Tuesday, October 25, 2011
French epic retelling the final week of the life of Jesus from what we now call Palm Sunday onward.
The film is not what you expect when you think of a life of Christ. The film is largely focused on the events transpiring around him. What were the moves that put Christ on the cross? What was the Romans part in all of this? How did the disciples react? We often see pieces of events but not everything from start to finish.
Rarely has a life of Christ felt both so real and so fake (there is an over abundance of rear screen projections at at times). Many of the crowd scenes feel like real people milling about and not staged masses.Look at how life goes on in the temple as Christ goes in, and speaks and over turns the tables and you see people in the background just going on with life and sort of eyeing Jesus and the ruckus he is making out of the corner of their eyes.
The film is intriguing in that Jesus, when he is shown, is more than a scripture spouting figure, which is more or less what he more or less was until the 1970's. Think about it you either got him in the distance or shadow and he rarely spoke and if he did in something like the remake of King of Kings or The Greatest Story Ever Told he was stiff. Here there is a reverence and a bit of other worldliness but at the same time there is emotion and feeling.
Many of the events are viewed from outside. The bit where Jesus offers up his body and his blood is seen from outside the room as Judas pauses to leave on his "traitorous" mission. Actually the film seems to be more concerned with the events outside of the Jesus story. It's almost as if the filmmakers decided to forgo telling the "super human" story and instead tell the human one. Even the moments we glimpse of Jesus are the small moments of humanity- his doubt in the garden and his desire for company in his final moments of freedom so he wakes his friends. Initially the tone is that of a man afraid in the dark and then it changes as betrayal approaches and he sends them off to be safe.
Even the role of Judas is atypical in film in that he is clearly not a bad bad guy or someone with a personal agenda. Judas, looking like a Stanley Kubrick twin, is shown to be a tortured soul who genuinely doesn't know what to make of the madness concerning Jesus. It's never an easy choice, and here it is less so and you can see the confusion on his face.
An amazing film that could never have been made in Hollywood until relatively recently(De Mille's King of Kings excepted). There is simply too much complexity in it's telling. The story is powerfully told with out the verbatim quoting of scripture.
The version I have is from German War Films who did an excellent job of subtitling the film. They said that they are not absolute word for word translation but as something that give understanding they are spot on. I can't recommend this edition enough.
I really liked this version of the story. It's a beautiful film that takes the well known, and dare I say well worn, story and makes it new and fresh and about more than just the man at the center of things. Definitely worth tracking down.
(One small warning- it does help to know the story of the life of Jesus. there was a couple of times when I thought that had I not known the story things would have been lost because of the films insistence on not being in your face with events.)