• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as current film releases with spiritual significance, and a few bits and pieces on the Bible.

    Monday, January 14, 2008

    The Eyes Have It
    Demonic Similarities Between The Passion and The Miracle Maker

    Over the years there have been various people who have spotted similarities between Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and other Jesus films. Some of them are very well known, for example the fact that Gibson shot his film in Matera, Italy - the same place where Passolini shot his Gospel According to St. Matthew. Others were apparent on the film's initial release. For example, Jeffrey Overstreet noticed so much similarity between this soundtrack and that of Last Temptation of Christ that he claimed that composer John Debney "turned in something that sounds like musical plagiarism".

    Visual similarities have also been noted. Last year I had the pleasure of interviewing director Lance Tracy whose 2001 film The Cross had used flashbacks to punctuate the violence, and who claimed that one of GIbson's associates had seen his film. And Peter Chattaway has also noted various similarities with DeMille's 1927 The King of Kings such as the raven on the cross, and the difference between Jesus's cross and those of his disciples.One of the more unusual bits from The Passion is the scene following Judas's return of the money to the high priest (a hot from which is above). As he hides, tormented by his own actions, two Jewish boys stumble across him, and their initially friendly banter, turns into mockery, before the boys' faces distort and it appears that now Judas is being tortured by a demon or some such thing.

    Last week I came across a very similar moment in The Miracle Maker (1999). This time it is Mary Magdalene who is disturbed, and the film is even more explicit, albeit in a later scene, that she is being tormented by demons. And this time rather than it being two Jewish boys, it is two Roman soldiers whose faces distort and terrify her, as shown below.I find this interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, because Miracle Maker was distributed by Icon, the company founded by Mel Gibson. Whilst he may have had nothing to do with it, it's hard to imagine he's entirely unfamiliar with it.

    Secondly, I have a vague, and quite possibly incorrect, recollection that Gibson claimed he hadn't really paid much attention to the other entries in the Jesus films canon. We know he'd seen a few before as in the run up to the release he mentioned other Jesus films such as Pasolini's and those where Jesus had "bad hair", although that's no reason to doubt that he steered clear of them during filming. What's interesting, though, is that if he didn't directly copy these visual ideas, that they nevertheless appear to have entered his psyche and come out subconsciously.

    Thirdly, it's interesting how this scene changes from one film to another. Obviously the way Mary and Judas are characterised in this film required that particular change, but it's interesting that the later film also changes the perceived persecutors from Roman soldiers (where there would be good reason to be fearful) to Jewish children. I don't think this changes my thoughts on the anti-Semitism question that I outlined in my recent podcast on this film, but it's certainly an interesting observation in that regard.

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    • At 3:50 am, January 21, 2008, Blogger Kevin C. Neece said…

      This comment has been removed by the author.

    • At 3:58 am, January 21, 2008, Blogger Kevin C. Neece said…

      Some other Passion connections are the 1959 version of Ben-Hur and The Nativity Story. In addition to Matera, Passion was also shot at Cinecitta Studios in Rome, where Ben-Hur was made. The Nativity Story also was shot in Matera and used the same costume designer as Passion, Maurizio Millenotti.

      Of course, another odd Last Temptation connection is that Passion was shot in Italy right on the heels of Gangs of New York and several of the basic set structures for Gangs were re-used as the 'bones' on which many Passion sets were constructed. Gangs was of course directed by Martin Scorsese, director of The Last Temptation of Christ.


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