• 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


    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    Thoughts on Jeremiah (1998)

    I got an email asking me for my thoughts on The Bible Collection's Jeremiah (1998) so I thought I may as well post them here so anyone else who's interested could read them as well. First off, I must admit that it's been a while since I watched this film in its entirety, so I reserve the right to change my mind about it when next I watch it.

    Overall this is one of my favourite entries in the Bible Collection series. This may be partly due to the fact that it was one of the first in the series I watched and therefore things like the (seemingly) obligatory introduction of a love interest didn't bother me to the same extent as it did 10 or so films later.

    The other main reason I liked it was far more positive. Prior to watching it I knew very little about Jeremiah, and considered his work rather dull. I believe that it's the longest book in the Bible if you count the number of words rather than the number of chapters. And most of it is fairly miserable prophecies. There's the odd high point - lots of people love to quote 29:11 (usually out of context) - but it's a hard book to really get into both because of it's size and it's make up. It's the biblical studies equivalent of exploring Russia.That said, what the film did for me was draw my attention to just how much narrative there is in the book; to make the links between Jeremiah and the other bits of the Old Testament that I was more familiar with; and to give me the broader context in which to read Jeremiah's prophecies. Most of the information was already there, but now I could see how it fitted together - perhaps the equivalent of being given a good map of Russia, or even a Lonely Planet guide or something.

    There are a few memorable scenes in the film. One image that stands out is the discovery of the lost book of the law in the days of Josiah. This is shot from both inside and outside the sealed compartment which it has been stored in all these years. There's some question as to whether this passage should be taken as literally as the film takes it, but it's a memorable interpretation nevertheless. The PoV shot taken from inside the compartment almost makes the lost scroll a character in itself. It draws attention to the scroll's story, lost and neglected for years and now finally liberated.Another sequence that sticks in the mind is the one in which Jeremiah hears God's call. This is shown as a flashback if I recall correctly, and the child actor employed in the role of young Jeremiah does a decent job.

    I mentioned the love interest above, but I seem to recall a scene where Jeremiah and his girlfriend are separated which is fairly powerful. It I remember rightly this spurs Jeremiah on to follow God's call more strongly. It's all extra-biblical of course, but it's an interesting hypothetical character motivation, and adds to the sense of melancholy that comes through so powerfully from Jeremiah's writings.Other memorable moments include those where Oliver Reed's General Safan throws Jeremiah in a hole, where Jeremiah prophecies with a yolk around his neck and the scene where his prophetic writings are thrown into the fire bit by bit. The film draws to a close around the time of the exile to Babylon under Zedekiah / Mattaniah and these scenes are also fairly striking.

    There are a few other places that anyone wanting to read more about this film should check. Firstly the Prayer Foundation have a review featuring a few extra photos. There's also a few comments by Peter Chattaway at Canadian Christianity. Lastly there is some footage of the film available at Video Detective - it's the trailer for a 4 film set which also includes Esther, Solomon and Genesis: Creation and Flood.

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