• 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


    Sunday, February 17, 2013

    Judith Films

    I'm going to be writing a bit on films about Judith and Holofernes over the next week or so including writing about 3 silent portrayals of the story, as well as a quick look at how the main two characters are portrayed in the various films. So it seems a good idea to start by collating a list of the different films in which the story of Judith features. Interestingly the majority of these films are from the silent era, despite the seemingly contemporary appeal of the narrative for today's audiences - sex, violence, seduction, empowerment - can you imagine what Tarantino would do with this story?
    It's always difficult to know how exhaustive to make lists like these, particularly now people can make films on their cameras and upload them to YouTube, but here is a list of most of the significant portrayals of this story. If you think I've missed one, please let me know in the comments.
    [Italy, Mario Caserini] The earliest film about Judith, Campbell and Pitts date this as 1906, but the print in the BFI National Archive is dated in 1908.
    [Gaumont, France, Louis Feuillade] A year after the Italian Judith, Gaumont made a Judith film of their own, distributed in the UK simply as Judith.
    Judith (1912)
    [UK, Theo Frenkel]Evidence on this film is rather scant, indeed it may even be two films, one released in 1910 and another made 2 years later. Things are further confused because the director of this film Theo Frenkel made another film called Judith in 1923, although that does not appear to have been a biblical one.
    Judith of Bethulia (1914)
    [Biograph, USA, DW Griffith] Undoubtedly the most well known of the films about Judith this was Griffith's first feature length film. A 1917 release of the film was renamed Her Condoned Sin.

    Giuditta e Oloferne (1928)
    [Italy] Campbell and Pitts list this in the notes to the 1906 film, but there are no further details. IMDb lists this as 1929, as does Derek Elley. The BFI Archive lists this as 1928 and describes the film as having "two parallel stories, the first, set in biblical times about the heroic Giuditta who dies to save her city Betulia from the Assyrians. The second is about an engineer who tries to prevent any speculation about a beautiful woman."

    Head of a Tyrant / Giuditta e Oloferne (1959)
    [Italy, Fernando Cerchio] IMDb gives this a lowly 3.6 score and from the trailer and excerpt available on YouTube it's clear that this film imports a dance of Salome moment into the film as well as attempting to create extra intrigue by having Judith fall for her victim. (Poster image above).
    General Electric Theatre: The Story of Judith (1960) [USA]
    Judith (1961) [Argentina]
    Judith (1965) [West Germany]
    Judith (1966) [West Germany]
    Judith (1969) [France]
    These five all seem to be TV movies from the 60s, but definitely different films as they all list different actors.
    Estudio 1: Judith (1979)
    [Spain, Alfredo Castellón] At 140 minutes this is seemingly the longest version of the story.
    Judita (1980)
    [Yugoslavia, Marin Caric] Produced by Yugoslav company Hrvatska Radiotelevizija (HRT) this is the only biblical film I know of from the former European country.
    Judith (2007)
    [Canada, Eric Chaussé] This 4 minute short from French speaking Quebec limits itself to the bedroom scene and even without subtitles is a remarkably powerful treatment. It's available to view on YouTube and is well worth the four minutes.

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