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Peter T Chattaway

Mary Magdalene biopic

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There may be a new movie about Mary Magdalene next year.

Mary Magdalene has been portrayed in numerous Jesus films, of course, but certain films have made a particular point of highlighting the character, e.g.: Close to Jesus: Mary Magdalene (2000), Mary (2005), The Da Vinci Code (2006), Magdalena: Released from Shame (2007) and the once-in-development Magdalena. I also appreciated the way both The Bible (2013) and A.D. The Bible Continues (2015) avoided the "prostitute" business and extended the character's involvement in the early church into the book of Acts.

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Footage, or a trailer, has been shown at Cannes. Variety says the film has "Rooney Mara as an empowered version of Magdalene and Joaquin Phoenix as an ethereal Jesus." Curious to see if there will be any more-detailed descriptions of the footage.

 

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Looking forward to this portrait of Mary Magdalene –love Rooney Mara, not so keen on Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus. It will be interesting to see how the two women script writers (Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett)  show the relationship between Magdalene and Jesus, and her life after the resurrection…if they adopt the “golden legend” that has her traveling to France and living in a cave, or moving to Rome as a church leader, or something else.

Edited by phlox

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My thoughts on the trailer. Basically, I don't expect to *agree* with everything the film does, but I *like* a lot of what I see here.

P.S.: How many films have shown Jesus actually baptizing people? John 3 says he did, but John 4 says he didn't, and the other gospels never mention the subject -- though it seems a given that baptism must have played *some* role in the Jesus movement, given that the Jesus movement came after John the Baptist's movement and before the early Church, both of which definitely baptized followers.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Joel  Mayward wrote:
: Also, Wikipedia and IMDB currently give release dates of March 16 in the UK and March 30 in the US.

Yes, those have been the dates for a while. Plus Transmission Films is releasing the film in Australia on March 22, as per their website.

But Wikipedia *also* claims that Sony is releasing the film in the US -- which would be very odd, as Sony is also releasing Paul, Apostle of Christ just two days earlier, on March 28 -- and one of Sony's executives explicitly denied that the company was releasing Mary Magdalene in a statement that was sent to me. So I wouldn't trust Wikipedia on this point. As far as I know, the film's US release is still tied to the Weinstein Company, which means it is effectively in limbo.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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It looks like reading reviews of the film may be, for the US, as close to viewing it as we get. At least the narrative apparently succeeds in presenting Magdalene as a devoted and chaste apostle rather than a reformed prostitute.

I’m not surprised at the negative response to Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus – e.g. Stephen Dalton from the Hollywood Reporter:  “Phoenix… playing Jesus as a doubt-wracked mystic-stoner cult leader somewhere between Charles Manson and The Dude from The Big Lebowski”…Dalton also referred to Rooney Mara’s “blank presence and narrow range.” It does seem that as a pale Irishwoman she was not a great choice for a Hebrew woman from ancient times.

It sounds like most critics thought the actors for Peter and Judas were the best.

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My sister rolled her eyes when I showed her the trailer and it ended with Rooney Mara saying "I will be heard" in such a faint, breathy voice that you could barely hear it. The reviews seem to indicate that the whole film is kind of like that, which is a shame.

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I do plan on seeing this if it plays near me in Scotland. But who knows? Sounds like its distribution has been up in the air for awhile now.

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The North American distribution is up in the air because of all the Weinstein Company problems, but the UK distribution is being handled by Universal, and the film is set for release there on March 16. You should be able to see it.

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My review. I can understand the various criticisms--whitewashing, subtly anti-Jewish, dull and navel-gazing--but I found it quite moving and interesting, and I think Mara and Phoenix give better performances than people are giving credit. In a subgenre where melodramatic performances and big emotional speeches are the norm, seeing a Jesus film with quiet, contemplative (almost inert) performances really worked for me.

I don't get into the details in my review, but one scene really stood out for me: Jesus sends out the apostles on mission in pairs, and he places Peter with Mary. The film portrays Peter as fairly antagonistic towards Mary, almost like they're playing favorites to Jesus. As they enter a village in Samaria, they discover that its been ransacked and burned by the Romans, leaving people to starve and die. Peter wants to move on, as there's nothing they can do, and no one to really hear their message. But Mary stays and cares for the starving and dying, leaving Peter to remark later something like, "What mercy! What mercy!" It's an extra-biblical scene, but it also highlights the emphasis not just on the words of Christ's kingdom message, but the praxis of such mercy and justice.

To be clear about the humanistic/supernatural dynamic: Jesus does actually heal people miraculously, including raising one person from the dead (the scene plays out like the Lazarus story in some ways, but differs in key decisions), and there is a bodily resurrection--we see Jesus after he's come from the tomb, and he speaks with Mary. The film doesn't portray him post-resurrection with the other disciples however, so one could interpret this appearance in a non-literal way.

Edited by Joel Mayward

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Joel Mayward wrote:
: . . . we see Jesus after he's come from the tomb, and he speaks with Mary. The film doesn't portray him post-resurrection with the other disciples however, so one could interpret this appearance in a non-literal way.

So it's the opposite of Luke 24 and I Corinthians 15, which list all the men that Jesus appeared to but none of the women! (Aside from women who happened to be with the men when Jesus appeared to large groups, at any rate.)

(Matthew 28 has Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene and one other woman, before he appears to anyone else; John 20 has Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene by herself, before he appears to anyone else. (The short version of Mark 16 doesn't have Jesus appearing to *anybody*, and the long version of Mark 16 appears to have been cobbled together from the resurrection appearances in the *other* gospels.) One of the striking, indeed puzzling, things about Luke's gospel is that it shows much more interest in the *female* followers of Jesus -- it's the only one that tells us anything about Mary Magdalene *outside* of the Passion Week narratives (in Luke 8), for example -- and yet it's also the only gospel in which the resurrected Jesus appears to the men first, instead of appearing to the women first.)

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