• 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 19, 2009

    Reflections on OH Workshop

    On Friday, I mentioned my plans to run a Jesus Films workshop at Open Heaven yesterday, so I thought I'd offer a few reflections. I was a somewhat beset by technical difficulties. Not the major kind like not being able to watch any of the clips, just very minor things, but on each clip. It's all DVD's fault. In the old days you just had a pile of pre-cued videos which you slotted in and then ejected out. DVD offers more possibilities and, in theory, better picture quality but it's harder to pull it off 100% right.

    I was trying a new approach, ripping the clips using some free software called Handbrake and then burning them onto a DVD using Cyberlink Power Director and then just flicking through them as if I was using a conventional DVD. Unfortunately, there was no sound facilities in the room (as I'd thought there would be) and using the projector's speakers, which had been the back up plan, produced a feeble sound. This meant I ended up playing the DVD on my laptop, using VLC. It's a great piece of software normally, but it wasn't to happy with skipping tracks, DVD menus etc. and so it lead to a lot of those awkward wait an see moments. There were a couple of faults on the disk anyway (no subtitles for the Pasolini clip for example), so it was a bit of a struggle, and meant I didn't fully relax so I could really enjoy the session.

    Other than that I think it went OK. I had a good group, nearly all of whom chipped in something, and every film had a reasonable amount of discussion with some interesting perspectives coming through. It's always nice to hear a new perspective or observation and there were a few of these - the use of wedding bells used at the end of Last Temptation.

    I also noticed how the ending of Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo links the response to the resurrection to the Great Commission. The joy that erupts as the door flies off the tomb (pictured above) carries through to the end of the film. When we see the disciples running with the same sense of joy, our first impression is that this is in response to the resurrection. Yet it turns out that this is actually the precursor to the ascension. Having watched this again last night, I think this ambiguity is a deliberate way of linking the two scenes. It's significant that this sequence has the same song throughout even though the text implies that there is a reasonably significant gap here.

    From a Christian perspective (which was not the director's own) it's a useful reminder that it's the good news about Jesus defeating death which should be the motivating factor in us going out to tell people about him. Quite what Pasolini intended this sequence to convey I'm not entirely sure.

    One of the things that was interesting in running this session was just how much of a new area this was for the majority that were there. A large proportion of Open Heaven are students, and of the 20 or so that came along, only 2 were older than me, 1 was a couple of years younger than me and the rest were in the 18-23 age bracket. So many of them were born after the release of Last Temptation of Christ in 1988, and most of them were under 18 when The Passion of the Christ was released five and a half years ago (has it really been so long). There was also relatively low awareness about last year's BBC mini-series The Passion. I was aware that Last Temptation would probably be largely unknown, but I was surprised about those other two. I suppose I'm not only showing my age, but forgetting that most people don't have anything like the level of interest in this subject that I do. (That said, there was at least one other Jesus Christ, Superstar fan in attendance).

    On the other hand, it was encouraging to see how switched on many of the group were to the way the variety of methods these films use to communicate. This, I imagine, is also due in part to the age of the majority of participants most of whom have grown up in a world saturated with visual media.

    So whilst I wish I'd brought a set of powered speakers so that I could run the session from the DVD player rather than the laptop, I did, ultimately, enjoy it and hopefully those that came all got something from it. I think some did at least.

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    • At 3:26 pm, October 19, 2009, Blogger Peter T Chattaway said…

      FWIW, instead of burning clips to a DVD, I keep all the clips on my hard drive and plug my laptop into the venue's audio-visual system. One of the benefits of doing it this way is that I can easily alternate between movie clips and still pictures; I just line 'em all up in sequence on my hard drive (by giving them numbered filenames, for example) and click through them as I give the presentation.

    • At 9:00 am, October 20, 2009, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Yeah, I probably should have done something like that. My preferred method is to embed them into PowerPoint - that is when I'm using someone else's laptop. My own has an ancient version of PowerPoint which can only play a very limited number of files, and the software I needed to trim them down (which was on a third computer) would also make a DVD. When our server is back up again then I could have done it all using that, but as it wasn't it was a whole thing with burning DVDs, tweaking on a different computer, burning another and so on.


    • At 1:07 pm, October 22, 2009, Blogger Mark Goodacre said…

      Interesting post, Matt. Thanks. I just hate those occasions when the A/V doesn't go as smoothly as you would like -- makes it much tougher to enjoy doing a presentation.

      Interesting what you say about awareness of the Jesus films. It's matched by my students here -- only one or two in a large class, if you are lucky, has seen Last Temptation. Most haven't heard of it. They have all heard of The Passion of the Christ and many have seen it, but that is getting less so now with the younger students. Of course none of them in the US know about the BBC Passion. I have also been surprised at how few know the Life of Brian. I used to find it almost useless showing clips from Life of Brian in the UK because they would practically start reciting it. Here, they often find it a bit mystifying, in spite of Americans' supposed love of Python. Perhaps that kicks in later in life.

    • At 11:20 am, October 23, 2009, Blogger Matt Page said…

      With the Passion, I think it's exacerbated by it having an 18 certificate in the UK. Most freshers over here were 13-14 when this came out and so none of them will have seen it in cinemas, and only in rare exceptions would they have seen it as soon as it came out on DVD, and then the momentum and the moment would have gone.

      In the States though it had an R rating so some parents will have taken their children to see it, an there isn't quite the psychological barrier to watching it on DVD, so I would expect the proportion of American freshers who have seen it to be slightly higher.



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