• 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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    Tuesday, July 29, 2008

    Mark Pirro on The God Complex

    Following on from Friday's post on The God Complex I've been in contact with the film's director Mark Pirro. The conversation has been fairly interesting and he kindly agreed to let me post some of it up here.

    Page: How far through production are you and how do your films tend to get released?
    Pirro: We have been shooting this for almost a year. We plan on a 2009 release. This is my 8th feature film and they usually go directly to cable or DVD in the U.S. and sometimes go theatrical overseas. Every film has a different release pattern. Sometimes I license them to a distributor, other times I self-distribute. We live in an internet age and distribution is not as big a deal these days. Our last film played midnights in a theatre in Hollywood before going on to DVD sales.

    Page: Are you aware of The Real Old Testament? I guess they have a similar approach to you, although they managed to get Ted from Scrubs
    Pirro: I hadn't heard of The Real Old Testament, although I am aware of Harold Ramis' upcoming film, Year One. I guess this will be the era of religious parodies.

    Page: I’ve mentioned Year One a few times, but I’m not sure it will really deliver. I suspect it’s probably too mainstream to take too many risks, and, for me, that tends to be where things get interesting.
    Pirro: My concern about "Year One," is that it is produced by Judd Apatow, who has made 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad, Knocked Up, etc. He's not afraid to push the envelope when it comes to aggressive humor. Neither are we. Although I know he won't take his comedy as far out as we are, but I think his film will be more cutting edge than most of mainstream America is used to. And since we're both using the bible as our original source material, I know some of our obvious jokes, character flaws, and impossible situations will cross paths (I was a little nervous about Evan Almighty for the same reasons). Unfortunately, that's the film business.Page:I’ve not watched many (if any) of Apatow’s movies, but from what I’ve heard whilst they tend to push things in certain areas, their values are also marked by a certain conservatism, e.g. Christianity Today noted that Knocked Up was "crass" but also considered it "pro-life".
    Pirro: Like everything else in Christianity, it's completely subject to interpretation. There is an 'anti-life' bias in the film as well. It just depends on who's watching it what what they bring to the table. Same thing with 40 Year Old Virgin. I believe Apatow, like myself, is the kind of filmmaker that likes to entertain, without necessarily giving messages. If people take away a certain message, that's fine, but I don't believe that's the initial intent of the filmmaker.

    Page: My (hugely uninformed) hunch is that Year One will have its gross out factor, but won’t actually do much to challenge the morality in the original stories.
    Pirro: If Apatow, like Harold Ramis - the director - think the way I believe they do, this will be a no holes barred outright satire. I know that our film's segments will cross paths. There are obvious crossovers with Adam and Eve, Abraham and Isaac, Noah and the ark and there's only so much 'original' humor one can pull from the mythology without being redundant. My fear is exactly 'how much' of the humor will be similar? For that, we'll just have to wait and see. At least I don't think they'll be touching the Jesus story, so we may have that over them.
    Page: Your picture of dead animals and people after the flood (above) challenges and subverts the idea that these stories are about a God of love.
    Pirro: Well, basically we take the more or less better known stories in the Bible and relay them with a more logical and satirical approach. We analyze the stories with what I call the 'square circle' syndrome. A square circle is an impossibility as defined by what constitutes a square and what constitutes a circle. One can't be the other. The god of our movie falls into that category (as one might argue is also true with the Biblical God). A being that knows everything can not be angered, surprised, vengeful, maniacal, jealous or imperfect. Those are all human traits. The God of the Bible is all that and so is the god of our movie. So in our film, our god - who is angry, vengeful, maniacal, jealous and imperfect - always tries to get things right to impress his girlfriend, but through the course of events and not very well thought out plans, things always go awry. He is always arguing with his girlfriend about how he knows all, and she argues back that if he knows all, he would have known that the first go around (before Noah) would have been a failure. He would have known that Adam and Eve would disobey him. He would have known that Abraham would be willing to sacrifice his son. His reply to her is, "Hey, don't question me." I'm god, I know all. She then socks him in the mouth and says, "Why didn't you duck?" Another point in the film she (being the voice of reason) asks why he lets people he loves suffer? He replies, "I'm God, it's what I do."
    I think that gives a fairly good idea of how this film will pan out. I imagine that many would find this offensive were they to somehow stumble across it, but I'd also hope that it will challenge others to re-think their approach to the Old Testament Stories. I don't subscribe to the view that the brutality of these stories discounts the possibility of a loving God. However, I do think that until you've been realised just how horrific they are in places you've never really read them and thus are unlikely to have truly considered precisely how God reveals himself through them. It would be nice if interpreting the Bible was as simple as "God said it. I believe it. That settles it", but if we truly believe in a God of love then, in Pirro's words, such a simple approach just gives us a 'square circle'.

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