Kings of Kings

March 31, 2012

There is nothing the bible about Mary of Magdelena being the center of attention in the beginning of the story of  Jesus. However Demille makes us believe that she is the center of as he opens up with her. In fact he spends almost half an hour telling us of why she is sad, who she waits for, and how will will go about finding the person who is keeping her lover from her. I think Demille also opens up with her because he wanted to show us the major transformation she makes during the movie.

Another thing that I notice was that plays up Jesus as if he is someone to fear. Everyone who know that power of God reverence him and those who are out to crucify him are the ones who are disrespecting him.  Demille shows us how great Jesus is by visual affects of him having an actually halo around his body. His halo never leaves him every time we are meet with Jesus we sort of have to cover our eyes because we cannot “behold his glory” . While Jesus is in glowing white every one around him is in darker colors. the people who are his disciples and followers are in light colors while the people who are not is followers or sinner are in the darkest colors. Demille I think does this to show that the closer one is to Jesus the greater they become or the purer they become.



The Gospel According To (St.) Matthew

March 30, 2012

A few thoughts on the film:

My interpretation of the film is distorted because I watched Matthew on a 5-inch screen (with bad speakers), and thus, the grandness of the film was missing. Undoubtedly if I had watched it in the cinema (as Pasolini intended it) I would’ve had a far different experience and interpretation. I’d compare it to visiting a miniaturized reproduction (with a max occupancy of 5 or so people) of Notre Dame de Paris.

– It’s ironic the most “realistic” (at least, most true to the bible) depiction of Jesus would also be characterized as the most unconventional depiction of Jesus on film.

–  Considering the graphicness of Pasolini’s Salo, I was surprised at the tameness of the “Massacre of the Innocents”—I expected brutal imagery: crushed skulls, slit throats, gushing blood, etc (ditto for the crucifixion scene). And I can’t decide if I admire or am annoyed by the restraint. It contributes to the high and reverent poeticism of the film but at the cost of a more comprehensive reality. You can simultaneously maintain the necessary nuances requisite in accurately expressing the purity and vastness of human spiritual longing, while also unflinchingly depicting the brutality of Man (see: Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev).

–  The line between simplicity and naiveté is thin; often the distinction is dependent on the subjective experience of the viewer—“it works” or “it doesn’t”. In Matthew, the close-ups either trivialize the people (can a persons soul really be expressed in a close-up or are we simplifying and romanticizing the individual), or they celebrate the “common man”, telling the struggle of the everyday person. Jesus’s fierce sermons are either didactic reinforcements of Marxist dictums or a genuine documentation of the obligatory seriousness of a true devotee to God. I had a more cynical viewing, and side with the former (although I also side with the latter too, just not as often).

–  An unconventional pattern emerges during Jesus’s speeches: the camera is not on him. We see the faces of the crowd more than the man. Even in the end—during the final trial and the march—Jesus is scarcely emphasized. In this regard, it’s a film encouraging self-reflection and our relation to Christ, more than Christ’s relation to the world.   

Pasolini’s use of music:

Beyond the obvious and obligatory musical pieces of Bach and Mozart— Pasolini (who scored the film) also included some rather interesting choices of music. It’s curious these (Bach and Mozart) compositions seem appropriate for biblical films despite being written over sixteen hundred years after the fact. In truth they have as much relevancy, from a historical perspective, as any of the “unconventional” pieces do. When the chords of Blind Willie Johnson, the haunting spiritual “sometimes I feel like a motherless child” and the infectious Congolese rhythms of The Missa Luba are juxtaposed with bleak images of impoverished Italy and Jesus they form immensely powerful, yet unfamiliar associations. And it is here where—aesthetically and intellectually— the film succeeds the most, to me.

Pasolini’s vision was not as simple as a re-telling of Christ’s story. He had a grander ambition: to make a trans-historical text that realizes the spiritual unity between the soul of Christ and the soul of the proletariat. The (variety of) music’s ability to evoke an emotional reaction from the viewer is one of Pasolini’s greatest achievement in relation to that objective— to create a universal and timeless film about Christ, a potential Marxist rallying cry, it must move all viewers (no matter color, class, or creed). If the music fell flat, the film’s meta-message would likely fail too.

Christ’s story is a solemn one, a lesson meant to educate, not inspire (joy, at least). So the contrast between the exuberant tone of The Missa Luba: Gloria—the song that bookends the film’s credits— and the solemnity of the actual film, leaves the viewer with polar emotional experiences. One (Gloria—the children) celebrates life and potential and embodies hope; the other (the film) is a drab melancholia of pain and sacrifice and hardship. A contrast between what it can be, and what it actually is. Pasolini is here (if you’re a cynic) making a political statement on what can and needs to be done, or (if you’re a believer) on the multitudes of Christ’s soul. Or…both.

The music was chosen because it is in those songs the universality of the proletariat struggle (or, you could argue, Christ’s soul) is distilled. Across cultures and generations, despite our many differences, we are united by something greater—God, Jesus, a spiritual longing, a lack—whatever it is— Pasolini is saying (or his film shows), it is, and it exists and we all experience it, and that’s what unites us: that’s what makes us human.


The King of Kings

March 28, 2012

Demille’s 1927 film “The King of Kings” was a beautifully crafted
film filled with wonderful characters, dramatic sequences, and a wonderful
story. H.B. Warner who plays Jesus in the film does an incredible job of both
acting and looking like the part of Jesus. He portrays a strong character who
was well respected and envied, especially by Judas. Mary Magdalene is the lead
woman of the movie, portrayed as rich, feminine, and promiscuous. Considering
the time this movie was made and the context of the film, I was surprised at
Mary’s promiscuity. Judas’ character intrigued me the most. He was a jealous
character who betrays Jesus. A scene that stands out in my mind is one where
Jesus and Judas come across a woodworker making crosses. Jesus gazes at Judas
in an ominous stare, foreshadowing Judas’ betrayal and ultimate crucifixion of
Jesus. Within that one powerful stare lay a very intense moment of
foreshadowing that was depicted by both characters so well, especially Jesus.
Demille does a superb job in all aspects of the film, especially the casting of

David and Bathsheba

March 27, 2012

Both books of Samuel are about King David and his military achievements. However in chapter 11 of the second Samuel, there is a story about David’s affair with Bathsheba. This story in the Bible is definitely big screen material, because there is conflict and much plot. Henry King’s David and Bathsheba is the cinematic adaptation of the Old Testament story. King David, much beloved by his subjects and a war hero of long standing, falls victim to sins when he falls in “love” with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of David’s most trusted soldiers. His downfall begins when David sees Bathsheba bathing on the infamous rooftop, and immediately lusts her. David then orders Uriah into a suicidal battle, knowing that this will clear the way for his relationship with Bathsheba. His infatuation leads him to neglect his kingdom and his people. Only after his land has been devastated, does David offer atonement to god.

         The film is different in the biblical story in that it includes history of David’s accomplishments and previous marriage. The chapter in the bible immediately opens with Bathsheba’s lustful bathe on the rooftop. In the film, however, there is background given on David. This develops not only David’s character, but makes the screen play longer. If viewer was not very religious, I feel like they would still be interested in watching the film. The story of the film is very realistic and relatable in that it shows the weakness of man.

         In my opinion the film grasps the lust King David, which ultimately shows his flaws. The film shows that great Kings of our bible had many flaws, and when these are exposed it makes for a great movie. At the Academy Awards in 1952, the film was nominated four times. Some nominations included best writing story and screenplay, and best music scoring of a dramatic or comedy picture. 

The King of Kings

March 25, 2012

DeMille started the movie with the actors portraying lots of costumes and jewellery.  Mary Magdelene was beautifully adorned: clothes, makeup, hair and jewellery – she was a hit!  The camera showed her as the center of attention.  It was obvious that DeMille was trying to get the audience to focus on her as the main attraction for that scene.  Was that due to the fact that she was a courtesan?  If that’s the case he got my vote.  What I find interesting in that first scene also was that Mary Magdelene was the only woman sorrounded by tons of men.  DeMille sure had a tactful way of staging his scenes so graciously to bring his point across in a interesting and bold display and other times so well hidden that you had to be very perceptive to notice.   I was not prepared for such drama and flare being that it was 1927, but I was quick to recant my statement, knowing that DeMille was an outstanding director and producer.

The scene leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion was dramatic.   It’s composition of compassion bestowed by Jesus towards the people through teaching and healing was breathtaking.   I was overwhelmed by Jesus never ending action of patience and gentleness.  Judas betrayal of Jesus was unforgiveable, to which he paid with his life, this reminded me of Delilah’s betrayal towards Samson.  Another interesting scene was the temptation between Jesus and satan, it was such a ‘creepy’ and ‘comical’ moment.  I was really caught off guard,  satan appeared out of nowhere – that was good camera cinematography.  To add to the drama was the removal of the seven deadly sins cast out of Mary Magdelene by Jesus.  Mary’s energetic, proud and sassy personality that she had before she met Jesus was thoroughly diminshed to one of humbleness, fear and shame.  It was astonishing to see how DeMille staged the scene which showed Mary covering her semi clothed body completely after she was cleansed, not to mention the ‘ghostly’ and evil looking effect the sevens sins depicted.



Michael’s Questions on The King of Kings

March 23, 2012

1.How was Demille able to do the special effects with the sins shadowing over Mary?

These were done with “superimpositions” — multiple exposures of the actress playing Mary turned into one image in the film lab; the “demons” are there made translucent while Mary-in-the-flesh is opaque. 

2.Was it controversial to have Mary Magdalene very provacative and revealing with the way she dressed?

This was the “roaring Twenties,” when skirts were short and women showed skin. Clearly she is not a prim matron, though.

3.How did audiences feel about the potrayal of Mary Magdalene being angry at Jesus for stealing her man away from him?

The reviews I read, such as that from the New York Times, for April 24, 1927, were not totally pleased with this way of leading into the life of Jesus–they suggested that it was a very “Hollywood” touch.  The Times also did not like the violence, the graphic images of the Crucifixion, especially the lance the centurion thrusts into Jesus’ side. But as a whole the film pleased the reviewers very much. 

I don’t know what ordinary people thought, most ordinary people don’t leave records, but it was a very popular film down through the ages.  DeMille made his money back and then some, but he did not get rich from the film because he subsidized showings all over the world and gave the proceeds of the film rentals to charity.  It was definitely a labor of love for DeMille.

4.The opening sequence had a lot of sexual undertone did this cause any problems at the time? The movie does start out with her in a room with barely any clothes surrounded by men as an object for their pleasure.

As I said before, the norms for sex in films change, and historically films were more candid about sex and more revealing of the human body before 1934 and after 1964.  Between those dates the “Motion Picture Production Code” governed Hollywood, and the Hays Office enforced rules of decency that were sometimes ridiculous (e.g., married people were depicted as sleeping in twin beds; the word “virgin” was taboo).

Even so, producers would sometimes manage to get the words and images they wanted into their film by sending the Hays Office a version of their film with multiple violations of the rules.  They would then negotiate the removal of stuff they didn’t care about in order to get in what they wanted. 

The Hays Office was ignorant as well as prudish.  The original screenplay of “The Maltese Falcon” had a phrase in it, “the gooseberry lay,” of which the Hays Office was suspicious–but it refers to stealing sheets and other linens off clotheslines to sell them.  They missed the word “gunsel” in the script, which is applied by Sam Spade to the character Wilmer, because they thought it meant “gunman”; it actually means a young man who is the passive partner of a homosexual (it’s from the Yiddish word gaensl, meaning “little goose”).

King of Kings – Silence Is Golden

March 22, 2012

Cecil B. DeMille’s silent film King of Kings presents a depiction of the events that lead up to Jesus’ crucifixion. For a modern audience and even perhaps an audience at the time of its original release, one’s understanding of the plot heavily revolves around intertitles or title cards, actors’ and actresses’ over the top gestures and facial expressions, and the film score. The intertitles, as shown below, are used throughout the film.

They are either quotes from the Gospels, which often serve as transitions between scenes or provide dialogue between the characters.
The characters’ often exaggerated facial expressions and gestures assist in one’s understanding of the plot. As seen in the frame below, as Jesus defends a woman guilty of adultery, he identifies the seven deadly sins. A guilty passerby drops a stone intended for the woman and simply walks away. Similarly, the film score guides the audience’s perception of the scene as it dictates whether or not the scene will be glorious, magnificent, or suspenseful.
There were several instances of the film that I found particularly interesting. For instance, prior to meeting Jesus, Mary Magdalene appears carefree and wild. However, in the scenes where the seven sins residing in her begin to manifest themselves, she becomes more and more conflicted until at last Jesus cleanses her. The following is a still of the seven deadly sins as the are made visible for the audience.

As one of the final scenes of the film, Jesus is resurrected. To emphasize the importance of the scene, it was shot in Technicolor to depict Jesus’ revival as he emerges from his burial ground, casting an overwhelming light onto the Romans.

Moses Vs. The Prince of Egypt

March 22, 2012

Although, The Prince of Egypt was a very entertaining version of the scriptures it is not a hundred percent accurate to one particular religion. After doing some research and finding out about the movie, it seems as if DreamWorks production sought after and brought in different experts of different religions to which made the bible scripture different from that of the one inside the movie.

From the very beginning, which is one of the many changes but the one I will be focusing on, you see the difference, in the bible Moses was placed in the river among the reeds at the riverbank. In the movie however this is not the case. Moses who is pushed off into the river by his mother and is then given an exciting death defying water ride with huge waves in the Nile, dodging boats, alligators and fisherman’s nets. All though this is more exciting and entertaining for children, it is certainly not the case that this child in a basket endured all of these crazy challenges, Moses or not.

Another major difference was that in the movie pharaohs wife had found baby Moses, and not his daughter, this alteration makes Moses and Rameses brothers and rivals. In Scripture Pharaohs daughter found the child and disobeys the Pharaohs command to kill him. (Ex.2: 9) we find Moses sister asks to find a Hebrew to nurse him, she is given the ok and then brings his mother, in which Pharaohs daughter actually pays her to nurse. The part where Moses did not know he was Hebrew and had not seen his mother since she put him in the basket. In the Bible, Moses’ own mother nursed him for the first several years of his life, and was paid to do so by Pharaoh’s daughter.

Although not in the beginning of the movie a few differences that really stood out to me was that in the Bible, Moses kills the Egyptian overseer out of anger, but the movie glosses it over to make it look like an accident. Also in the movie, his brother Aaron resists him and doesn’t believe that God is with Moses. But in the Bible, Aaron assisted Moses and in fact God told Moses to take Aaron with him to speak for him.

Although I understand that some of the details in the true biblical story are not so appropriate for children taking out or altering the truth can change the meaning and significant parts of the movie are altered. It is an exciting and entertaining version of the story but it is not the same as the scripture.

Thoughts & Insight On King of Kings

March 19, 2012

I thought it was very interesting to see the special effects of the different sins coming out of Mary Magdalene especially for the era the film was released. When Mary first encounters Jesus in the room a gong like sound with a thumpping repetition occurs as she walks towards Jesus accompanying her mannerism and the way she crosses the room. She suddenly has a change of heart and the music shifts from disbelief and erriness as the deadly sins begin to come out. The sins are at the side of Mary and glow. I found the whole sequence eerie but compelling because of the sudden shift in the music such as when calm music plays when Mary finds the light and believes immediately.

I just had a few questions and thoughts:
1.How was Demille able to do the special effects with the sins shadowing over Mary?
2.Was it controversial to have Mary Magdalene very provacative and revealing with the way she dressed?
3.How did audiences feel about the potrayal of Mary Magdalene being angry at Jesus for stealing her man away from him?
4.The opening sequence had a lot of sexual undertone did this cause any problems at the time? The movie does start out with her in a room with barely any clothes surrounded by men as an object for their pleasure.

The King of Kings

March 18, 2012

With the silent film “The King of Kings”, DeMille had the task of trying to effectively convey the message he wanted because no dialogue whatsoever was used.

The film depicts the New Testament- the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  The movie is in black and white except for the end, which shows the Resurrection of Jesus in color.  I found one of the most interesting things about the movie to be its way of conveying what was happening in each scene by showing a quote from the bible on the screen that applied to what was presently going on.

For example, during the scene where Pontius Pilot is interrogating Jesus, no words are being said, but the audience knows what is going on because different quotes from the Bible will flash on the screen.

This tells the audience essentially what Pontius Pilot is saying to Jesus.  We also know that Jesus isn’t speaking back to Pontius Pilot because the quote from the Bible that was chosen to be shown.

Many quotes are taken from the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Without this, the film would be impossible to follow for someone who did not know what the New Testament was about.  They pretty much sustain the movie, and take the place of dialogue.

Another interesting aspect of “The King of Kings” is the end, the resurrection of Jesus.  This part was shot in color, which emphasized the fact that this scene was of great importance.  Also it emphasized the effect of Jesus’ resurrection.  The fact that it was in color symbolized that Jesus was the savior of all his people.  Going from black and white the whole film to color gave the audience the impression that the resurrection was something to be celebrated.

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

Skip to toolbar