• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as current film releases with spiritual significance, and a few bits and pieces on the Bible.

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    Visual Bible's Matthew:Ch.12-13

    (From a series of posts working through the Visual Bible's Matthew).
    Much of Matthew 12 is from the triple tradition. The parallel passage in Mark is chapter 2, which shows how much other material Matthew has incorporated into Mark's account. The section starts in the grain fields with the disciples in trouble not for stealing (the modern day equivalent of eating grapes in the supermarket) but for picking the grain on the Sabbath. It's shown in slow motion from a lowish angle and fairly close up. Matthew is the offender that the camera homes in on (for obvious reasons). I can't quite decide whether this works or not. The unfortunate thing is that it doesn't offer any indication as to how this confrontation came about. What were the Pharisees doing in the field?

    This is followed by a long section in a synagogue. Jesus heals a man with a hand that is more distorted than "shrivelled" which is obviously far easier to film. He then cures a man who is blind and mute which is, for some reason, thought to be the result of demon-possession. The demon possession is critical to the following passage. Jesus is accused of casting out demons by the power of Satan. Jesus suggests that "every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined". Whilst all this is going on the camera is lingering on a woman behind the screen in the synagogue. She's dressed in a manner that suggests she's a prostitute, but the chances of such a woman being allowed into the synagogue seems remote. In any case the filmmakers use a few point of view shots from her angle, obscuring the view with the meshed screen in front of her. I remember Peter Chattaway talking about this being a conventional way of suggesting romance, but I can't remember if this is exactly the kind of thing he was talking about. From the attention the camera gives to her I suspect that we will encounter her later.

    We then cut to lakeside where Jesus starts to preach his Kingdom Parables (the third discourse). Having delivered the parable of the sower (and had Matthew and one of his scribes quote from Isaiah) Jesus and his disciples on the boat with Jesus at work tying knots. I always like it when films show Jesus doing something other than preaching.

    The next parable is that of the wheat and weeds. Jesus and his disciples are on the move this time, and here they half act out the parable, with the disciples seemingly improvising some of the lines. It's somewhat reminiscent of Godspell. This time it's Judas who asks for an explanation of the parable which is a nice attempt to present him as a more rounded character.

    Then it's back to Nazareth, at point at which many scholars consider the second half of the gospel to begin. This point acts as a hinge and its interesting that Jesus is back in Nazareth (where the story began) and a Herod is about to commit a violent act. More of that next time.

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    • At 7:43 am, September 20, 2010, Blogger Kevin C. Neece said…

      So glad you're going through this film. Though popular in certain Evangelical circles, I find it to be far too often overlooked and quite unique.

      Bruce's portrayal is one of my favourites. I too like to see Jesus doing something other than preaching! (Like the famous doll repair scene in "The King of Kings" or the plow-building in "Il Messia".)

      We get a lot of that here, in part due to the sometimes maddening adherence to every word of the text and not an utterance more. It seems director Regardt van den Bergh and company were keen to keep this rather "talky" Gospel from stagnating.

      Sometimes, this gets a bit overwrought (like the "Godspell"-esque section you mentioned), but other times, it's refreshing and lovely. I especially enjoy Marchiano's moments of quiet candidness and nonchalant delivery. They are somewhat risky - but powerful - moments where this film really shines.

      Looking forward to the rest of the series!




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