• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as current film releases with spiritual significance, and a few bits and pieces on the Bible.

    Thursday, January 04, 2018

    Bible Films Blog Review of 2017


    Occasionally at the end of one year or the start of the next I like to do a little review of the previous year. Some years it happens, some years it doesn't. If nothing else though, this year I feel a little more on top of things so given that it's been a reasonably interesting year I thought I would revive the tradition.

    Perhaps the most significant thing this year was the release of Sony's The Star. Living in a small town in the UK, it's a reasonable measure of the significance/size of a film if it plays at my local cinema and as with Ben-Hur last year, The Star did. It was also the first animated Bible film to do so since 2000's The Miracle Maker. My review is here.

    Far less widely released was the similarly themed, but more thoughtful and serious, Chasing the Star, (my review) which had a limited release in a select part of the US before a planned early release on DVD. As things worked out it was released only a few weeks before one of its stars, Rance Howard, died.

    There were a number of other cinema releases as well that were of interest to readers of this blog, even if not quite matching my typical definition of a Bible film. Technically Le fils de Joseph - which told a modern day story but with heavy biblical imagery - debuted last year, but it's main cinema run was this year. Darren Aronofsky, director 2014's Noah, ploughed a similar furrow with mother! It gained a far wider release and became one of the year's most talked about films as critics tended to either love it or hate it. Audiences stayed away more than was expected. Lastly, Martin Scorsese's Silence is definitely not a Bible film, even though it's sure to rank on many most spiritual film lists for years to come.

    Releases to DVD/Bluray/downloads and streaming have become so complicated now that I'm not going to go into them all, just to pick out the two most significant of the year. Firstly, Day of Triumph (1954) is one of those films that has been on my radar for years - one of the first times I imported a film from the US around the turn of the millennium - and it was finally released for home viewing again this year. There are plans to remaster it, but no news on that yet.

    Secondly, came the release of Straub and Huillet's adaptation of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron (1973). At the time I heard of this I was under the impression it had never been released for home viewing, but it turns out there was a limited release a few years ago that I missed. With second hand copies of that currently going for over £200, it's good to see it get a re-release, particularly as two of Straub and Huillet's other films are included in the package. I wrote a few bits in preparation for this release last year, and I plan to write two or three more pieces on it this year, covering the opera itself, the film itself and perhaps a review of the set as a whole.

    I tend to be less interested in Bible documentaries though I make a point of seeing them if they crop up on terrestrial. I only managed to catch the PBS/Channel 5 documentary Last Days of Jesus this year. It lent rather too heavily on Simcha Jacobovici for my tastes. Next year might prove interesting in this respect as Helen Bond has edited a book about TV documentaries called "The Bible on Television", lined up for publication later this month.

    Lastly, books. The main news here was the publication of "Noah as Anithero: Darren Aronofsky's Cinematic Deluge", edited by Rhonda Burnette-Bletsch (who edited the book in which I had two chapters two years ago) and‎ Jon Morgan. It's the latest in a string of offerings from Routledge and included essays from Robert K Johnston, David Shepherd, Richard Walsh and David Tollerton. Many of the same authors will also feature in two more volumes being published this year, a similar volume on Exodus Gods and Kings edited by David Tollerton and "The T&T Clark Companion to the Bible and Film" which will feature another chapter from me.

    Two other books - a little more tangential to the core of what I cover here did catch my eye. S. Brent Plate edited the four volume "Film and Religion" as part of Routledge's "Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies" series. Not dissimilarly, Wendy I. Zierler's "Movies and Midrash: Popular Film and Jewish Religious Conversation" looked at films such as Magnolia and Memento from a Jewish perspective.

    In terms of this blog I have covered a few mini-topics through out the year. The main one was a more thorough look at Nativity films (largely out of season). But I also wrote a few pieces on the epic genre, the Resurrection on Film, A.D. The Bible Continues, Daniel films and Moses und Aron. I also staked out my intentions regarding what I'm going to be covering moving forward, which is hopefully going to lead to finishing the first draft of a book this year. Well it's a New Year's Resolution, at least...

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