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    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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    Saturday, December 02, 2017

    Mary Magdalene gets a trailer and a website

    We've known that a film about Mary Magdalene was in the works since FilmChat/Deadline broke the story in January 2016, but until now there's been very little to go on. For a while now we've known that Rooney Mara had the title part and that Joaquin Phoenix was playing Jesus, but aside from the various photos of them smoking on set, the filmmakers have been keeping things relatively tight.

    Now, however, there's an official website for the film and a trailer, which you can see below (click for HD/fullscreen)

    The website is fairly barebones for now, but the trailer shows us quite a lot. For a start Phoenix's portrayal of Jesus looks like it will be one of the most interesting we have seen. Aside from his acting pedigree, there's also the rather weathered look of his preacher from Nazareth. Historically, actors playing Jesus were often made as photogenic as possible - even getting Jeffrey Hunter to shave his armpits in King of Kings (1961). More recently there's been a tendency towards more grittier productions, especially since The Passion of the Christ (2004), but Jesus, bloodied face aside, has still tended to have good teeth and skin. In comparison, Phoenix's Jesus looks well worn. At 41, Phoenix is quite a bit older than Jesus probably was, but the harshness of the lifestyle, probably evens this out a bit. Hence we get a Jesus who looks like he has experienced the ups and downs of real life.

    We also see a lot of images of Jesus smiling, but not always winningly, as well as a good range of other emotions, including fear and anger. Various films have focused strongly on one of these before, or incorporated several of them in a more toned down form, but this seems a very emotional Jesus, but also one who is, not necessarily intended to appeal to audiences enough to carry the film. The real star here - at least if we take the film's title seriously, is Mary Magdalene.

    I know far less about Rooney Mara than I do about Phoenix, but her figure here seems far more photogenic and appealing than Phoenix. I'm not quite sure photogenic is the right word here as it suggests a degree of personal taste. Put it this way, swap their costumes for 21st century office attire and it's clear who would fit in more naturally.

    That said even Mary's clothing here gives a suggestion that her character is wealthier than most of the other characters, and certainly compared to Jesus. If I'm right on this then it touches on a key fact about Mary that tends to be overlooked. The main piece of background information we have about her, from Luke 8:1-3, is that she was one of the group of women who funded Jesus and his followers. In fact, her name comes first amongst those benefactors, and it would not be inconceivable that this meant she was the highest of his donors. In this light the smearing of her as a prostitute, seems like an almost deliberate attempt to bury an uncomfortable fact.

    The other piece of information this passage gives us is that "seven demons had gone out" from her. Given its run-time, the trailer goes into this relatively deeply. The first part of the trailer includes a voice over where one male character says "You have brought shame on our family", followed by another man saying "there's something unnatural inside you". We then see several shots of Jesus and Mary with Jesus saying "Your family says you battle with the demons", Mary saying "If there's a demon in me it's always been there" then another shot of a smiling Jesus reassuring her that "There are no demons here".

    But what follows is also more interesting. There are apparent conflicts with a seemingly resentful Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), reminiscent of Abel Ferrara's Mary (2005) and the non-canonical Gospel of Mary. There is also a scene where Jesus seems to be encouraging Mary to carry out baptisms. Most interestingly of all, Mary asks Jesus "Is that how it feels to be one with God" and Jesus replies that no-one has ever asked about how it feels. None of this is really that unexpected given this is supposed to be a film about Mary, though it looks like it will be a more interesting and self-respectful portrayal than the one we find in Magdalena Released From Shame (2006). Be prepared for a string of stories about a feminist Mary Magdalene between now and the film's release.

    Speaking of which it looks like the film will be release over here in the UK on the 16th March, Australia on 22nd March and the US on March 30 (Good Friday). There are a few more details on the official website, but it's fairly sparse at the moment.
    HT Peter Chattaway.

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    • At 6:51 pm, December 02, 2017, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      If Rooney Mara is anywhere near as brilliant in this as she was in films like "Song to Song" and "A Ghost Story", then this will be a must see.


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