• 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, February 08, 2007

    Color of the Cross - Scene Guide

    I reviewed Jean Claude LaMarre's Color of the Cross last month, and have been meaning to write the corresponding scene analysis ever since. As usual bible references are cited in accordance with my general citation policy
    [Opening Shot of the Cross]
    [extra-biblical episodes]
    Journey to Jerusalem - (Mark 10:32, Matt 26:52)
    Passover preparation - (Mark 14:12-26)
    [extra-biblical episodes]
    Camping in Gethsemane - (Matt 5:11)
    [extra-biblical episode]
    Mary's Pregnancy Recounted - (Matt 1:18-25)
    [extra-biblical episode]
    Birth of Jesus told - (Luke 2:6)
    Start of Last Supper - (Mark 14:17)
    [extra-biblical episode]
    Last Supper - (Mark 14:18-21, 9:33-37)
    Foot washing - (John 13:1-15)
    [extra-biblical episode]
    Bread and Wine - (Mark 14:22-25)
    [extra-biblical episode]
    Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial - (Mark 14:26-31, Luke 22:31)
    [extra-biblical episodes]
    Disciples in the garden - (John 12:24)
    Testimony against Jesus - (Mark 14:55-59)
    Boy Jesus - (Luke 2:41-52)
    [extra-biblical episode]
    Gethsemane - (Mark 14:32-42)
    [extra-biblical episodes]
    Great Commission - (Matt 28:19-20)
    Arrest - (John 18:1-11)
    Crucifixion - (Mark 14:24,34, Luke 23:43, 34)
    [Montage of moments from Jesus's life]
    One of the most striking aspects of the scene selection for this film is the omission of the events between Jesus's arrest and his crucifixion. "Yoshua" is arrested in Gethsemane, and then the camera cuts to his dying words on the cross. As I noted in my review it has been suggested that this might be some sort of response to The Passion of the Christ, or it may simply be a way of drawing out the parallels. A third option occurred to me the other day, on reading some of Crossan's work on the crucifxion. Crossan suggests that as the disciples fled after Jesus's arrest none of them could have witnessed these events, and so the details between the arrest and the crucifixion originated in historising prophecy. Whilst I'm not personally convinced by Crossan's arguments (surely the disciples would at some stage try and find out what happened on that fateful night), it does shed an interesting light on this film's portrayal of those events.

    There are a number of interesting insertions into the biblical text. Early on the roman leader, who is not Pilate, and Caiaphas meet, and Caiaphas is clearly cast as having to ensure the peace is kept, and being responsible for handing over any would be revolutionaries. The Roman asks how it feels "a Jew handing over a Jew", Caiaphas's response "It doesn't feel good. If I'm wrong let history judge me" both captures the misgivings he may have had about handing Jesus over, as well as recasting the fateful words of Matt 27:25. It's also interesting to see Gamaliel given a role here, although whereas he is the voice of tolerance in Acts 5, here he is the voice of intolerance - unable to accept a black messiah.

    This is one of few films to actually show the two disciples going to arrange the Passover meal, and following a man carrying a water jar. As I understand it a man carrying a water jar would have been unusual in 1st Century Judea, whereas here it seems to be fairly mundane. Jesus's prediction that this would be the man to follow appears to be more prophetic than pre-arranged as is sometimes suggested.

    The character of Judas is a fairly prominent part of this film. As per John 12:6 Judas is categorised as a thief (which is fairly rare amongst Jesus biopics). However, he is also shown as being either an adulterer or a rapist, when he forces himself on Mary Magdalene (for her part she lies back and thinks of Magdala whilst hoping to delay his betrayal). Bizarrely though despite these two negative characteristics being shown, Judas's betrayal is not motivated because he is (directly) influenced by the devil, but because he is a disappointed zealot, who changes his mind even before he arrives in Gethsemane. Whilst Jesus films often try to undemonise Judas in this way, it is unusual for them to portray his general character in such a fashion whilst doing so. For what it's worth we don't see Judas's suicide.

    Jesus's family are shown in greater depth than in most films. Not only is Joseph still alive, but we meet James, Ezra and Leah, all of whom are related to Jesus. The standard Protestant view is that those described in the gospels as being Jesus's adelphos and adelphe are his actual brothers. The standard Catholic view is that these words should be translated cousins in this instance, and the standard orthodox view is that they were Joseph's children by another marriage (although I'm unsure how closely believers in the various camps align with these positions in practise). Most films tend to ignore Jesus's family altogether (except, of course, Mary), presumably in order to avoid offence. This does tend to weaken the all round portrayal of Jewish families in the film. By clearly showing Jesus's kinsfolk as younger than him, the film eliminates the step-brother/step-sister position, and by calling them brothers/sisters suggests it is going the Protestant route. It's worth noting, however, that Mary's costume is highly reminiscent of a nun's habit.

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