• 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.

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Visual Bible's Matthew:Ch.20-21

    (From a series of posts working through the Visual Bible's Matthew).
    Thus far is this production, all of Jesus parables have either been delivered by him or acted out between him and the disciples. But for the first time we see one of his stories performed as if it was a real event. So Jesus begins the Parable of the Vineyard, but the scene cuts to a vineyard, an owner and a bunch of workers. Jesus still narrates, but the characters speak their own lines.

    Jesus follows this and then we get the mother of James and John (as opposed to the men themselves as in Mark) asking if they can sit by Jesus in his kingdom. Jesus reacts in typically non-confrontational and accepting fashion. The text then proceeds to talk about the other ten being indignant when they hear about what the two have done, suggesting either that they are in ear shot, or that at some point following on from that the news leaks out. Here however, Jesus leaves James, John and Mrs Zebedee and goes and sits with the disciples. The narrator tells us that the other ten are "indignant", but the accompanying image undermines this. They barely seem to care. Aside from this however it also makes it look like Jesus is telling tales, which seems worse given his niceness to the two brothers. Is he acting nice and then going behind their back?

    Jesus and his disciples approach Jerusalem healing two blind men en route. One of the actors just has his eyes closed, but the other's eyes are milked over. I was thinking this was going to be some kind of special effect, but when it comes to the healing we only see the man with his eyes shut open his eyes. Presumably, then, the other actor actually is blind. I can't decide whether this is a good thing involving such a man as an actor, or whether its a touch cruel. I suppose he knew what he was getting himself into.

    There's also a notable change in the music here. Whilst the victorious sounding theme music is heard during Jesus' triumphal entry, immediately before and after the music is, for the first time, much more ominous. Likewise before Jesus turns over the tables, and when the disciples spend the night in Bethany different, but somewhat suggestively negative music is heard. We only see one donkey (as in Mark and Luke, but not Matthew where there are two), and at one point we get Jesus' point of view as he rides into the city.

    There turning of the tables is filmed in slow motion. As with other Jesus films, no-one ever tries to intervene or physically restrain Jesus, and no-one seems to seek retribution. The reactions all seem a little unrealistic. The stall owners just get on with picking up their things, or occasionally shouting. Just for once I'd like to see someone attack Jesus, perhaps bloodying his forehead in a way that prefigures the crown of thorns.

    The fig tree is cursed and the camera pans back and cuts to another tree in a way that is hilariously unconvincing, and Marchiano's almost gentle delivery makes this passage seem even odder than it appears normally.

    Finally Jesus is involved in another confrontation with the Pharisees/elders and the chief priests. I say "confrontation", but again Marchiano portrays this moment in a very non-confrontational fashion, squatting down for the whole passage and looking up at his opponents, who are also on higher ground. There's an interesting discrepancy here, similar to what Mark Goodacre calls editorial fatigue, only in reverse. At the start of this passage (21:23) Matthew edits Mark's "chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders" (Mark 11:27) to "chief priests and the elders". There's no mention of the Pharisees. But in concluding the section he refers to "the chief priests and the Pharisees" (21:45), in contrast with Mark's simple "they". The Pharisees are much more significant in Matthew's Gospel than Mark's getting 30 mentions to Mark's 12, so it looks like when he came to the end of the passage the author of Matthew returned to one of his regular themes, the clash between Jesus and the Pharisees.

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    • At 1:34 pm, September 18, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      About the scene in which James and John wanted special places in God´s kingdom:
      You are wrong if you think that Jesus would play nice but betray them. It´s correct that the narrator says that the other disciples were angry but that you cannot see them angry. The problem is not Jesus nor Marchiano but that the disciples shall be shown as a harmonic group with all being friendly to each other. The text however, says differently, and so the regisseur didn´t know what to do. There is another story in the gospel in which Jesus wants to mediate between the disciples, but the film didn´t have to show the disciples´ argument.


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