• 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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    Sunday, April 21, 2013

    The Passion, Last Supper, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ

    Possibly the longest ever title for a Bible film, this cartoon is part of the "Greatest Heroes and Legends of the Bible" series. I believe it was originally released as simply as The Passion, Last Supper, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ, so this version seems to be some kind of rebrand to cash in with the release of Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The dates are a little unclear, the copyright on the DVD says 2004, one retailer gives it as April 2003 and the IMDb doesn't seem to cover it.

    As with the other entries in this series there is a fairly lengthy and rather dull introduction to the topic by the late Charlton Heston. I suspect I won't be the only parent to have forward wound through it having to concede that the kids had a point.

    Heston aside the series is fairly cheaply made, but visually is fairly good. But there's an awful song about Judas that trails through various episodes. It has enough of Jesus Christ Superstar about it to make it fairly clear that that was what they were going for, but unfortunately it seems like it was written in about 10 minutes.

    The central tension for the filmmakers was how much violence to show given that on the one hand the focus was on the Passion, but on the other it is aimed at kids. It varies from child to child I suppose, but I was a bit unhappy with certain decisions the filmmakers made in this respect. I would be interested in knowing the relationship between the making of the film and The Passion of the Christ. There certainly seems to be some influence. Aside from the overall feel and focus of the film, all the beatings are shown, though the episode with Herod is omitted. It also bucks the trend towards incorporate historical findings. We're shown Jesus carrying just a crosspiece, and being helped by an African Simon of Cyrene. That said, this might all be just a coincidence.

    However when it comes to the crucifixion there is very little shown. We're shown Simon helping Jesus but the next moment he is on the cross. The actual process of being put on a cross is omitted. This makes a strange contrast with most films on the subject which tend to dwell on the nailing to the cross, and the raising of the cross. It seems strange to cut this completely, but go into such detail about pushing the crown of thorns into Jesus' head (though it's implied rather than fully shown). On the other hand the Bible doesn't focus on the moment of Jesus being attached to the cross and raised, and the original audience for the gospels would have known that the truly horrific bit of being crucified wasn't so much the nailing as the hours of agony fighting for every single breath before a slow painful suffocation. All of the films, pretty much, seem to get this balance wrong though (from memory) the BBC's 2008 Passion is something of an exception.

    As for the resurrection, it's harmonised in a fairly interesting manner. It's most reminiscent of another animated film - The Miracle Maker - even bringing the incident with Thomas a week forward to Easter evening, but there's also an interesting switch between Mary meeting Jesus at the tomb, and a group of women telling the disciples the good news.



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