Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Tony Watkins

Movies and the OT prophets

Recommended Posts

OK, so it's my first time posting here in absolutely ages and I start back with asking for help. It's rather low, I know, but I still feel part of A&F even if I don't come here all that often anymore. Anyway, enough self-justifying preamble. . . .

Some of you know that one of my particular passions is the Old Testament prophets. I'm giving a lecture soon on 'the prophets go to the movies', which is looking at how the prophetic books relate to the world of film. I'm not primarily interested in times when films quote passages from the prophets (though as far as I can tell, that's quite rare so I am still interested in such times - Knowing is probably the most obvious example), but in how some of the themes within the prophets come up in movies. I have some examples already, of course, but I would really value the collective insights of my friends here to help me find more. And I think this might be a subject to make some A&Fers start salivating!

My guess is that there are a number of posts here which might cover one or other of them, but there's so much here that I find it hard to unearth such things (there's too much variation in wording to find good search terms). So although I've looked through dozens of threads, I've not unearthed much.

Some of the themes which might be worth thinking about, with just a few examples off the top of my head:

Idolatry - plenty of examples of this: success/money (e.g. Jerry on the phone in Jerry Maguire); independence (e.g. Clooney's 'no baggage' philosophy in Up in the Air); power (e.g. something in All the King's Men), etc. There's a great line in Elizabethtown: 'Success was the only god the entire world served.'

Injustice - Wilberforce confronted with slavery in Amazing Grace; something in Prince Caspian?; grasshoppers demanding more food in A Bug's Life; 'Fairness, justice and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives' in V for Vendetta;

Adultery/prostitution metaphor - Jude Law's infidelity in Breaking and Entering; Little Children; Closer

Judgment - Knowing, Deep Impact

And exile, apostacy, mercy, grace. remnant, hope, repentance, suffering servant, restoration, faith, faithlessness, etc.

So, ladies and gentlemen, any bright ideas? Many thanks in advance for your help!

Tony

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Idolatry - The Decalogue: Episode I

Injustice - The Decalogue: Episode V

Adultery - The Decalogue: Episodes III and IX

Judgment - The Decalogue: Episodes I and X

This is just off the top of my head. But basically, you want Old Testament themes brilliantly translated to modern day life by a great film-maker? Watch the Decalogue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you get a chance--and I'm not sure how well this would fit--Claude Chabrol's Ten Days' Wonder is a murder-mystery that revolves around a certain character breaking every one of the commandments. Not to toot my own horn, but I 'blogged it here.

Another kinda-generally OT prophet-obsessed movie is A Serious Man. In fact, if you're wanting to do "OT Prophets in Film" you would be remiss not to at least glance at this one IMHO.

That out of the way, here's some that come to mind:

Idolatry -Actually, I just watched The Masque of the Red Death, which deals with "Satanism" more than idolatry--but there's an idea there that worshiping Satan is really worshiping self. Or something. Might be worth looking at.

Citizen Kane, There Will be Blood, and (possibly--I've not seen it though I've read the play) Glengarry Glen Ross all deal with an idolatry of power/wealth/prestige.

Injustice - Good Night, and Good Luck

Judgment - Masque of the Red Death, again.

Apostasy, Grace, etc: Wise Blood

Grace, again: Black Snake Moan

I'm wanting to say you could find some OT themes in Tennessee Williams; particularly Suddenly, Last Summer and A Streetcar Named Desire--but I can't really drudge up the themes you would tie them to off the top of my head.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Idolatry - The Decalogue: Episode I

Injustice - The Decalogue: Episode V

Adultery - The Decalogue: Episodes III and IX

Judgment - The Decalogue: Episodes I and X

This is just off the top of my head. But basically, you want Old Testament themes brilliantly translated to modern day life by a great film-maker? Watch the Decalogue.

I have used ep. 1 for idolatry several times. Great suggestions about the others - I should have had all of them written down at the top of my list!

If you get a chance--and I'm not sure how well this would fit--Claude Chabrol's Ten Days' Wonder is a murder-mystery that revolves around a certain character breaking every one of the commandments. Not to toot my own horn, but I 'blogged it here.

I don't know it at all, I'm afraid. I must find it.

Another kinda-generally OT prophet-obsessed movie is A Serious Man. In fact, if you're wanting to do "OT Prophets in Film" you would be remiss not to at least glance at this one IMHO.

Good one. I tend to associate it with Job, but there's plenty of other resonances. I'll watch it again (any excuse!).

Idolatry . . .

Citizen Kane, There Will be Blood, and (possibly--I've not seen it though I've read the play) Glengarry Glen Ross all deal with an idolatry of power/wealth/prestige.

Of course! Should have had the first and last, but of these I only have TWBB on my list so far.

Injustice - Good Night, and Good Luck

Judgment - Masque of the Red Death, again.

Apostasy, Grace, etc: Wise Blood

Grace, again: Black Snake Moan

Excellent. I don't know Masque of the Red Death at all.

Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Camelot has a scene taken directly from Hosea: Arthur weighing the issue of Lance and Gwen, concluding (as does God in Hosea) "I am not a man."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Camelot has a scene taken directly from Hosea: Arthur weighing the issue of Lance and Gwen, concluding (as does God in Hosea) "I am not a man."

Oh wow! I don't think I've ever watched it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Camelot has a scene taken directly from Hosea: Arthur weighing the issue of Lance and Gwen, concluding (as does God in Hosea) "I am not a man."

Oh, nice one! Which reminds me--Man of La Mancha. Although, in that case Don Quixote isn't so much forgiving of Dulcinea as he is simply ignorant/delusional (in a nice way) about her profession. Still, there's a redemptive element in his refusal to see her as anything but the princess he believes her to be.

EDIT: I seem to recall that the novel version of Agatha Christie's One, Two, Buckle my Shoe ended on a particular quote of a particular prophet ("Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king"); I don't remember if the David Suchet adaptation uses the quote, though--which is a pity, really, because it's a good way to underline what's going on (if we were to file it, I would put it under "rebellion" and possibly "idolatry").

EDIT EDIT: No, it looks like the adaptation doesn't use the quote. But the movie still positions Poirot as a prophetic figure speaking against the rich and powerful--very much a theme in OT prophecy. It's much more generic, though, without the quote.

Edited by NBooth

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All his and no mention yet of Ezekiel and Pulp Fiction?

There's a version of Hosea called Oversold. There's something about it on my blog.

And then of course there's the scene in Life of Brian with the three apocalyptic prophets.

I think some of the westerns have quite a prophetic edge to them.

Not many actual Bible films though.

Matt

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Not many actual Bible films though.

Matt

Which is a real shame, considering the actual OT material is so much richer and better than a lot of the warrior/300-type/Conan-ish/LOTR rip-offs that try so hard.

Judges or Kings would be awesome.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I forgot about Jonah. There's the Veggie Tales version, but there are subtler references elsewhere, though mainly to big fish (Moby Dick, Jaws, Big Fish etc.) than any prophetic content. For all the Veggie Tales version's faults it does get the book's message.

Persona, there's something elsewhere on my blog about comparing Pulp Fiction and Judges.

And there's something prophety, albeit proto-apocalypticy, about The Birds.

Matt

Edited by MattPage

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
All his and no mention yet of Ezekiel and Pulp Fiction?

I'm primarily interested in the thematic interface rather than examples of [mis]quoting. But I'll copy and paste the relevant part of the list of biblical [mis]quotes in a moment.

I'll have a look for your posting about Oversold - it's a new one to me.

Certainly some westerns have a prophetic edge. Pale Rider is perhaps the most obvious example (and therefore Shane, too, I guess). There's a great chapter in Cinema Divinite comparing spaghetti westerns to Judges.

So, here's the prophets section of The Arts and Faith Scripture in Film Index:

Isaiah

Isaiah 40:15,17,23,28,29,31 � Chariots Of Fire (1981) � read from Bible with partial reference

Isaiah 53:5 - The Passion of the Christ (2004) - quoted on title card, w/ chapter reference

Isaiah 53:7 - The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) - quoted

Jeremiah

Lamentations

Ezekiel

Ezekiel 18:5,7-9,13 � The Merchant of Venice (2004) � quoted

Daniel

Hosea

Joel

Amos

Obadiah

Jonah

Micah

Nahum

Habakkuk

Zephaniah

Haggai

Zechariah

Malachi

Hmm. Not much is there? That's why I'm exploring the thematic connections.

Edited by Tony Watkins

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, I began to wonder the other day if Woody is one of the great screen prophets. In Toy Story, he proclaims Andy's commitment (hesed?) to the toys and calls the other toys to be faithful to him. He tells Buzz that he will find his truest identity in being what he was made to be - a toy, to be owned and enjoyed by Andy - rather than aspiring to something he's not.

Of course, in Toy Story 2, he slips into unfaithfulness when he thinks that going to the museum will be his highest fulfilment, and Buzz preaches the Andy-gospel back to Buzz.

There are similar ideas in 3.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes Pale rider was the one that came to mind, but it's been a while so...

Oh and I think Pulp Fiction links into the prophets more than just teh misquoting. There's stuff about seeing, reading and following the signs etc. in fact the misquote is an interpretative key as far as i'm concerned. The paths of Jackson, Willis and Travolta are kind of summed up in it.

Matt

Edited by MattPage

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another dimension of this is films/scenes which help people to grasp the importance of some of the basic concepts for the Israelites which are key to understanding the prophets. The idea of covenant, for example, is absolutely central to all that the prophets say (I'm primarily thinking of the writing prophets). But it's an alien idea for most people in western society now. Marriage is the one that people are familiar with, but that institution is no longer seen in covenantal terms by many of those entering into it, so it becomes something for a time, something disposable. Or irrelevant. So communicating the idea of covenant can be tricky.

There was a useful example in Kevin Macdonald's The Eagle, which begins to get people into the right kind of conceptual territory: Marcus's father gives him Esca to be his slave. Although Marcus stands for everything which Esca hates, nevertheless he solemnly binds himself to Marcus's service because Marcus saved his life the previous day. Having been saved, he has an obligation.

Another important concept is the land. What is there in film which reveals something of the emotional and symbolic tie to the land because it was the territory God had given them? The Na'avi in Avatar, I guess. Carl's attachment to his house is communicated very economically in Up - it's not just that he's an old man who doesn't want to move, but this house represented his and Ellie's hopes and dreams, as well as their life together.

Any other ideas on these areas?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...