress called Marie Palese (Juliette Binoche) who has a religious experience as a result of filming the movie and moves to the Holy Land. But the film really revolves around Ted Younger, a TV presenter whose programme looks at various controversies surrounding the life of Christ.
[0 mins] - Credits
[3 mins] - Mary Sees the Risen Jesus - (John 20:1, 10-17)
- We see two women, two angels and the empty tomb. Jesus appears, but then this scene ends abruptly and cuts to Palese waking up in bed as if from a troubling dream, suggesting this was actually her dream
[15 mins]- Press screening. Incorporates...
[17 mins]- 1st excerpt from Gospel of Mary (paraphrased)
- They grieved and mourned greatly, saying,
"How shall we go to the Gentiles and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of the Son of Man? If even he was not spared, how shall we be spared?"
Then Mary stood up and greeted all of them and said to her brethren,
"Do not mourn or grieve or be irresolute, for his grace will be with you all and will defend you. Let us rather praise his greatness, for he prepared us and made us into men." When Mary said this, their hearts changed for the better, and they began to discuss the words of the [Savior]. Peter said to Mary,
"Sister, we know that the Savior loved you more than other women [cf. John 11:5, Luke 10:38-42]. Tell us the words of the Savior which you have in mind since you know them; and we do not, nor have we heard of them."
Mary answered and said,
"What is hidden from you I will impart to you."
And she began to say the following words to them.
"I," she said, "I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to him,
'Lord, I saw you today in a vision.'
He answered and said to me,
'Blessed are you, since you did not waver at the sight of me. For where the mind is, there is your countenance' [cf. Matt. 6:21].
I said to him,
'Lord, the mind which sees the vision, does it see it through the soul or through the spirit?'
The Savior answered and said,
'It sees neither through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind, which is between the two, which sees the vision
[cut to shot of Younger watching, also signifying a jump in the text]
When Mary had said this, she was silent, since the Savior had spoken thus far with her. But Andrew answered and said to the brethren,
"Say what you think concerning what she said. For I do not believe that the Savior said this. For certainly these teachings are of other ideas."
Peter also opposed her in regard to these matters and asked them about the Savior.
"Did he then speak secretly with a woman [cf. John 4:27], in preference to us, and not openly? Are we to turn back and all listen to her? Did he prefer her to us?"
Then Mary grieved and said to Peter,
"My brother Peter, what do you think? Do you think that I thought this up myself in my heart or that I am lying concerning the Savior?"
Levi answered and said to Peter,
"Peter, you are always irate. Now I see that you are contending against the woman like the adversaries. But if the Savior made her worthy, who are you to reject her?
[28 mins] - 2nd excerpt from Gospel of Mary
- ...and Desire said,
'I did not see you descend; but now I see you rising. Why do you speak falsely, when you belong to me?'
The soul answered and said,
'I saw you, but you did not see me or recognize me; I served you as a garment and you did not recognize me.'
Followed by a behind the scenes shot of the movie. The whole sequence has a dreamy feel to it.
- Not only does this scene reveal Younger is having an affair, but we also realise that she is Marie Palese's friend. She reveals Palese has been away for a year, after going to s deep place, living two lives for the sake of the film and that Childress never helped her come back from that place. Later we see Younger get Palese's number from Gretchen's mobile whilst she sleeps
- MP:Do you believe in Jesus
TY:I guess he existed yeah sure
MP:What do you believe?
TY:I don't know
MP:It takes courage to walk in the truth, and it takes courage to become fully human. Jesus helped Mary Magdalene, and (s)he’s helping me now.
[37 mins] - Elaine Pagels expounds her theories on the Gospel of Mary
[39 mins] - Footage of Younger arguing with his wife, and conducting an interview
[44 mins] - Shots of Palese in "biblical" dress (Magdalene?) sailing of on the sea (of Galilee?)
[46 mins] - Younger discovers blood. His wife's prematurely in labour.
[52 mins] - 2nd 'phone conversation between Younger and Palese
- TY:My baby’s so sick, so sick, can’t even breathe
MP:Do you love your baby?
MP:As his father would you do everything in your power for him?
MP:If your baby asked you for something would you give it to him
MP:Do you think the father, your father would do the same for you?
TY:D’you know what, my Dad’s dead, but yeah
MP:No I mean your father Ted, the father that’s always there. He loves us more than we humans can comprehend
TY:Oh well if he loves me so much then why is he doing this to me?
MP:Have you asked him? Have you spoken to him?
TY:How can I ask him if I don’t even know if I believe in him? I want to go to him and fight I don’t want to speak to him. I don’t know how to do that
MP:Well he sent us a messenger so we could understand, so go to him, pray, try
TY:I can’t speak to God.
- This includes footage of both Jews and Muslims worshipping in Jerusalem, and Marie lighting three candles (for Ted, Elizabeth and their baby?) in a church. She then attends what appears to be a Jewish Passover seder which is interrupted by an explosion. Footage of Ted in hospital, and Palese disappearing down a dark street. Directly cuts into...
- Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives
Do not let your hearts be troubled, do not let them be afraid. If you loved me you would rejoice...
The hour has come when you’ll be scattered, each one to his own home. And I will be left alone
Because they will persecute you as they have persecuted me.
They do this to fulfil the word that is written in their law, they hated me …
I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling
The hour has come when you will be put out the synagogues, indeed, the hour has come when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God.
I’ve said these things before they occur, so when they do occur you may remember that I spoke of them and you may believe.
- Scene follows on directly form the last one so it is unclear whether or not the Last Supper scene is part of Mary's imagination/memory again, or as part of the TV programme. Clip is followed by Younger interviewing Childress, before a call from Palese is patched through...
TY: What would make you leave behind being an actress
MP: I had no other choice, I played the role of MM, and I became fascinated and inspired by her. I wondered if I could change. You know my heart was hardly able to contain anything else. That’s why I stayed...
TC: What you doing now? Healing lepers?
MP: I will say that we are all capable of becoming better people...people’s inner turmoil every day, one thing I’d like to say is that my wish is that all people in the world acquire peace within themselves, that’s all I want to say
[73 mins] - Movie Premiere
- Protests outside premiere which is called off because of a bomb threat. Childress projects movie and we see a few broken up excerpts, interspersed with shots of Mary at sea
"You are blessed when the sight of me does not disturb you. There lies the mind lies the treasure."
"Where do you come from, murderer, and where are you going, wanderer?...My craving has faded, and I am freed from my ignorance...I left the world with the help of another world...The design was erased by virtue of a higher design. Henceforth I travel toward repose(?)"
[79 mins] - Palese returns to shore still in biblical dress.
[80 mins] - End Credits
A Few Notes
Further to my post questioning the relationship between Marie Palese and Mary Magdalene I noticed in fast forwarding through recently the parenthesis provided by the two scenes of Mary by the shore of the sea (presumably of Galilee. In the first shot her companions are going out to sea, in the final one, they are returning from their voyage. (I also noticed a couple of fleeting shots of her in a storm at sea when Childress is projecting the movie after the aborted premiere. It's unclear here whether this is footage of the film, or, again, in his head. Certainly the way Palese directly addresses the camera would be unlikely for such a movie). Given that the first and last shots surround the scenes where Ted prays for forgiveness and the healing of his family, ultimately leading to his confession to his wife and their reconciliation, (not to mention an epiphany of sorts for Childress) it would appear that there is something of a "fishers of men" motif being indicated here.
Some people have noted that the extant text of the Gospel of Mary never actually stipulates that the Mary it refers to is Mary Magdalene. There are of course up to six different Mary's mentioned in the New Testament, and this could possibly refer to any of them. That said it seems hard to imagine that many of them would have such prominence other than Mary Magdalene, and Mary Jesus's mother. In any case this argument mainly seems to be employed to permit people to ignore the text without taking it seriously.
I'm still unclear what this film is saying about Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ. On the one hand it would appear to side with the maker of a controversial Jesus film and support Gibson's right to free speech, but on the other Childress is so arrogant and unsympathetic that one can't help but wonder if that is intended as a reflection on Gibson too. Furthermore the film seems to have strong sympathies regarding the Gospel of Mary, not only bringing it to greater prominence, but also giving a platform to one of its most vociferous champion, Elaine Pagels, and indicating the faith that the work might inspire. But it does so, by showing how the established church has suppressed the work, another thing that appears contrary to Gibson. Perhaps Ferrara is simply taking the line of disagreeing with what Gibson does, but defending his right to do it.