• 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, April 21, 2009

    Jeremiah Notes on Scene Guide

    I was a little pushed for time on Friday when I posted a scene guide for Jeremiah, so I postponed writing a few notes on it until today.

    The first thing to say is that whilst the vast majority of the material is drawn from the book Jeremiah, there are a few places where the film draws on parts of 2 Kings to fill in the historical gaps.

    It's also interesting to note that most of the material taken from Jeremiah, aside from the opening, is taken from chapters 20-30. There's not a single reference from chapters 40-49 (where Jeremiah is mainly cursing the other nations), and only one from 10-19 (Jer 16:1-4). This passage - where Jeremiah is told not to take a wife - and Jer 34:8-11 - where Mattaniah frees the slaves before reversing the decision some time later - are used to insert the film's only real extra-biblical sub-plot where Jeremiah falls in love. This is actually a fairly common device employed by The Bible Collection's films, and in some of the other cases the picture is severely derailed as a result. Here the filmmakers manage to keep it under control so it forms interesting speculation that highlights Jeremiah's sad and introspective character.

    Working out this scene guide does give me more of a feel for just how jumbled the book's chronology is. Of course some of this is down to the filmmakers rather than the source material, but material from the siege of Jerusalem, for example, is really spread around in such a way as to make me wonder why. Is there a purpose to this ordering, or was this just not considered important or in any way useful?Overall I think the film does a great job of summarising Jeremiah and putting him in his historical context, and it manages to include most of the book's famous passages. One surprising omission, however, is the story of Jeremiah at the potter's house and the attached sayings (Jer 18:1–23). The film does include the vision of the upturned pot, and perhaps the writers thought that too many pot symbols might be confusing. Even so, I would have thought the potter's house passage would have been the one to be selected.

    There are a few things I noticed about the call of Jeremiah. Firstly, the film enhances Jeremiah's call with elements from the call of Isaiah (Is 6). In the book of Jeremiah, there's no mention of a vision, and God touching Jeremiah's lips appears to be more of a metaphor than anything else. We're also not told where this call took place. In the film, however, Jeremiah also sees a vision, twice, and on both occasions it occurs in the temple. It's interesting that the second of these quotes part of Jer 5:14 "I have put my words in your mouth", but cuts off before the use of the word "fire". Instead this element is represented visually as part of Jeremiah's call.

    There is actually a further part of Jeremiah's call - the vision of the almond tree, but I noticed that the interpretation of this vision alters some of the details of this vision. The text simply says that the sign means that God is "watching to see that my word is fulfilled". But the film expands this to say "as this tree is in a hurry to sprout, so God is in a hurry to carry out his work".

    Lastly, I'm going to make a separate post another day to look at the way that the Jeremiah of this film prefigures Jesus, particularly the Jesus from the later film in the same series.

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    • At 11:57 am, April 27, 2009, Blogger Mike Bull said…

      For all its faults, I loved this film. The biggest one for me is how poor the Temple looks and how small the armies are. But the characters are wonderful and the plot is quite gripping. This is one of the better ones of the series.

    • At 12:14 pm, April 27, 2009, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Yes, I think it is perhaps even THE best film in the series. I've never properly reviewed it, but, as you say, the characterisation is good, and the way the script delineates a complex book and makes it into a fairly exciting narrative is impressive. Patrick Dempsey does a good job as well, as does the actor playing Mattaniah.


    • At 10:30 am, May 05, 2009, Blogger Patrick said…

      I've never had the proper chance to see this film in full, but it does seem to be one of the best among the Bible Collection Series.

      As an aside, I just noticed that they love depicting apparitions of the Divine as happening inside the Temple - they used the same technique for John in Revelation.

    • At 11:13 am, May 05, 2009, Blogger Matt Page said…

      I was struck in reading Ezekiel recently that there appear to be a couple of places where the film borrows ideas from that as well (though I can't remember where that book's divine calling takes place), but certainly there were a few reference points (the prophet's "wife" dying etc.)


    • At 11:21 am, May 05, 2009, Blogger Mike Bull said…

      It was a bit sloppy on that count. Only the High Priest could ever see the Ark, and Ezekiel was made a sort of high-priest-in-exile (like Christ the son of man).

      Zechariah also saw into the Temple, but only being a chief priest, the Ark was only seen as a flying scroll.

      Jeremiah would not have seen the Ark at all.


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