Part of the success story behind writer-director Dallas Jenkins’ popular life-of-Jesus TV series is the remarkable crowdfunding approach spearheaded by viral marketing strategist Derral Eves.
Our seasonal movie-watching during Advent, Lent, and the Christmas and Easter seasons varies from year to year, but Triduum is always the same.
The Bible world of Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s LightWorkers Media productions sometimes seems not unlike a movie about Shakespeare in which you hear lines like “To be or not to be, that is the question” and “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” but everyone seems to have heard them already.
“Where the Bible comes to life” is the slogan of Sight & Sound Theatres, headquartered in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in the heart of Amish country.
A reader of my review of Mary Magdalene offers an impassioned defense for the medieval Western view of St. Mary Magdalene as a penitent with a notoriously wanton sexual past, a profligate adulteress or harlot.
Somewhere roughly between Risen and Last Days in the Desert in its narrative and interpretive sensibilities, Mary Magdalene presents an interpretation of Jesus’ ministry, passion and resurrection that seems in some ways — with important caveats — fairly traditional, viewed from a feminist perspective with some biblical justification.
It’s a little like The Nativity Story meets The Secret Life of Pets, which probably sounds like a winning formula to some people.
After the four Gospels, if one text is more influential than any other in the tone of Jesus of Nazareth, it might be the Vatican II declaration on the Church in relation to non-Christian religions, Nostra Aetate, a watershed document in Jewish-Catholic relations.
I can’t think of another year quite like 2016. To begin with, Jesus himself was on the big screen in an extraordinary number of screen incarnations.
On paper, and sometimes even on screen, there’s some promise and potential in this remake of Ben-Hur.
I doubt Gibson is the right filmmaker for the job. First, though, let’s talk about how right Gibson was for The Passion of the Christ.
García takes his time in the early scenes, allowing us to ease into the rhythms of this eremitic phase in its protagonist’s life. A spiritual journey can’t be rushed; the mind and body must submit to long hardship for the spirit to attain its goal.
The Young Messiah is an impressive achievement of Christian imagination, a work that does one of the noblest things a Bible movie, or any literary adaptation, can do: It brings persuasive emotional and psychological depth to characters and situations that were either hidden or else so familiar we may have trouble seeing them at all.
There are many things I love about The Young Messiah, as my review elaborates, but the way it depicts Jesus’ consciousness at the age of seven is one of my favorite things about it.
While concerns around “Jesus of Nazareth” were short-lived, The Passion of the Christ remains controversial, beloved by many and condemned by many others.
The director of my favorite movie this spring about Jesus and a Roman soldier talks about working with Sean Bean, Jesus’ human consciousness, and bringing the biblical world to life.
Risen might be the only Jesus film in which we first encounter Jesus on the cross, already dead or nearly so.
The Miracle Maker is a singular achievement: a Jesus movie that is simple enough for children, sophisticated enough for scripture scholars and theologians, and artful enough for discerning cinephiles.
After ten years, Jesus is back on the big screen. Was it worth the wait?
Mary of Nazareth, now touring North America in isolated screenings hosted by Ignatius Press, is the latest in a number of Gospel films over the last couple of decades focusing in a special way on the role of the Blessed Virgin in the Gospel story.
My esteemed colleague Pat Archbold’s lively and engaging post on big-screen Jesuses has obliged me to add a few notes of my own (with apologies for the post title joke—I don’t really think Pat “forgot” anything, since his list wasn’t meant to be exhaustive in the first place, and certainly mine isn’t either).
And yet, compared with most Hollywood biblical epics, The Greatest Story Ever Told manages to sustain a spirit of genuine reverence and religiosity over showmanship and pageantry. Its deliberate pacing and dreamlike, otherworldly ambiance offer neither the entertainment value of The Ten Commandments nor the comparative psychological realism of Zeffirelli’s subsequent Jesus of Nazareth, yet it is arguably more evocative than either of the spirit of biblical literature.
The original DVD edition of The Passion of the Christ was a “bare bones” edition featuring only the film itself. This week’s two-disc “Definitive Edition” is packed with extras, from The Passion Recut (which trims about six minutes of some of the most intense violence) to four separate commentaries.
In blogs, discussion boards, and other fora, a range of criticisms and objections concerning The Nativity Story have been raised by concerned Catholics. Some of these critiques are thoughtful and worthy of consideration, and raise issues regarding the film that have merit, or are at least defensible. Other complaints are more problematic, resting on misrepresentations of the film or even of Catholic teaching.
Perhaps The Nativity Story will take its place as the missing Christmas film — the one that actually is about the real “real meaning of Christmas.”
From It’s a Wonderful Life to A Christmas Carol, from Miracle on 34th Street to Tim Allen’s Santa Clause films, there are more Christmas movies than you could watch in all twelve days. Yet even at the height of Hollywood biblical epics, the real meaning of Christmas was essentially ignored (a few brief scenes in Ben-Hur notwithstanding). The Nativity Story goes a long way toward redressing this historic omission.
Although The Nativity Story doesn’t portray Joseph as a widower, it also doesn’t depict Joseph and Mary’s relationship as a typical first-century Jewish courtship. While the film doesn’t take a stance one way or the other on the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity, it finds drama in the obstacles between Joseph and Mary, rather than turning their story, as some retellings have done, into a Hollywood romance.
It is, so to speak, not "based on" St. John’s Gospel at all, so much as it is St. John’s Gospel — visualized and enacted to be sure, and to that extent interpreted and glossed, but not "adapted" in the usual sense.
Cecil B. DeMille’s biblical silent masterpiece The King of Kings, until now available in home video only in DeMille’s shortened 112-minute 1928 cut, is now available in a new restored DVD edition from Criterion that includes both the original 155-minute 1927 “roadshow” version and the shorter general release version.
In its most extreme form, the charge of morbidity has been laid at the feet of the Christian faith itself. Christianity’s harshest critics denounce it as "a religion of death." Clearly, at some point objections of this sort must be regarded as a case in point of what the scriptures call the "scandal" of the cross. It is the cross itself, the very suffering and dying of God made man, and the way Christians respond to this event in their faith and devotion, that is behind much (though again not all) of the religious and anti-religious controversy over the brutality of this particular film.
As I contemplate Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, the sequence I keep coming back to, again and again, is the scourging at the pillar.
Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League declared recently that Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is not antisemitic, and that Gibson himself is not an anti-Semite, but a “true believer.”
In the end, perhaps the most enduring achievement of The Gospel According to Matthew is an ironic one, given Pasolini’s Marxism: No other life-of-Christ film is so contemplative, inviting the viewer simply to meditate on the life and teaching of Jesus.
The art of cinema had advanced dramatically in the few years between the two films, and From the Manger to the Cross is far more sophisticated — though I actually find the earlier, more primitive Life and Passion more effective. Even so, both are worthwhile, and they make a good double bill.
The Face, a remarkable two-hour documentary produced in conjunction with the Catholic Communication Campaign, is a visually sumptuous and spiritually rewarding exploration of Christian art that surveys the history of how Jesus Christ has been portrayed, and how Christian teaching has been understood, interpreted, and given different emphases by the art of different times and places.
Veteran Catholic performer Barry, who calls his apostolate Radix, has been doing his live one-man passion play for a decade, accompanied for most of that time by his musical partner, Eric Genuis. One recorded version has played for a number of years on EWTN around Holy Week. This version, filmed live in 2003 at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, TN, benefits from enhanced production values including multiple cameras.
The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ is a remarkable relic from the very dawn of cinema.
Fiennes sounds like a man improvising a public speech as he delivers long-familiar words about the house on the rock or the parable of the mustard seed. His Jesus is attractive, composed, commanding, and compassionate; he can rise to righteous anger (as at the cleansing of the temple), but has an acute sense of humor (seen particularly in satirical parables such as the log in the eye).
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.