• 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, February 15, 2008

    Films About 2 Kings

    Through the Bible in Five and a Half Years has got as far as 2 Kings now, and whilst I only show a film clip occasionally, I do like to find a still which I can use for the session's main image. This month, however, has been a bit of a challenge as it appears so few films have been made about events in 2 Kings.

    The most popular story - from a filmmaking point of view at least - is that of Elijah. Technically, most of Elijah's story falls within 1 Kings, but volume 2 does contain the closing scenes from his ministry, most notably him being taken up to heaven. But films about Elijah are rare: I'm only aware of three which cover events in 2 Kings and only one of those is a feature length film.

    Technically, the first of these isn't even really a film about Elijah, rather it's about his nemesis Jezebel. I've never actually seen Sins of Jezebel (1953), but seems to cover most of the events ascribed to her in the Bible, from her appearance as Ahab's wife in 1 Kings 16, through to her death at the hand of Jehu in 2 Kings 9. I suspect it takes the principles of the sex, sword and sandal epics to an extreme, but one of the commentators at IMDb describes it as a "fairly straightforward retelling of the Bible story". Production values, however are reported to be low, but then it was filmed in 3 days on only a $100,000 dollar budget.By far the best that I've seen is the Elijah entry in the Testament: Bible in Animation series. It's hand drawn, but highly stylised, animation accompanied by operatic sound courtesy of Bryn Terfel, and the BBC National Orchestra / Chorus of Wales. I've discussed this film before, but I'm struck on this occasion of how Elijah reminds me of a younger Brian Blessed.

    The other Elijah film, which I have also discussed before is Elijah, a Fearless Prophet from the Living Bible series. Both these Elijah films include his dramatic ascension to heaven, but omit the other main story from 2 Kings where Elijah condemns Ahaziah. I also yet to see Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath (1996), but I suspect from what I've read that it doesn't go as far as 2 Kings. (Neither does the Elijah excerpt from Friends and Heroes FWIW)

    Elijah's servant and successor Elishah has faired even worse. Whilst he does get a bit part on those Elijah films, there's only two "films" where he plays a more leading role. The first is The Son of the Shunamite from way back in 1911. It's described as a classic horror film, where Elisha raises the widow's son.There's also a more recent cartoon which covers the story of Elisha and Naaman. Riding for a Fall is part of the Bugtime Adventures series. As far as I'm aware it's the only version of Naaman's story. Quite where the bugs fit in is, at present, beyond me.

    However, it's the middle part of Kings where there is a real paucity of film coverage. As far as I'm aware there isn't a single film which so much as touches on anything between the end of Elisha's ministry and the beginning of the events leading up to the fall of Jerusalem. Because that incident was so significant it spills over into other stories, particular those of Jeremiah and Daniel, and so there are a couple of films which deal with these events.Slaves of Babylon was released in 1953, the same year as Sins of Jezebel, which, given the general shortage of films touching on 2 Kings, is quite surprising. It starred Richard Conte and Linda Christian as two fictional characters Nahum and Princess Panthea. The most well known 'biblical' character is Daniel who doesn't actually feature in 2 Kings. I now realise that I missed this film out of my recent look at films about Daniel. For those who are interested there are a good number of photos from this film available here with some original pictures and a poster also available on eBay at the moment.

    Finally there's Jeremiah from The Bible Collection which is where I got the heading image (and the one I ended up using). I've been an admirer of this film ever since I first saw it. Whilst the Bible Collection's insistence on bringing a romance element into every story they handle is present here as well, it's less of a distraction, and doesn't detract from the fine work by Patrick Dempsey in the lead role. It's main achievement is highlighting sufficient narrative to make an interesting plot, whilst including enough prophecy to make the exercise as a whole worthwhile. In contrast to Slaves of Babylon, however, the fall of Jerusalem occurs at the end of the film rather than at the start.

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    • At 12:30 am, February 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Hi Christian Lord,

      I thought that you said that your tribe was peaceful. You have killed many (animals, people) in violation of your history book.

      So will the whole lot of you go to hell?

      Is that book to rationalize your way of living?

      Do people go to hell for having sex as suggested by the pope?

      Is the pope a sick, tired, old guy like the dali Lama?

      I have always felt that the market in a global sense is fair. I can see that there are some of the same problems with Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Seekism and the like. We will see who comes out ahead in another thousand years........

      Various People

    • At 8:10 am, February 16, 2008, Blogger Witlessd said…

      Matt, as regards Elijah, I've discovered that there was one surprisingly recent TV mini-series, though the chances of ever getting to see it seem slim. It's Brazilian:

      O Desafio de Elias (1997 - 5 episodes) Director: Luiz Antônio Piá; Screenplay: Yves Dumont; Cast includes: Guilherme Linhares (Elijah), Othon Bastos (Ahab), Sônia Lima (Jezebel),
      "A luta do profeta Elias para fazer a palavra do Deus de Israel. Por volta do ano 850 antes de Cristo. Elias antagoniza com o rei Acab. Casado com a devassa Jezabel, Acab é influenciado pela rainha a construer un templo ao falso deus Baal."
      (By the way, the same producers, director & writer are responsible for a 10 part Esther mini-series of 1998 that you may not know about: A História de Ester.)

      There have been two film versions of Racine's play Athalie, about the the Baal-worshipping queen who usurps the throne of Judah, but is defeated by the rightful boy-king, Joash. The first version was made by Pathé Frères in 1911. ("The film is well staged, and carefully treated, and the numerous sub-titles clearly explain the story." The Bioscope, 25 August 1910, p29.)
      The second, Atalia, was an Italian TV version transmitted on RAI 2 in 1964. The cast included: Cast: Lilla Brignone (Athaliah), Roberto Chevalier (Jehoash), Massimo Girotti (Jehoiada), Anna Miserocchi (Jehosheba).

      I have fuller details of these if you'd like them.


    • At 2:23 pm, February 18, 2008, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Thanks David,

      Yes I'd like more details if you have them. Could you either post them here or email me, which ever you'd prefer.




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