• 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


    Tuesday, April 12, 2016

    More Films About Jephthah

    Back in 2013 I wrote a piece about the portrayal of Jephthah on film. Since then I have become aware of several other films about Jephthah, so I thought I would bring them all together here. I'm aware of five in total, though in an age when anyone can own a video camera and video editing software there are probably a few more. Most of these however were released in just a five year period, from 1909 to 1913. Here are some details.

    Jephthah's Daughter (1909)
    Vitagraph. Dir: J. Stuart Blackton
    I discussed Blackton's film at some length back in 2013, but there's also a bit on it in David Shepherd's book "The Bible on Silent Film". He notes
    Much as in The Judgement of Solomon, the characters of Jephthah's Daughter offer the depth and range of emotional responses only hinted at in the biblical narrative itself, but increasingly expected by audiences steeped in the melodrama of early twentieth=century cinema (p.70)

    La Fille de Jephté (1910). 
    Gaumont. Dir: Léonce Perret
    (Pictured above - there's another image at IMDb)
    Whilst this film is sometimes attributed to Louise Feuillade, it was actually made by it's star Leonce Perret (who plays Jephthah) and features additional performances from Luitz-Morat and Jeanne-Marie Laurent. It's apparently based on a scenario by Abel Gance having been inspired by the poem by Alfred de Vigny. It was also released in English speaking countries as The Vow

    A summary of the plot, from a 1910 edition of "Moving Picture Magazine", is also available on IMDb.

    Jepthah's Daughter (1913).
    Diana Film/Warner Bros. Dir: J Farrell MacDonald
    1913 saw the release of not one but two films about the errant judge. I discussed McDonald's entry in 2013 and there are a couple of stills with my review as well.

    Surprisingly David Shepherd doesn't mention this one.

    La Fille de Jephté (1913). 
    Pathé. Dir: Henri Andréani
    Andréani produced a string on Bible films for Pathé in the 1910s - at least six biblical films in 1913 alone. Whilst Shepherd lists this film in his filmography, and discusses Andréani at length in the book, he doesn't really discuss this film. However, there is a summary in the Pathé archive which suggests that the film seems to broadly follow the biblical account. Here's a translation of that summary:
    Jephthah was a brave warrior of Gilead; disinherited by his brothers, he withdrew to the mountain, began to lead a band of adventurers and indulged in a kind of banditry. He thus acquired a great reputation for boldness and courage, and soon the leaders of his tribe - enslaved by the Ammonites - came to him and asked him to put himself at their head to drive out the oppressors. Jephthah agreed, but on condition that after the war he would remain the head of Gilead.

    He completely defeated the Ammonites on the banks of the Arnon. He had vowed, if triumphant, to sacrifice to Jehovah the first person who would come out of his house to meet him. Upon his return, his only daughter walked first to the sound of instruments, at the head of her companions. Jephthah, overwhelmed with grief and despair, tears his clothes and in tears announces the promise that his mouth has uttered. The girl, resigned, asks for a grace period of two months with her companions on the mountains of Gilead, to mourn the disgrace of being neither wife nor mother. Then she offers the sacrifice to fulfil the vow of Jephthah

    Bat Yiftach [Jephtah's Daughter] (1996). 
    Dir: Einat Kapach/Eynat Kapach
    The only modern film about Jephthah of any note is by Israeli filmmaker Einat Kapach (who may spell his first name with a "y"). There's a clip from this film on YouTube which I've embeded below.

    There's also a little more about Kapach here and the same site contains some more information about the film including this synopsis.
    The year is 1984. A Jewish family is on its way by foot from Ethiopiato Sudan, from where they will board a plane for Israel. The father, whom the family’s life depends on, is seized by brigands. Things change when his eldest daughter comes across the place. The story is typical of what happened to hundreds of Ethiopians on their difficult journey to Israel, in the 1980’s, when they crossed the desert, in order to reach the Promised Land
    You can actually pay to watch the film online.

    A few more notes on this one. It's 19 minutes long. The English title does appear to be Jephtah's Daughter with only two aitches. And there appears to be a variety of release dates from 1996 to 1998 (and even 2003). I'm a little pushed for time but I might try and review this one if I can.

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