• 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


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    Monday, August 13, 2007

    Magdalena: Released from Shame

    Thanks to Thomas Langkau for tipping me off about this one. Nardine Productions are soon to release a new Jesus film - Magdalena: Released from Shame. It's currently in production (with a 2008 release according to the IMDB), but here's what the Nardine Productions website has to say about it:
    An original film that traces Jesus’ interactions with biblical women as seen through the eyes of one of His followers, Mary of Magdala. In a beautifully emotive way, this 90-minute docudrama captures these historical accounts.

    Magdalena: Released From Shame will be available in many of the world’s major languages in 35mm, DVD and VHS formats.
    There's a fairly impressive official website which contains four clips from the film plus a theatrical trailer (although it's unclear as to whether this will actually make it into theatres, or just go straight to DVD). There's also a cast list, gallery, and the following synopsis:
    A woman caught in the shameful act of adultery; a social outcast shunned in society for 12 years because of a despicable illness; a widow mourning the loss of her only son. An ugly thread of shame, sorrow and hopelessness painfully weaves its was through these women's lives.

    After spending three years following Jesus, Mary Magdalene has seen it all - lives changed, miracles performed, the sorrow of death and yet the triumph of life. Mary has watched in amazement as Jesus taught a whole new way of looking at life and at people. Jesus radically transformed her own life when he healed her from demon possession, so much so that she became his follower.

    Fast forward to A.D.40. Although Jesus no longer remains on earth, Mary Magdalene still lives a changed life. Despite his miraculous works and his surprising compassion, not everyone bought into the teaching of this man, Jesus. Skeptical about this supposed Savior, Mary's friend questions her, "The God who created all of this? I doubt He even sees me, much less knows me."

    In response, Mary Magdalene passionately retells the details of Jesus' life - from birth to death, and eventually to resurrection - and how his life continues on in the lives of those who follow him...
    It becomes obvious from looking at the various parts on the website that this is no ordinary Jesus film. My curiosity was first aroused when I noticed that Brian Deacon's name was mentioned amongst the cast. Deacon played Jesus in the 1979 Jesus film, but is in his late 50s now. I assumed it was simply an interesting cameo - after all the clips I had seen thus far were clearly very modern.

    Then I watched the trailer and realised that what this film is actually doing is incorporating clips from the 1979 film (and, possibly, the wider "Gospel of Luke" project that was recorded at the same time) into a modern film. The Jesus in the newer sections of the film is usually seen from behind or in long shot. This is confirmed by the last of the 4 clips I watched where the action cuts from a newly recorded shot spliced with a clip from the 1979. I would guess the voice of the modern Jesus is also Deacon, and it may be him under that wig (although I suspect it is someone else).

    I can already see potential parallels with this and modern gospel scholarship - some sayings going back to the original Jesus, others incorporated into the text in order to tell the good news - but I'll wait until I see it before I go down that route.

    There are a couple of other points that I'd like to make at this juncture. Firstly, there's obviously a strong focus on the woman that Jesus encounters. Magdalene is clearly a separate women from the woman caught in adultery. The synopsis clearly mentions the widow of Nain and the haemorrhaging woman. The clips also include the Samaritan women. Since the story is told by Mary Magdalene to another woman it's certainly possible that the occasions when Jesus acts compassionately towards women are in the forefront of her mind. It will be interesting to see how far this focus goes and which other stories are incorporated.

    Secondly, I was very pleased to see that this is the first Jesus film (at least that I've come across) that raises the point that "the very act of adultery" requires two people.

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