The last few weeks have been extremely productive, and theCarbonFreeze is just a few posts away from reaching the 365 mark, which has always been a milestone I’ve been striving for. Ten months ago, I talked about some blog entries I would like to finish by the end of this year. I just wanted to confirm that half of them have already been posted and those which haven’t yet are still in the works–all except one. I can’t do an entry about Oh Yeah! Cartoons and the What a Cartoon! Show because both of them appear to be lost media. (Or at least, they’re completely inaccessible to me.) I couldn’t find episodes anywhere, so that idea is scrapped indefinitely. It’s a shame, because I think it’d be really nice to raise awareness of the best pilots that never got picked up as a series.
Besides all that, I had a quick idea I wanted to share about religious films.
If we accept that it’s okay to make up a modern Biblical canon of Gnostic and pre-Gnostic texts, why not extend the project to include new forms of media? Just because they did not have films in the third through fifth centuries when the orthodox Bible was being canonized, that doesn’t mean we can’t give reverence to the stories told in this medium we have now. What films, if any, should be considered divinely inspired and/or accurate to the spirit if not the details of scripture? I know many Christians who get invested in Biblical canon might find the whole endeavor blasphemous, but for the small sliver like me who like to be creative with their spirituality, I’m curious what you have to say.
I’ll confess upfront that I’m not really sure what to include, because as a Gnostic none of the Nag Hammadi texts I revere have ever been adapted for the screen. With the Aquarian Pantheist and Aquarian Gnostic literary canons, I tried to collect as many relevant texts as possible which sought to imbue readers with critical thinking skills. With a corresponding film canon, I would probably select a film to represent every emotion (Texas Chainsaw Massacre for fear, The Way We Were for sadness, Muppet Treasure Island for joy, etc.) and/or one that depicts every conceivable perspective of the human experience (I Dolci Inganni for a young woman, Godfather II for a powerful man, Vertigo for male/female dynamics, etc.)
However, I know that for most people, the idea of a religious canon without films that explicitly focus on Jesus and scripture would be a non-starter. So for this post I’d like to offer a more traditional list. I imagine, from an orthodox Christian perspective, at least a few contenders for a “movie canon” would have to be:
Jesus of Nazareth (1977) [Although I haven’t seen them, this then opens the door to include its predecessor and sequel, Moses the Lawgiver (1973) and AD (1985), respectively.]
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1966) [I gotta say though, I hate Biblical adaptations that call themselves this. It’s so presumptuous and egotistical.]
The King of Kings (1927) [There’s also the 1961 film of the same name.]
For better or worse, if it’s not the life of Jesus being adapted, it’s almost always the life of Moses when it comes to celluloid. You’d be hard pressed to find a depiction of Daniel, Job, Revelation or even Genesis from the silver screen despite how ingrained they are in the public consciousness. With that in mind, when it comes to Exodus narratives, we have several of high quality:
The Ten Commandments (1956) [There’s also the 1923 film of the same name by the same director.]
There’s a few movies I found which depict other Biblical characters, but I can’t personally vouch for their quality because I have never seen them:
The Story of Jacob and Joseph (1974)
Finally, there are “extra-Biblical” films which clearly intend to impart a Christian message and/or reverence for Christ onto the viewer, but choose to depict stories that were invented outside of scriptural tradition. They might contain minor Biblical characters like Barabbas or have the main character meet Jesus, but they are not adaptations of Bible stories.
Ben-Hur (1959) [Plus the original adaptation by the same name from 1925.]
The Robe (1953) [and the sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954).]
Barabbas (1961) [The idea for this movie was really exciting to me, but unfortunately Barabbas just becomes a gladiator in Rome, which is apparently all anyone did in Roman times who wasn’t the emperor, at least as far as Hollywood is concerned.]
The Silver Chalice (1954) [This is actually a terrible movie and a gross mischaracterization of even the Bible’s unflattering depiction of Simon Magus. Simon may have been a heretic as far as mainstream Christians were concerned, but he was no pagan and certainly no friend to the Romans.]
^That’s all I could think to include. If I’m missing any good Biblical or religious films you think should be included, please let me know.
I did see most of these films. but it has been such a long time ago so I can’t remember them well enough to have any thoughts about most of them. We did watch The Silver Chalice together recently and I must agree it is a very bad film. I am now reading the book the film was made from and find it surprisingly good. I have always liked the books by the author Thomas B Costain. We also watched Demetrious and the Gladiators which I still think is the best film about Gladiators. We also watched The Ten Commandments, I have seen both versions, one of the best Hollywood big spectacle epic films. I saw it as a kid and it made me think the Egyptians were really cool especially their New Kingdom chariot army which you know I have recreated with a war game army. Still like Ben Hur another big spectacle flick. But I think the chariot race in the original is more exciting, I read somewhere it was a real race with the stuntmen paid extra if they won. I remember seeing The Big Fisherman about Paul when I was a Kid, but don’t remember much about it. There is also The Bible 1966 that is just about Genesis and has an interesting view of the Noah’s arc story. If you are considering the religious message or spirituality of these films none seem to me to be strong in that area.
Cassandra, are there any films at all that reflect your Gnostic faith? That said, the list in this post (which regrettably I can’t add to, unless the various “Joan of Arc” films qualify) makes fascinating reading — I love your comment about “Barabbas”! (Pity about the “Cartoons”.)
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Not that I’m aware of, no. I’d like to change that one day.
On the subject of blog updates, hearty congrats on reaching 100 subscribers! 🙂