• 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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    Monday, October 20, 2008

    BBC's Passion DVD Release

    Region: 2 (PAL)

    Number of discs: 2

    Classification: 15

    Studio: Acorn Media

    Release Date: Oct 2008

    Run Time: 180 minutes

    Having given the Bible Society's release of this film a four week head start, the BBC's DVD of The Passion goes on sale today. But whereas the earlier version was only available through the Bible Society, this one has been released nationwide with many online retailers offering it substantially below the £20 RRP.

    Assuming that the review discs I received a while ago have not changed in the interim, then the discs' transfers are good, but there are no special features. Indeed there doesn't even appear to be a basic menu. Whilst this does give the advantage of being able to watch it straight away, it's disappointing given the amount of material the BBC made available on the website, which will, no doubt, disappear one day.

    So, ultimately the consumer is left with a choice between the Bible Society's set with a few extra features but a substantially higher cost (and their price is unlikely to drop if past history is anything to go on), or hunting out a bargain on the official, bare bones version. One other plus point for the BBC release: its cover art is significantly better that their rival's - at least that's my opinion.

    The Times has marked the occasion with a fascinating piece Joseph Mawle (Jesus from The Passion. It's rare that a journalist just lets the actor speak for themselves, but on this occasion it's absolutely the right choice. In particular, Mawle discusses the crucifixion scene culminating in his discussion of it's after effects:
    I remember feeling like someone in a car crash — everything seemed to happen in slow motion. The sun was absolutely blinding, but I had to keep facing upwards. The director had positioned a camera above my head to capture the agony on Jesus’s face and the moment when he utters his last words.

    The scene took three days, and although I’d only been up on the cross for minutes at a time, my arms were still numb when I returned to London.
    The review has also sparked an outburst by Bite my Bible which criticises the film for portraying the resurrection as being just a "vision". To my mind that is certainly one valid interpretation of the end of the film, but only one among several possible, and equally valid, interpretations of the programme's ending. As I said at the time it also fitted the views of Wright et al. that "the failure to recognise the risen Jesus was because his resurrection body is a physical body, but one that is significantly different from his pre-resurrection body"1. Conversely, the ending could be taken as saying that the resurrection never really happened (save in the disciples' minds). What is so good about the film's ending is that it remains as open to interpretation as the gospel accounts themselves. As Doug at MetaCatholic points out Jesus is "one moment unrecognisable, the next known. One moment nowhere to be seen, the next in the middle of the room. How do you do justice to that in a visual medium, as opposed to an oral one?". Indeed given the variety of post-resurrection accounts in the gospels, and the low, albeit vital, correlation between these accounts, I wonder if the problem for some more conservative commentators is that this film is a little too "faithful to the gospel narrative"2. Hat Tip to Mark Goodacre

    1 - This is a quotation from my earlier piece not one from Wright himself
    2 - Mark Thompson. Cited at Bite my Bible - http://www.bitemybible.com/2008/10/the-bbc-is-anti.html - from either a talk held by the public theology think-tank Theos or his lecture at Westminster Cathedral earlier this year.

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    • At 5:13 pm, January 31, 2010, Blogger CGARTIST said…

      for those interested I just obtained a copy of this series ..here in the USA ..through IOFFER.COM for about $15.00 dollars .Matt what did you think of Joe Mawle performance as Jesus ..many times he came across "UNSURE" or "Searching" maybe this Jesus is simply presented as just one in a long line of troublemakers for Pilate and Ciaiphas ..."forgotten by the end of the week".I do like the production value and the Crowded feeling of Jerusalem .

    • At 9:18 pm, October 31, 2010, Anonymous tp3192000@yahoo.com said…

      I remember a Jesus film on tv that was around 1999. I thought the title to be the Last Days of Jesus. I only saw a few minutes, but Jesus was playing kick ball with his desciples and just before passion. Movie made Jesus out to be nice guy and regular person. Any idea on title of film and date of release? TIA.

    • At 10:05 pm, October 31, 2010, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for your comment.

      It sounds like the 1980 TV movie "The Day Christ Died". As far as I know it's not out on DVD (though you never know your luck on ebay). If it's not that it might be the Jesus mini series (1999).

      Hope that helps


    • At 12:48 am, April 13, 2011, Anonymous watch online said…

      As for the anti-semetism in the movie, I didn't find it was as bad as everyone is making it out to be. The thing that made me see why people were criticizing Mel Gibson for was that instead of spreading the blame somewhat on the Jewish high priests (Sanhedrin) and mostly on Pilate, 99% of the blame was put on the Sanhedrin, which seemed false to me considering that historically it is known that Pilate was a vicious monster, and in the movie he seems like a gentle person and reluctant to crucify Jesus. I simply didn't buy the fact that Pilate would be so nice. The movie can be considered anti-first-century-Romans, and anti-Sanhedrin, but I did not feel the movie was attacking the Jewish religion, or the entire Jewish people. But the movie is not anti-semitic for these reasons: 1. It is made evident that it was Jesus' prophecy and destiny is to die. He could probably have escaped from Gethsemane or even the cross (if he truly had ''powers''). He was born to die, and there is no blame to be placed on anyone. If anything, the Romans of that time are portrayed horribly (though realistically), and they are the ones that made him suffer tremendously before his death. 2. Basically all the ''Good Guys'' in the movie are Jewish. Jesus himself was a Jew, Mary was, The man that helped Jesus carry the cross was Jewish, Veronica the woman that brought Jesus water and wiped his face was, and many Jews were screaming in the crowd against the torture and crucifixion of Jesus. (Personally, I don't know why Pilate was portrayed so nicely. It's not like the Jews had the ultimate power. It was ultimately HIS decision to have Jesus crucified.)


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