• 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.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    "No Room at the Inn"

    I've just been watching a snippet from The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ and something stood out to me that I'd not noticed before. Most dramatised versions of Jesus's birth, from our first experiences in school nativity plays through to multi-million dollar Hollywood movies, feature a moment with an innkeeper. "Sorry, there is no room at the inn" he says before tentatively offering Mary and Joseph his stable.

    Whilst Hollywood may have dramatised this moment a little more effectively than the average nativity play, it's still, essentially, the same idea only with better costumes and (sometimes only marginally) better acting. This becomes particularly obvious when we view the original text from Luke 2:7 which simply says "and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn". There's no mention of the innkeeper, certainly no connection between the owner of what appears to be Bethlehem's only inn and the location of the manger.

    So I was interested to note that in The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ it's not the innkeeper who suggest the stable, but some seemingly unconnected little girl on the street (pictured above). Which makes me wonder, was Life and Passion boldly subverting tradition in favour of fidelity to the original text? Or is it just that the tradition of the innkeeper was not as widely established 100 years ago as it is today? Given the film's pageant-like feel and it's reliance on traditional imagery the latter seems more likely. If so, it's interesting to see how quickly something can become so ingrained on the public consciousness.

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    4 Comments:

    • At 7:24 am, September 10, 2008, Blogger Patrick said…

      I'm having the same opinion; after all, the media could easily influence the public's minds in how they view things (take DeMille's 1956 version of the Ten Commandments, for example).

       
    • At 1:57 pm, September 10, 2008, Blogger James F. McGrath said…

      And of course, "inn" is not necessarily the best translation of the word in question, as Kenneth Bailey has pointed out and many other scholars concur...

       
    • At 2:12 pm, September 10, 2008, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Patrick, Yeah one of the things I'm most interested by is how these films have the potential to give us a skewed visualisation / understanding of the texts, but also have the potential to liberate us from those skewed perspectives. So DeMille's parting of the Red Sea is fixed in the public conciousness, but De Bosio's and Young's both subvert the established but extra-biblical interpretation by offering a version that is surprisingly more faithful to the original text.

      Matt

       
    • At 2:13 pm, September 10, 2008, Blogger Matt Page said…

      James,

      Thanks for adding that. I thought about mentioning that myself, but no film has yet taken the lead on this. I hope one day one will.

      Matt

       

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