Sunday, October 9, 2016

Life and Passion of Jesus Christ

La vie et la passion de Jesus Christ; silent drama short, France, 1903; D: Lucien Nongouet, Ferdinand Zecca, S: Madame Moreau, Monsieur Moreau

A chronology of the life of Jesus Christ, according to the Bible. His birth is announced by an angel to Mary, who flees with Joseph to escape the murder from Herod. As a grown up, Jesus returns to Nazareth and starts preaching his teachings about love and God. He performs miracles, such as walking on water, healing the sick and reviving Lazarus from the dead. He is arrested by the Roman guards and sentenced to death on the cross. However, he is resurrected and appears before his followers.

One of the first film adaptations of the life of Jesus Christ, "Life and Passion of the Christ" is an early example of cinema and should, congruently, be treated as such: it demonstrated rudimentary filmmaking, in a time when people where still unsure how to approach a film, when no rules were yet written - events are shot in one long, static take in wide angle, with no inter-titles for text-dialogue, and almost no inter-cutting to elaborate a sequence or to allow for close ups, ultimately making several episodes from Christ's life mundane and dry. Still, it has some enthusiastic charm, and some moments involving miracles are aesthetically pleasant or stylistically interesting (such as Jesus's configuration on the hill, achieved through a strong white illumination of his robe, or his ascension in front of his followers, with a stylistic "cloud circle" and yellow "rays" around him), which somewhat helps alleviate the dated feel of the film in the second, better half. As with most films from that time, there are no opening nor closing credits, whereas it was one of the groundbreaking films from that era thanks to its running time of 44 minutes, showing how the audience doesn't have only patience for short films.


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