Many books have been made into movies over the years, but by far the one book which has spawned the most movies has been the Bible. After all, parts of it have been described as The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). And yet, with such excellent source material, it’s no wonder so many films have been made in varying languages and varying formats (from TV miniseries to Hollywood blockbusters). Of course, those who are familiar with the book know that the Bible is split into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. While the New Testament movies generally focus on Jesus (there are a few about Revelations), the Old Testament-based movies have many figures and stories on which to base their plots. This week’s two films look at the most prominent stories from both Testaments.
The Ten Commandments
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 220 minutes / 3.67 hours
There are many epic stories in the Old Testament. Going down the list of events and people chronologically, we have Creation with Adam and Eve, the Flood and Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph (the last of which has one of the few musicals based on the Bible). Even though there are some films based on the Judges and Kings of Israel, one of the most famous stories from the Old Testament is that of Moses. In fact, this section of the Bible is where much of Judaism is based, and it is why Passover is celebrated annually. At its core, the exodus of the Israelites is a story of a group of underdogs who just happen to have the Creator of the universe on their side. And yet, even though the life of Moses has been made into many films, the one which did it the best was the Oscar-nominated, Cecil B. DeMille-directed, The Ten Commandments (1956).
The Exodus story is one that shows the great power of God while also showing how He can work through His people. To start off, Moses is saved from being killed as an infant when his mother places him in a basket and sends him down the Nile, where he’s picked up by Pharaoh’s daughter. After it’s revealed that Moses (Charlton Heston) is of Hebrew origin, he’s banished from the kingdom. While in the wilderness, he runs across God in the form of a burning bush, at which point he’s given the responsibility of rescuing the Israelites from the slavery and persecution of the Egyptians. Moses is used by God to perform miracles and plagues on the Egyptians, eventually causing the new Pharaoh (Yul Brynner) to let the Israelites go. However, when Pharaoh changes his mind, God has one last trick up his sleeve: parting the Red Sea. With the Egyptians vanquished and the Israelites saved, God gives His people the Ten Commandments.
The Passion of the Christ
Length: 127 minutes / 2.11 hours
Just like The Ten Commandments portrays one of the tenets of the Jewish faith, The Passion of the Christ is a portrayal of the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Since most of the New Testament is filled with letters from various people to various churches, the story of Jesus is the most-filmed section of the New Testament (with Revelation being a close second). Many of these films focus on Jesus’ life as a whole, from His birth through His ministry and ending with His death and resurrection. However, The Passion of the Christ (2004) focuses the majority of its time on the final days of Jesus’ life. The film has been criticized because of its violent portrayal of the torture leading up to the crucifixion, but director Mel Gibson wanted it to be extreme to show the immensity of Christ’s love even after such extreme pain and suffering.
The Passion of the Christ is a tight story that occurs over a short time-span and covers many things which are happening all at once. The film opens with the betrayal of Jesus (Jim Caviezel) by Judas Iscariot (Luca Lionello), who has just received his reward for handing Jesus over to the authorities. As Jesus is questioned by the Sanhedrin, Peter (Francesco DeVito) denies knowing Christ three times, thus fulfilling the prophecy against him. While Jesus is brought before the Roman leader, Pontius Pilate (Hristo Shopov), Judas Iscariot is overrun with guilt and goes out to a field to hang himself. After being passed back and forth from Pilate to Herod and back to Pilate, the Roman eventually washes his hands of the situation and sends Jesus to be crucified. Fortunately, even though Jesus dies on the cross, he doesn’t remain dead as shown by the last scene of the film.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Bible-based blockbusters