• 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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    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    The Disciples in Film - Introduction

    From the point of view of literary symbolism there being twelve disciples works very well, serving to draw parallels with both the twelve sons of Jacob, and the resultant (if slightly different) twelve tribes of Israel. But from a cinematic point of view, it's somewhat awkward as it's difficult to flesh out all twelve disciple as well as Jesus, his opponents, some of the other minor gospel characters, not to mention any fictional characters a screenwriter might also wish to include. It's true, of course, that even in the gospels some of the disciples are covered in more depth than the others, but a screenwriter also has to contend with a limited amount of time in which to cover them.

    The result is that the majority of Jesus films only portray a few of the disciples in any kind of depth. Peter, John and Judas feature in almost every film in some capacity, and both have starred as eponymous leads in their own right during the last 10 years. Most of the others appear in their own right in one film or another, and are usually present for key scenes such as the Last Supper. Yet, when it comes to the less prominent disciples, surprisingly few films create significant back-stories for them or supplement the relevant parts of the Bible with fictional material.

    In the remaining posts in this series I'm going to have a brief look at each of the disciples in turn and discuss their portrayal in films about Jesus, though, as I noted when I compared the different gospels' lists of the disciples, distinguishing them might prove to be something of a challenge.

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