03 April 2011

The movie was not as good as the book

In my preparations for Easter I watched (almost all) three movie versions of the story:
King of Kings,
The Last Temptation of Christ,
and Passion of the Christ.
The comparison and contrast was fascinating, and after I looked up a few things which I found noteworthy.

The oldest of the three, King of Kings, is from 1961 and parts of it did not age well. The thing which sticks out the most is the sensibility of the movie; at no time while I was sitting there was I unaware that this was a presentation from 1960 Hollywood. The movie did not suck me into its false reality with suspension of my disbelief. The one thing which distinguishes it is the music. The score is by Miklos Rozsa, one of the best ever film score composers. I have this CD (not too bad) and in the liner notes they have comments by Rozsa. He did Ben Hur and King of Kings right after, and he comments that Ben Hur was the Jesus story without any of his speaking parts, and then Jesus' speaking parts are immediately picked up in King of Kings. King of Kings is, so to speak, one of the many supplemental discs for Ben Hur. The cover photograph on that CD illustrates one of my problems with the movie. It shows a still from the movie with King Herod and the queen and they are wearing really goofy costumes.

Omitting Ben Hur from my program may have been a blunder. I had always thought that Jesus was a minor character in this movie, but in looking at the program notes for the DVD they have a picture of the jacket from the original novel where it says in a plain English sub-title: a novel of The Christ. Easter isn't for a couple more weeks and so I may remedy this, but it is a very long movie. The thing I remember most from my last viewing is that Charlton Heston's abdomen closeups were as impressive as anything they have ever gotten out of Brad Pitt. That guy spent a lot of time in the gym.

The best of these three movies, for me, was The Last Temptation of Christ. No Rozsa score, but the Peter Gabriel score is not chopped liver. The thing which I really appreciated was the depth of seemingly all, even the most minor characters. The relationships between Judas and Jesus, John the Baptist and Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Jesus were all believable (for the two hours I was sitting there watching it) and very interesting. I do not know what Palestine in the zeroth century was really like, but the setting provided for this story was clearly like nothing I am familiar with from my everyday life. The contrast between this and the familiarity of King of Kings is large.

Then there is The Passion of the Christ. The beginning of the movie was great. They have the dialog in Aramaic with English sub-titles, which I thought was an interesting way to do it. I could not watch the movie to the end, however. When the Roman guards beat Jesus during his trial, it is just too gross. It is like those scenes at the end of Rocky where the beating is way more than a human could withstand, and still maintain conscious brain function. I watched Rocky all the way to the end, so I can stomach a lot. Passion is at least five times worse than that, perhaps much more. When the bloody gore got to the five Rockies level, I shut the DVD player off.

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About Craig

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Houston, Texas, United States
I have been living in the lovely neighborhood of Spring Branch in the great city of Houston since late in 2005. I started out with the idea of making this blog about my life in this neighborhood. That did not last long. Right now I am posting every five days on the alternating topics of literature, philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. This project has been ongoing since July 27, 2010 and I believe it will continue for at least a few more months.