• 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, December 29, 2010

    Bible Films Blog Review of 2010

    2010 was a comparatively quiet year for Bible films, distinguished only by a couple of good TV series at the start and the end of the year. The start was Channel 4's series The Bible: A History, a seven documentaries that covered Creation, Abraham, The Ten Commandments, Daughters of Eve, Jesus, Paul and Revelation. Although it was Howard Jacobson's take on Genesis 1-2, a pre-Strictly Anne Widdecombe's defence of the Decalogue and, most of all, Gerry Adams's examination of the gospels that grabbed the headlines, it was the other programmes that proved the most interesting (Rageh Omar's tangential look at the Abrahamic faiths aside). Bettany Hughes's look at the women of the Bible, and Tom Holland's re-appraisal of Paul that stand out and Robert Beckford was, as ever, good value on the Apocalypse.

    The length of Channel 4 series meant that it didn't end until early March, just a few weeks before Easter. The Easter period this year was certainly a disappointment. The last few years have seen a number of productions targeting Easter 2010 as a potential release date. Alas none made it through. The one exception was Eric Idle and Co's one-night-only screening of their oratorio Not the Messiah. It had been broadcast on New Year's Day in the UK, and didn't really grab me. It's funny enough in its own way, but most of the humour, for me, lay in remembering how funny the corresponding parts of Life of Brian are. Mark Goodacre disagreed.

    One of the promised productions that was not released as originally suggested was the new Ben Hur mini-series. In the end it was only broadcast in Canada, which is funny because when I finally reviewed it, I did kind of like it.

    And that was pretty much it until Christmas. While the world was preparing to celebrate Jesus's birth and the magi's journey to discover the new born king, the silver screen was being graced by what is, I suppose, another story of the same ilk. The story of the magi and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader are both stories about long journeys to seek the face of Jesus/Aslan which reflect our own journeys of faith. But despite having one of the longest titles in the history of popular cinema, Dawn Treader struggled at the box office. It was a shame given that it is arguably the best film in the franchise so far.

    Top billing for 2010 however must go to the BBC's The Nativity. The four half hour episodes were striped across the week leading up to Christmas gaining decent viewing figures and good reviews. As much as I liked it, many of those I've read or spoken to seemed to like it a great deal more than me. For me, and this is probably just my rugby player side coming to the fore, it was just a little bit trite in places, a weakness easily forgiven in light of the other strengths the film displayed. It will be interesting to see what the BBC do with this. There was talk a while back of them releasing a series of animated films on the Bible, but it's been a long time since I read anything about that project.

    There were a couple of other things worth mentioning about the last year. BBC2's series Rev, a humorous look at the life of an inner-city vicar was wince inducing and hilarious. Series 2 has been commissioned and hopefully we will see that next year. There was also a sad note as we lost one of the most prominent actresses from the (second) golden age of the biblical epic, Jean Simmons. Simmons starred in some of my favourite films and her versatile body of work will live on as testament to her talent.



    • At 8:09 pm, January 02, 2011, Blogger BibleBob said…

      One of my all-time favorite christian movies is 'Flywheel'. I always get emotional watching that one. I mostly enjoy films that are produced with an implicit bible-based worldview, rather than out in the open bible message.

    • At 5:18 am, January 04, 2011, Blogger Tom said…

      How interesting. Thanks for posting these links to the older posts (I missed a few)

      I would like to see the Nativity BBC series. I hope it comes on DVD one day.

    • At 4:24 pm, January 04, 2011, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Tom, I think there's a pretty good chance that The Nativity will come to DVD. The BBC's Passion has 2 different DVDs.


    • At 7:12 pm, January 09, 2011, Blogger Mark Goodacre said…

      Thanks for the great review, Matt. Nice to see your coverage of The Bible: A History. Already feels like a long time ago!


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