The Gospel According to Matthew

May 20, 2012

In the opening scene where the viewer is introduced to the Virgin Mary, she is standing looking blankly into the camera in front of an arch way.  By positioning her in this spot, we get the sense that she is indeed Devine and cherished by God.  Also, while Mary stands there, we see Joseph walking away from her with no music or dialogue, only the sounds of nature.  The lack of background noise, just the birds chirping gives a dramatic feel and sets the tone for the rest of the film.

This is obviously not a big budget movie.  Little expense was spent on special effect to make the miracle scenes more real.  In a very simple way, the miracle is presented to the audience and then with a cut to another person or scenery, it goes back to the miracle at hand and it has occurred off camera.   This does not take away from the power of the miracles, in a way it adds to the mystery of Jesus’ powers and abilities.  The only miracle we see on screen occurring is when Jesus walks on water which was done very nicely to give the desired effect.  The only part where some kind of effects or special techniques had to be used was when Judas hung himself.  I am not quite sure how they accomplished this scene without hurting the actor.

Throughout the film, there are long stretches of dialogue where Jesus speaks directly into the camera.  By having this happen, it is as though Jesus is speaking directly to you, the viewer.  This can evoke a greater sense of connection to the story.  There is a part of the film (57:25) where Jesus is giving a speech as he stands at the edge of a building while his disciples are below him on steps.  This was a visual indication that Jesus is above all men and closer to God.  Another speech of Jesus’ which makes the viewer feel that they are there is when the camera is not simply focused on one specific aspect.  The camera is almost like a personal view of an audience member walking through the crowd to get closer to Jesus as he speaks.

A striking moment during the crucifixion scene is when I realized that there is no sound from the scene at hand, only music playing.  We do not hear cries from the Virgin Mary, anything the guards may be saying, the smack of the hammer as they nail Jesus to the cross- Nothing.  I feel that this relates to the fact that Jesus remains silent during his crucifixion, and the music, as well as the facial expressions of the witnesses, conveys all the emotion needed.

The Prince of Egypt

May 20, 2012

The film The Prince of Egypt opens with clouds blocking the sun than dispersing to allow the sun to shine through.  When looking at the graphics, I feel that this opening scene is a foreshadowing of the film.  It is the story of Moses and after the ‘darkness’ which will consume Egypt with the plagues and enslavement of the Jewish people, the light will finally prevail once Moses leads the Jews to freedom.

The song at the beginning of this animated film also evokes emotion from the viewer.  The song may be viewed as a little intense for an animated film, but it accurately portrays the life of an enslaved Jew.  The lyrics speak of feeling the whip on the skin and the sweat on the brow, which is also presented in the graphics.

24:35 into the film, animation with the hieroglyphics on the wall tells the story of Moses’ childhood and how he has become the Prince of Egypt.  Amazing visual effects are also seen at 34:55, the sand storm.  The ways the graphics are presented on the screen make it look so real and vivid.  At 44:10, we see Moses as he encounters the Burning Bush.  It is interesting to note that the voice of God coming from the bush is that of Val Kilmer who the voice of Moses in this film is also.  I believe that this was done because it gives God a sense of commonality with the ‘common’ man.  The way Moses hears God is through him so it stands to reason that the sound of Moses’ God would have the same voice as himself.

Later on, when Moses goes before Rameses (voiced by Ralph Fiennes) to tell him to let the Hebrews go, Moses has a stick and as he holds it up, it coils into a live snake.  The sorcerers Hotep, voiced by Steve Martin and Huy, voiced by Martin Short, laugh at his ‘tricks’ and tell him to pick up his stick.  At 55:45, after they say this, there is a shot of the snake on the ground and it hisses at the two sorcerers.  The way the snake hisses and after what has just been said, it almost makes me think that the snake is not simply hissing at them but that he is actually sticking his tongue out at the two.

Earlier in the film, we find out that the Pharoah ordered for the babies to be killed in Egypt which is why Moses’s mother put him in a basket and floated him down the river.  Because of these actions, the viewer thinks of the Pharoah as a horrible person.  Later, (1:11:50) we see Rameses telling Moses yet again that he will not let the Hebrews go.  At this point, Rameses points with a very certain stature to the way he stands.  In the screen shot, you can see the sculpture outside the window of this father and the two are standing the same way.  I feel that this makes the viewer realize that Rameses is becoming just as horrible as his father was.


The Last Temptation of Christ

May 20, 2012

Danielle Mitchell

The Last Temptation Of Christ

In the opening of this film, there are a lot of jump shots.  These jump shots covey an intense, unsettling feeling with the viewer, which are full of dramatic tones and suspense.  When we see Jesus in his home and Judas enters to find him building a crucifix there is great rage in Judas.  He says that Jesus is a ‘Jew killing Jews’ and how will he ‘pay for his sins?’  Jesus states ‘With my life.’ This foreshadows what will happen later in the film.  Jesus does pay with his life but rather than for his own sins, it is for the sins of the rest of the world.  The man for whom the crucifix was made is charged with multiple offenses but the most striking is for prophesying a messiah will come.  It is interesting that it is Jesus who builds a crucifix for a person accused of a crime such as this.

About 15 minutes into the film, Jesus enters the place where men pay for sex.  On the door there is a picture of coiled snakes.  The snake is associated with Satan and evil, does this mean that prostitution is a sin? A symbol of the sinning taking place behind closed doors?  When we encounter Jesus as he draws a circle on the floor of the desert to sit in and wait for God to speak to him, the screen suddenly goes black and when dim light comes back it is the temptation screen where Satan tempts Jesus.  The sudden darkness can be associated with the coming of Satan since he and evil are often represented as darkness.  Also, however simply the temptation scene is constructed, it was beautifully done.  It gets to the point of the temptation and without a lot of complicated events.  In this case, less is certainly more.

This script was beautifully written. Each word, phrase, speech has such purpose and conveys great amounts of emotion.  I am a big fan of Martin Scorsese’s work and Willem Dafoe is one of my favorite actors.  The two together, along with all the others, create such an amazing film I could hardly take notes while watching, all I wanted to do was focus on the film.

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