Cinema Paradiso | Sojourners

Cinema Paradiso

Passion Week is a popular time for Jesus movies. Unlike their cousin the "Christ-figure film," which portrays characters whose choices remind us of the gospel, Jesus movies tell Jesus' story. They offer us a particular representation and interpretation of what we know about first-century Palestine's history, Christian devotional traditions, cultural values about Jesus, and directorial imagination.

One of the interesting things about Jesus movies (quite a few have been made over the years) is that in the early days of film, Jesus' life was a favorite subject because it was full of miracles—including rising from the dead—which offered budding filmmakers the opportunity to innovate and develop special effects. How can a human actor appear to walk on water? How can that same actor appear to ascend into heaven?

Another feature of Jesus movies is the way directors use them as storytelling vehicles. Jesus at the Movies, by W. Barnes Tatum, and Savior on the Silver Screen, by Richard N. Stern, Clayton Jefford, and Guerric Debona, are two books that compare which movies use which gospel accounts.

This Eastertide, I find myself wondering why no one has made a film focusing on the story of Jesus post-crucifixion. After all, there is an entire liturgical season of 50 days dedicated to this part of his ministry on Earth. That's 10 more days than either Advent or Lent, and 50 is the number of the Jubilee, making it a number of "liberation and restitution."

Malinda Elizabeth Berry is a dissertation fellow at Goshen College, Goshen, Indiana.

April 1
The Story Made New
Isaiah 50:4-9; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 22:14 - 23:56

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Sojourners Magazine April 2007
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