• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


    Friday, April 28, 2006

    Jesus (1999) - Scene Guide

    Having reviewed the Jesus mini series yesterday, I thought I would follow it up as normal with a scene guide. The gospel citations here follow the usual rules. There are actually two different version of this film in circulation. The one I am most familiar with is the International version which concludes with a scene where the modern day Jesus meets some children in Malta (I believe). The US version is the one where Mary recalls Jesus as a child resurrecting a bird, an episode not dissimilar to one from certain versions of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. There are only a few differences between the two versions, and most of them relate to the incidents not found in scripture. Those changes which do relate to scriptural incidents are minor. Full details of the differences between the two versions can be found at Hollywood Jesus.
    Part 1
    [Extra-biblical episodes]
    Mary and Martha - (Luke 10:38-42)
    John the Baptist - (Mark 1:4-8)
    Boy Jesus (Luke 2:41-50)
    Jesus’ Baptism - (Mark 1:9-11)
    Temptation - (Matt 4:1-11)
    Andrew & John follow - (John 1:35-40)
    Mary tells Joseph she is pregnant - (Matt 1:19-20)
    [Extra-Biblical Episode]
    Wedding at Cana - (John 2:1-12)
    Catch of Fish - (Luke 5:2-11)
    [extra-biblical episodes]
    Death of John - (Mark 6:17-27)
    [Extra-Biblical Episode ]
    Woman caught in Adultery - (John 8:2-11)
    Clearing the Temple - (Mark 11:15-19)

    Part 2
    [Extra-Biblical Episode]
    Various Teaching
    Calling of the 12 - (Mark 3:14-19)
    Calming the storm - (Matt 14:22-33)
    Canaanite Woman - (Mark 7:24-30)
    [Extra-biblical episode]
    Lazarus Raised - (John 11:1-44)
    Triumphal Entry - (Mark 11:1-11)
    [Extra-biblical episode]
    Last Supper - (Mark 14:12-31)
    Judas’ Betrayal - (Mark 14:10-11)
    Gethsemane - (Mark 14:32-42)
    Jesus’s arrest - (Mark 14:43-50)
    Peter’s Denial - (Mark 14:66-72))
    Sanhedrin Trial - (Mark 14:53-64)
    Pilate 1st trial - (Luke 23:1-7)
    Before Herod - (Luke 23:8-12)
    Pilate 2nd trial - (Luke 23:13-25)
    Jesus is Whipped - (Matt 27:26)
    Crucifixion and Death - (Mark 15:22-41)
    Judas Hangs himself - (Matt 27:5b)
    Burial - (Mark 15:42-47)
    Mary M & the Empty Tomb - (John 20:1-2)
    Peter & John at Tomb - (John 20:3-10)
    Mary M meets Jesus - (John 20:11-16)
    Thomas Doubts - (John 20:25)
    Appearance to Disciples - (Luke 24:36-40)
    [International ending - Extra-Biblical]
    A Few Notes

    This film is a prime example of the harmonising tradition in Jesus films. Rather than exclusively or primarily following a single gospel it blends all four together. Hence key incidents exclusive to John, such as the wedding at Cana, raising of Lazarus and some of the resurrection stories are included. Whilst this is not uncommon, we also see the script writer Suzette Couture pick and choose the most vivid incidents from each of the synoptic gospels. Hence Luke's version of the call of Simon Peter (where he is only convinced after a miraculous catch of fish) is included in preference to the more mundane version in Matthew and Mark. This is of course only after John the Baptist has dramatically pointed out Jesus to Andrew and John. The interaction with between Jesus and Mary and Martha is only found in Luke's gospel yet included. Similarly only Luke's gospel puts Jesus on trial in front of Herod, and only Matthew has Peter attempt to walk on water and Judas hang himself. As a result of this and my familiarity with the film I've made more effort to locate the exact story where it seems warranted.

    It's also noticeable how this film opts neither for the single trip to Jerusalem we find in Mark's gospel (and the other synoptics), nor the threefold trip to Jerusalem unique to John's Gospel. Whilst it is difficult to be precise (and unclear whether this was intentional on the part of the writer) it would appear that both parts of the film start in Galilee, and end in Jerusalem. Hence at the end of part 1, Jesus visits and clears the temple, before returning at the start of part 2 to the Sea of Galilee, to pick his diciples. and meet them across the water.

    The other distinctive thing about the screen play is the prominence it gives to women. Many Jesus films have taken a number of different women and boiled them down into one> Usually this is achieved by making Mary Magdalene not only the woman who witnesses Jesus's resurrection but also the woman of sinful life who anoints Jesus, and the woman caught in adultery. Jesus Christ Superstar even portrays her as mothering Jesus as well - in a manner reminiscent of the Virgin Mary.

    By contrast this film gives a detailed portrait of a number of many different women around the life of Jesus, being at pains to make them distinct. So, whilst Mary Magdalene is, in keeping with the old western tradition, a reformed prostitute, it is another woman who is caught in adultery. Mary of Bethany is distinct again - shown as the woman Jesus had to leave behind to fulfil his calling. Jesus's mother also has a prominent role, and even Herodias and Salome get an above average quantity of screen time. Furthermore, there is the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman (which appears in no other Jesus film), not to mention Martha. Admittedly, the film excludes the Samaritan women, Jairus's daughter, the haemorrhaging woman, and the crippled woman who was healed on the Sabbath but I imagine screen time was a limiting factor. Nevertheless the prominence of women in this film combined with the way Jesus treats them in particular in this film, make this film particularly appealing to many women.

    Finally there is the closing scene in the international version where Jesus appears as a modern man. Interestingly most British viewers I have encountered consider this scene very American, which is ironic since that is one of the few places it was not shown. There is also a difference of opinion as to whether this scene is a plus or a minus. Amongst others, I know that Mark Goodacre considers it a plus point, whereas I would strongly disagree. I'm not sure whether it's the music, or the children that I find grates. Certainly I like the idea of showing Jesus's relevance for today, but this ending just doesn't do it for me.

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