• 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


    Friday, November 20, 2009

    Refelctions on Jesus Film Sessions at Regents Theological College

    I was privileged to take a couple of sessions on Jesus films at Regents Theological College yesterday. I'd been invited by Richard Hasnip (star of the The Follower and The King) as parts of Regents' Performing Arts Track, which includes an entire module on Jesus in Film.

    I was lecturing on Last Temptation of Christ and Jesus of Montreal, with 40 minutes on each. The technical set up was surprisingly quick and easy, and, a couple of minor things aside, that bit went fairly smoothly. I'm still trying to work out the best way of combining clips with PowerPoint, especially if the clips are from Region 1 DVDs. I'm not sure that what I did yesterday - flicking between a DVD player for the clips and a laptop for the notes - will really ever work that well, unless the clips start at the beginning of a chapter. Next time I think I'll either rip, trim and embed in PowerPoint (though my ancient version of PowerPoint can't really handle this that well), or perhaps look more closely at VLC and see if it's possible to utilise a more precise playlist or something.

    Anyway... I was fairly pleased with how the session themselves went, particularly given the various computer nightmares I'd been having in the days running up to the event. It was a great group: friendly, interested, plenty of insightful questions and (surprisingly) the majority had seen more than 10 foreign language films.

    There were a few notable observations. Firstly, someone asked me whether I thought that the alien sequence in Life of Brian was an obscure reference to Jesus' temptation because of the way the Jesus figure falls and is swept up by angels/aliens. It's an interesting theory, not least because I'm never really sure what that moment is about (aside from a nod to the then recent and hugely successful Star Wars), but my hunch is not. In honesty, it's too early to tell. At the very least I'll have to watch if before I can decide.

    The other observation that stood out was from Last Temptation. According to one of the class, the filmmakers made it look like you can actually see Dafoe's hand underneath his skin as he pulls out his heart. I'm not sure I have a high enough definition TV/projector to be able to see this, but again, next time I'm watching I'll certainly keep an eye out for it. Incidentally, I also owe that man an apology. At one point I said that Last Temptation was an 18 certificate, which of course it was at it's time of release (and is on my VHS copy. He challenged me on it saying he thought it was a 15, but being the big-head I am I stuck to my guns. However, it wasn't long before I started to get the odd nagging doubt - after all I have the region 1 Criterion Collection disc for this film, not the UK version - and, alas, when I checked out the DVD cover on Amazon it appears that the DVD release has been downgraded to a 15. So, on the off chance you're reading this this morning, sorry!

    The first session overran, even despite cutting down on quite a lot of what I had to say, but that seemed to work out for the best. Far more of them were familiar with Last Temptation than were with Jesus of Montreal, and whilst the latter film is fascinating in it's own right, I don't think it's as insightful or as interesting as Scorsese' with respect to cinematic portrayals of Jesus. It was a shame, though, that I only got to show one clip from Montreal. Having written my notes, prepared my slides and produced some notes for the session, it would be nice to have the opportunity to revisit these talks, not least to be able to tighten the content and delivery.

    I may at some point record some of this session and put it on the podcast, though it's probably unlikely to happen until next year now. Obviously I'll post news of that here if I ever gat around to it.

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    • At 1:23 am, November 23, 2009, Anonymous Chris said…

      Heya Matt,
      Was great to have you in our lecture the other day. Hope to have you back soon to give us more insights on more films. Also, as one of the students in the class I can say the problem with the powerpoint and dvd player did not hinder your lecturing us at all!
      Technology is one thing we as humans cannot rely on! But as christians we can rely on the holy spirit to be there with us, and it was evident that the holy spirit was indeed there with us in the lecture!

      God Bless!

    • At 5:41 pm, November 23, 2009, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Thanks Chris,

      Nice to meet you.


    • At 11:51 pm, February 12, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Could the aliens in Life of Brian be a reference to Erich von Däniken's "Chariots of the gods"? That one was also relatively popular in the 70's, and then the point of the scene would be that extraterrestrials influencing human history as they happen to pass by is a pretty blatant case of Deus ex Machina.

    • At 9:42 pm, March 06, 2012, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Haven't seen it, so quite possibly. Thanks for suggesting it and sorry it's taken so long to reply.



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