• 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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    Thursday, January 07, 2010

    Alex von Tunzelmann on Prince of Egypt and Greatest Story Ever Told

    I've mentioned before Alex von Tunzelmann's hugely enjoyable Guardian series Reel History. (In fact, I may as well give it its own label). Well, as with last Christmas she celebrated the festive season by review two Bible films - The Prince of Egypt and The Greatest Story Ever Told.

    She's a bigger fan of Prince of Egypt (Entertainment grade: A– to Greatest Story's E), but ranks the Jesus epic higher in terms of it's history (C as compared to the Moses film's D). As ever they are written in style that manages to be light-hearted, perceptive, history geeky and enjoyable all in one go. Take for example her shrewd take on the depiciton of Mircales in Greatest Story:
    Lazarus is raised from the dead in long shot, so you can't really see what's going on. The feeding of the 5,000 and turning water into wine are mentioned, but not shown. "The next thing we know, they'll be calling him the Messiah," complains a Jewish leader. "And that's not all." "What else?" asks Pontius Pilate. "He walked on water." "Get out!" Historically speaking, this is fine: there's no independent evidence for any of the miracles. Cinematically, it's more of a problem. If the director was concerned about excluding the sceptical audience, you've got to wonder why he picked this subject. Because, if you don't go in for God, this is just three hours of the musings of a first-century Middle Eastern hippie. A few whizz-bang moments would really have livened things up.
    These are two films which have been criminally under-discussed by this blog. The Prince of Egypt didn't even have it's own label until just now. The Greatest Story Ever Told does, but there's precious little there except my podcast review.

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