• 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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    Friday, September 14, 2007

    Caiaphas and Jabba the Hutt

    I've commented before on the problematic visual elements of The Passion of the Christ, and wondered how differently the film would have looked (and been perceived) if the actors who played Caiaphas and Pilate had swapped roles, either with each other, or with the soldiers who scourged Christ. But I was writing an article for The Reader Magazine recently when an association popped into my head that I'd not made before. Wait for it... Gibson's Caiaphas holds an unnerving number of similarities with Return of The Jedi's Jabba the Hut.

    Now before you dismiss this as the most ridiculous slur yet on Gibson's movie (and there have been many) let me just outline the facts. Both Caiaphas and Jabba are in positions of power. There shown initially in their respective lairs surrounded by sycophants who play along with their leader's general mood. Both are overweight and unattractive. Both are shown first and foremost in the dark of their hideouts. When they later come into the light they are clearly out of place. Both interview the hero (a Christ figure) and sentence him to death.

    There are also a few similarities in composition. Consider for example these two examples:

    Luke is in the light here, whereas Jesus isn't but otherwise the composition of these figures is very similar. As is the lighting, and the general atmosphere.

    Now contrast these two pictures the reverse shot from behind the "seat of power". Since both films were very poorly lit, I've had to alter the brightness on these to make the background more visible (which of course it is when you watch these films in the cinema). But you can still make out how the architecture is somewhat similar, and again the composition of the shot with the characters on the stage in the foreground, the hero alone in the middle with an anonymous, yet hostile, crowd in the background. Of course Gibson was a little limited in his options here, but nevertheless it's an interesting point.

    Finally (and definitely less significantly) note the similarities between these two guards.

    Now I'm not saying that Gibson consciously modelled Caiaphas and his supporters on Jabba, but it does seem to have had some kind of subconscious effect (OK I admit I'm playing devil's advocate somewhat). Of course it could also be due to him simply dipping into the bigger frame of visual references that have been used in the visual arts to depict the detestable villain. The real question is though, why is that how Gibson mentally pictured it in the first place?



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