• 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


    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    More on Cristus/Christus

    I wrote about Cristus (as it's spelt on the opening title card, although it usually seems to be referred to as Christus back at the start of 2007 based on the large collection of stills at this site (see translation). I watched the film for the first time recently (during Digory's night feeds which is a great time to watch silent films) and so I have a few points from that original post to correct plus a few more to make.

    Perhaps the biggest error in that post is my assumption that the 80 or so stills from the film were equally spaced. Hence I estimated that the nativity scene comprised roughly 40% of the film and the events of the passion a further 45%, leaving just 15% for everything else. In fact this is patently not the case. The version I have lasts for 82 minutes, and only about 23 minutes (28%) have passed by the time Jesus's birth and childhood are complete. The Last Supper scene, however, starts around the half way mark, a little earlier than I had originally thought. This leaves around 22% (18 minutes) of footage for Jesus's ministry. Still not a lot, but significantly more than my original guess.

    It also appears that my original scene guide contains a number of errors, mainly in that middle section. There I listed the episodes in Jesus ministry as: Sermon on the Mount - (Matt 5-7); Temptation - (Mark 1:12-13); Baptism - (Mark 1:9-11); Rejection at Nazareth - (Mark 6:1-5); Mary Magdalene anoints Jesus's Feet - (Mark 14:3-9); Walking on Water - (Mark 6:45-52); Journey to Jerusalem - (Mark 10:32); Triumphal Entry - (Mark 11:1-10). In fact, it would be correct to list the scenes as follows:
    Annunciation - (Matt 1:18-25 / Luke 1:26-1:38)
    Census - (Luke 2:1-2)
    Birth - (Luke 2:3-8)
    Shepherds - (Luke 2:9-15)
    Wise Men - (Matt 2:1-12)
    Flight to Egypt - (Matt 2:13-15)
    Boy Jesus - (Luke 2:41-52)
    Simon the Pharisee - (Mark 14:3-9)
    Cleansing the Temple - (Mark 11:12-19)
    Suffer Little Children - Mark 10:13-16
    Walking on Water - (Mark 6:45-52)
    Adultress - (John 8:2-11)
    Lazarus - (John 11:1-45)
    Baptism by John - (Mark
    Temptation - (Mark 1:12-13)
    [Extra Biblical Episode - "After The Sermon on the Mount"]
    Triumphal Entry - (Mark 11:1-10)
    Plot Against Jesus - (Mark 14:1-2)
    Last Supper - (Mark 14:22-31)
    Gethsemane - (Mark 14:32-52)
    Trial - (Mark 14:53-64)
    Beating - (Mark 14:65)
    Pilate, Jesus and the Crowds - (John 18:28-40)
    Flogging - (John 19:1-3)
    Pilate condemns Jesus - (John 19:4-16)
    Via Dolorosa - (Mark 15:20-22)
    Crucifixion - (Mark 15:22-39)
    Burial - (Mark 15:40-47)
    The Guard at the Tomb – (Matt 27:62-66)
    Risen Jesus Before Disciples – (Luke 24:36-41)
    Ascension - (Luke 24:50-53)
    (for notes on references see my citation guide)
    Whilst the quality of the transfer I watched was fairly poor - many scenes were spoiled by a lack of contrast - it was evident that originally this was an attractively photographed film. The settings were far more attractive than other Bible films from that era (e.g. From the Manger to the Cross) and many shots are beautifully composed. Take for example the one above where the crescent of the trees offset and complement the shape of the crowd coming up the hill.

    Another nice shot is the one that introduces Mary Magdalene. This scene is also interesting for its designation of Mary as a "courtesan". This is of course the description that Cecil B DeMille uses for Mary as well. Furthermore this scene is the beginning of the scene at Simon the Leper's house which is the first scene the film shows from Jesus's ministry. DeMille would also chose a scene with Mary at the start of his depiction of Jesus's ministry, but in that case it opens the film as a whole as he skips the birth narratives entirely.

    Overall though, the film offers very little drama. There's little to connect the scenes so, as with many early silent Jesus films, it has a pageant-type feel and events tend to happen without any background development. In fact this film goes a little further than some of its predecessors and includes a couple of freeze frame moments at particularly iconic moments such as the Last Supper, and the crucifixion (where the clouds continue to move in the background but everything else stays still). Clearly either the director or the cameramen has a good eye for striking visuals, but is not as interested in fleshing out the iconic images.



    • At 10:55 am, September 11, 2008, Blogger Patrick said…

      If I might add, I found that the scene where Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus is interesting similar to Mel Gibson's rendition in how the two of them carry the cross (then again, I found in the Passion of the Christ a bit similarities with other Jesus films). Now I wonder if Mel had known about this film, and if so, had intentionally copied it.

    • At 11:34 am, September 11, 2008, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Thanks Patrick - good spot. I'll have to take a closer look.



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