• 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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    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Visual Bible's Matthew:Ch.28

    Just got time to make the final entry in my series on the Visual Bible's Matthew. After a fairly long post last time on the death of Jesus, this one will be comparatively short. I'm only covering one chapter rather than two, and it's a relatively short one at that (20 verses compared to 66 for chapter 27 and 75 for chapter 26).

    The resurrection hasn't been covered all that often in Jesus films, and even when it is, it is often significantly different from what we find in the gospels. Often we see Jesus at and in the tomb (Pasolini's and Gibson's films) as opposed to the empty tomb, or the events reported in the gospel are interpreted more metaphorically (King of Kings, Godspell, Last Temptation of Christ and Jesus of Montreal). One notable exception is the BBC's The Passion which not only shows the empty tomb but also the two cases of mistaken identity.

    Here, things are portrayed with great fidelity. The women go to the tomb and find it empty, although we do not actually see the tomb itself. The reason for this is that the dramatic events that the author describes as prefiguring the moment of resurrection are here described rather than shown (with the exception of the earthquake which is portrayed by a shaky camera and a few rocks falling down). This is again probably due to the difficulty in portraying credible angels - nearly all attempts at this are distracting - as well as budgetary constraints. It does however also add to the sense that the narrator is using a metaphor rather than offering a literal description.

    We then cut to the women returning from the tomb and meeting Jesus on the road. This is shot from a low angle and Jesus entering the scene from behind the camera. It's a nicely composed moment, which I suppose also catches the sense of not quite being sure who this is for a brief moment. It's a shame that it's followed up by a cheesy moment of a slow motion Jesus walking along accompanied by triumphant music. There are no nail marks on Jesus hands though for what it's worth.

    That moment clashes particularly noticeably with the next scene where the Pharisees try to bribe the soldiers. There's no real sense that the soldiers have any fear of the consequences of them failing in their duty. Caiaphas however hides his face in shame, presumably at the deception these faithful Jews are now embroiled in. This is actually a complete contrast with the text which doesn't even mention the Pharisees, and lays the blame with the chief priests and the elders.

    Finally we come to the Great Commission which takes place atop the same rock as the Sermon on the Mount. For a moment it looks like the filmmakers will resist having Jesus look directly in the camera, but then, seemingly unable to help themselves they close with Jesus smiling reassuringly straight at the audience. Artistically it's weak, but it's not hard to appreciate why the filmmakers chose to do it in such a fashion.

    The film ends however with a sort of epilogue: after a long fade to black the camera follows Jesus as he walks towards a lake. He turns for a moment, again looks at the camera and beckons (us) to follow him. He turns on a walks a little further before repeating his "follow me" gesture. The shot freezes mid pose and the credits roll. This ending seems more in keeping with the end of John (21:19's "follow me") than Matthew. Matthew's more of a sending out. The difference is a speck rather than a log, but then I suspect that this series has been a far more examination than the filmmakers would probably have anticipated.

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    • At 6:16 pm, October 13, 2010, Blogger Kevin C. Neece said…

      This comment has been removed by the author.

    • At 7:51 pm, October 13, 2010, Blogger Kevin C. Neece said…

      "The resurrection hasn't been covered all that often in Jesus films..."

      I'm not sure what you mean here. I can think of only a handful that don't show the resurrection.

      There's none intended in "Jesus Christ Superstar," though there's always the famous shepherd shot for symbolism if one chooses to read it that way.

      There's no resurrection whatsoever in "From the Manger to the Cross," "Son of Man," or "Il Messia."

      "The Passover Plot," as a part of its premise, doesn't even have an actual death on the cross, so I'm not sure how that figures into the mix, exactly.

      Barring nativity films and episodic films like Melies' "Christ Walking on the Water," I can think of none but those five Jesus films that do not depict the resurrection in some way.

      That's a pretty small sample out of over 100 films.

      Perhaps you're looking for depictions specifically including appearances to the disciples and other Biblical events surrounding the resurrection? One way or another, I'm puzzled by this assertion. Could you clarify?


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