• 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


    Monday, December 19, 2016

    The Book of Judith (2015)

    I've written several times about films based on the Book of Judith and director Alex Méndez Giner has been kind enough to share with me his 2015 short The Book of Judith (view trailer).

    The film is not an attempt to directly adapt the Book of Judith, nor to create a modernised version of the story or even to depict a 'Judith figure'. Instead it draws on numerous and historical artistic portrayals of Judith's deeds as the texture of a film about the internal thoughts and anxieties of a widowed farmer, in order to penetrate "the complex psychology of Judith’s character and shed light on her personality".1

    The nameless woman, who the film's official description confirms is called Judith, lives on an isolated sheep farm with what we presume are her daughter and mother. Their remote lives are interrupted one day when a rather forthright stranger seeks shelter: it's winter and his car has apparently broken down en route to his mother's funeral. The stranger is not sinister, but the presumptive way in which he appears to invite himself into Judith's house and then decide he is staying for the night leaves her feeling threatened and perhaps a little violated.

    I say "appear", because from very early on in the film the line between reality and fantasy quickly becomes blurred. We witness only snippets of Judith and her guest's initial discussions to the point that it's unclear how he ended up inside her house to begin with let alone being her guest for the evening.

    Méndez Giner's evocative imagery, however, says it all. Images of wolves, sheep with their throats cut, softly lit funeral processions and Judith deep underwater engulf the viewer in images of the threat of an invasive outside force. The precise nature of the threat brought by the stranger is never made explicit, but left for the viewer to infer from the range of Judith's inner thoughts with which we are presented. Unsurprisingly, given the film's title, things culminate with a series of sexually charged images.

    The director's own description of the film refers to over 110 portrayals and the influence of some of the most famous such works, especially the Baroque-era painters Gentileschi, Bigot and Caravaggio are particularly apparent. Notable too are references to other works such as Caravaggio's "Sacrifice of Isaac" and Bill Viola's "Five Angels for the Millennium".

    The result is a beautiful and interesting film which by associating itself with the text only loosely, through symbols rather than plot, allows its audience to explore some of the emotions that Judaism's greatest heroine may have experienced when the might of Holofernes army threatened her and her town. And it demonstrates to us today that, even if the stakes are rarely, if ever, as high for us as they were for her, we can still find a path to less troubled times.

    Image credit - Alex Mendez Giner.
    1 - From Méndez Giner's description of the film which accompanies the trailer - https://vimeo.com/167677004

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