• 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


    Thursday, May 04, 2006

    Abraham: Man of Faith

    Abraham: Man of Faith is the first biblical story from the Living Bible Collection which was started in 1952 with a 12 half hour episodes about the life of Christ before going back to the beginning of the Old Testament and starting from there in 1958. I have previously reviewed two other entries from the Hebrew Bible; Gideon: The Liberator and Ruth: A Faithful Woman. As far as I'm aware this was only the second ever filmed version of this story after 1911's Le Sacrifice d'Abraham.

    It's interesting that this is the first story from the bible that the series covers. Both the stories of Adam and Eve, and of Noah and the flood have proven popular with biblical film-makers, and the pre-cinema storytellers long before them. Two possibilities suggest themselves for this discrepancy; Either, the stories were considered historically rigorous enough (and it seems unlikely that this would be the reason), or, the budget was too small to film Noah, a flood and an ark, and the film-makers couldn't think of a way to film the Adam and Eve story "decently".

    The film itself is very conservative, much like the other entries in the series, and this is highlighted in three ways. Firstly, there is very little added to the story - just the standard "Living Bible" introduction, and the occasional explanatory note. Secondly, there is very little deliberate interpretation or exploration of the text, the sub-text, deeper meanings, or alternative readings of the text. Secondly the biblical episodes which have been chosen for this film are those which highlight Abraham's strengths. Those which demonstrate his weaknesses have been excluded. Consider the scene guide below:
    God calls Abram to leave his father (Gen 12:1-5)
    Abram's sacrifice at Bethel (Gen 12:8-9)
    Abram and Lot separate (Gen 13:7-12)
    God promises Abram a son (Gen 13:14-17)
    God promises a son again (Gen 15:5)
    Visit of the three angels (Gen 18:1-15)
    Birth of Isaac (Gen 21:1-3)
    God tests Abraham (Gen 22:1-13)
    God's promise to bless Abraham (Gen 21:16-18)

    Note the episodes that are absent - Both occasions were Abram lies about his relationship with Sarah in Egypt, Abram's relationship with Hagar, and the sending away of her and Ishmael, and Abraham bargaining with God over the fate of Sodom. In other words every episode that makes Abraham look bad is excluded, all the stories which portray him in a positive light are included.

    Perhaps the most striking example of this depiction glossing over the stories in the bible comes with the attempted sacrifice of Isaac. Isaac is the real hero here calmly accepting his fathers desire to kill him, and passively accepting his fate. There is no attempt either to show Isaac's fear (although admittedly none is reported), nor to put Abraham's actions in a context where child sacrifice is hardly out of the ordinary. Hence any Girardian notion of this act being a new revelation of the type of God Abraham was following is lost.

    Finally, the production values are particularly poor in this film. The opening scene, of Abram making a sacrifice seems to be using the very same set that became Gideon's threshing floor. The acting is uniformly terrible, most notably the angel who's utterance of "Yes, you did laugh" couldn't be any more wooden if he had tried. That said there is a nice "God shot" on one of the occasions where Abraham hears God's voice (see above)

    It's a shame that the first talking film about Abraham was so poorly executed, as it is truly one of the more interesting and fleshed out characters in the whole Old Testament. Thankfully eight years later the story would get a more thorough treatment as one of the stories in The Bible: In the Beginning, and later as part of the Bible Collection's Abraham (1994)

    Labels: , ,


    • At 10:45 pm, July 01, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I really enjoyed the Living Bible collection on DVD. I think these films have never been released in the public domain until recently. They may have a short budget and be all filmed in indoor sets, but nontheless they are superb


    Post a Comment

    << Home