jesus point-of-view shots
Posted 13 April 2004 - 12:58 AM
With that in mind, I plan to revisit a bunch of Jesus movies in the next few weeks, to see what use they made of POV shots, etc. But while I'm getting bogged down in the specifics of specifics shots in specific films, I am wondering if anyone can point me to a decent, larger, more abstract, more theoretical treatment of subjectivity vs. objectivity in film -- something that I can use to put my discussion of these films in a broader theoretical context.
Posted 14 April 2004 - 03:44 AM
Would you say that TPOTC was more from Jesus's POV than LTOC? Cos that will be the hardest thing to establish IMHO
Posted 14 April 2004 - 06:20 AM
: did you get hold of that film that was all from Jesus's POV?
Whoa, I can't believe I forgot about that! Thanks for the reminder!
: Would you say that TPOTC was more from Jesus's POV than LTOC? Cos
: that will be the hardest thing to establish IMHO
There's a lot of dialogue, both in voice-over and in conversation, that spells out what's going on in Jesus' mind in The Last Temptation, but I suspect The Passion relies more on the subjective visuals. Maybe. We shall see.
Posted 14 April 2004 - 06:43 AM
No probs. I tried to download it, but apparantly its not the whole thing on that website. So I figured I'd wait and see if you got hold of it, cos if you can't I've got no hope, whereas if you can then it might be worth a try.
One fiurther thing that crossed my mind was how many Jesus films use a POV at some point on Golgotha before Jesus is nailed to the cross? The obvious two shots would be when he first views Golgotha, or when he stares down at the cross he is about to be nailed to, but I suspect that you'll find most Jesus films after TKOK include at least one here.
Posted 18 April 2004 - 02:23 PM
I watched The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ (1905) and From the Manger to the Cross (1912) again this morning, and joy-of-joys, the fact that they are both somewhat plodding silent films meant I could watch this DVD in "FF 2x" mode and still make decent notes in half the time it would have taken to watch these films normally.
I wasn't expecting to discover anything especially new this time, since both films fall into that category of early silent films which consisted almost entirely of simple, theatrical, stage-like tableaux shots -- the camera stands still and sees the entire stage, as it were, while the actors move around within it. There is some interesting use of depth, as during the raising-Lazarus scene in Life and Passion where Jesus and the crowd appear in the distance and walk toward the front of the "scene", but the overall effect is still pretty stagey.
However, there are a few scattered exceptions. There are three panning shots in Life and Passion -- when the magi visit the stable, when the Holy Family enters its home in Nazareth, and when Jesus heals some people outdoors and then enters a house where he raises a dead girl (presumably Jairus's daughter) -- all of which involve activity moving from outdoors to indoors or vice versa. From the Manger also employs panning shots on two occasions -- when the three magi meet, and when observing the long line of followers who trail behind Jesus as he performs his healings.
As far as point-of-view is concerned, both films consist almost exclusively of wide shots, as I said. However, Life and Passion makes two startling deviations from this -- when it includes a medium insert of Christ with the words "Ecce Homo" around him, and when it includes a medium insert of St. Veronica holding the cloth with the image of his face, which she offers to one side of the screen, then the other, and then up in the direction of heaven.
There is nothing quite like that in From the Manger, but I was struck by this film's use of depth and the occasional positioning of the camera behind the backs of the screen's dominant characters. In Life and Passion, everybody tends to look at the screen pretty much -- even the flogging of Jesus is done in the awkward (and as far as I know unique) style of having him tied to the pillar with his BACK to the pillar and his FRONT to the camera, so that we can see him as the soldiers flog the FRONT part of his body. There are occasional exceptions, such as when the shepherds wake up and turn their backs to the camera, thus directing our attention to the angels in heaven above them, or when the disciples witness the Ascension and look away from the camera, directing our attention once again to the heavenly beings above them. But From the Manger is striking, I think, in the way it positions us behind people's backs to get us looking not at heavenly things but at things here on earth.
The two big examples I noticed are fairly early in the story. First, there is a shot of Joseph mulling over what to do with Mary now that she is pregnant. Joseph is standing in the foreground, and at first he is looking at the camera. He turns as he paces, and then he notices Mary in the not-too-far,-not-too-close distance, carrying a jug of water IIRC as she prepares to go through a doorway; Joseph pauses long enough to look at her, and we too take the opportunity to look at her, and then Mary exits the stage and Joseph turns around again to face the camera, and the shot ends with him pondering again.
Second, John the Baptist. The very first time we see him, the camera is positioned behind his back as he looks out over a town or village and puts his hands to his mouth, presumably calling on them to repent. This is followed by a shot of John addressing his followers -- and again, his back is to the camera, and he sees Jesus off in the distance (way, WAY off in the distance), and he points to Jesus and tells his followers to look over there, too.
So, some implicit point-of-view stuff in the Joseph and John the Baptist scenes. But are there any for Jesus himself? Perhaps. At one point Jesus sits on the Mount of Olives, which overlooks Jerusalem, and I think he puts his hand to his chin or something (must watch that more carefully again -- I actually didn't jot this one down in my notes, but it just occurred to me). The interesting thing here is that the camera is not BEHIND Jesus, IIRC, but, rather, catches him from the SIDE. So we're not QUITE identifying with his subjectivity as much as we were with Joseph and John the Baptist.
Posted 18 April 2004 - 06:44 PM
Isn't there a shot in From the Manger of the crucifixion with the camera behind the three crosses looking at the faces of the bystanders? Don't remember how close it comes to a Jesus POV shot but it's certainly an interesting composition and a quantum leap forward cinematically from anything in Life and Passion (though I still prefer that film overall).
Posted 01 May 2004 - 10:49 PM
However, I DID notice that there ARE a few shots of Jesus from behind that I somehow missed on my earlier viewing -- particularly in Gethsemane, where the camera is positioned behind him as he looks at his (sleeping) disciples. It is very reminiscent of the earlier scenes in which the camera was positioned behind Joseph (as he looked at Mary) and John the Baptist (as he looked at the town). Also, in another shot, IIRC as Jesus is either going to Calvary or arriving there, the camera is behind several women as they look at Jesus from afar.
I was also struck by the scenes where Jesus appears before Pilate. On at least two occasions, I think, Jesus actually stands with his BACK towards Pilate, so that both his face and Pilate's can be seen by the camera; meanwhile, in the distance, we can see a mob through a window. When Pilate gets up and goes towards the window, the film then cuts to a shot from the point of view of the back of the mob, looking towards Pilate's window -- and suddenly Jesus is standing with his face towards the window, the mob, and us! Continuity error, or conscious jump cut?
Anyway, on to other films. Thankfully it didn't take too long to skim through D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916), since the Jesus storyline is the least-developed of the four stories that run through this film. The closest thing we get to a point-of-view shot, I think, is the scene that follows the intertitle "Be As Harmless As Doves," where we see Jesus holding out his hand, and then we cut to a shot of some doves sitting outside the house which is hosting the wedding in Cana.
But for the most part, Griffith stands back from Jesus -- unlike the other storylines in Intolerance, which freely mix wide shots and medium shots and close-ups and whatnot, the shots in THIS storyline never come in close to Jesus, and they get progressively wider and wider, until the crucifixion is so far off that we can barely make it out on our TV screens. Early on, in connection with an intertitle reading "Scorned And Rejected By Men", we see two Pharisees looking at the offscreen Jesus, then we cut to a medium shot of Jesus, and then we cut back to the Pharisees as one of them pulls his shawl over his eyes. And that's about as close as the camera comes to Jesus. There is also another POV shot during the cast-the-first-stone scene, as a Pharisee looks at what Jesus has written in the sand, and we see some Hebrew letters from the Pharisee's point of view. But that's about it.
More later. I've got to go catch a movie with the woman.
Posted 03 May 2004 - 03:54 AM
Anyway, I ended up taking far more notes than I probably should have, but suffice to say there are plenty of sequences in which, for example, two characters are talking and the film alternates quite conventionally between shots of the two characters' faces but without really adopting a "point of view" as such. On SOME occasions, though, things get interesting -- especially when dealing with those characters who are closest to Jesus.
For example, the first time we see the adult Jesus, he has popped up out of nowhere and is standing in front of John the Baptist, who has just stood up after filling a gourd with water from the Jordan River. There is no dialogue in this baptism sequence, but there ARE two extreme close-ups of each character's eyes -- just their eyes. (We also see Jesus' eyes in extreme close-up during one of the healing scenes, but more on that below.) Later, when John is in prison, Jesus visits him and reaches through the bars to hold his hand, and we can see that Jesus is making an effort to reach John, an effort that is frustrated by the bars -- not a point-of-view shot, per se, but certainly one of the few scenes in this film that does not lend itself towards an objective "mystification" of Jesus.
Similarly, when Jesus visits Mary's home shortly before going to Jerusalem for the Passover, there is an odd sequence in which Mary seems to know more about the future than Jesus does. We start with a split-focus shot in which Mary's face is seen in tight close-up on the right while Jesus is seen in the distance, on the left, at the other end of the house or room. Jesus picks up some unfinished carpentry and says he'll take care of it when he returns. Mary says the item in question will never be mended (or completed, I didn't catch which). Cut to a reverse split-focus shot in which Jesus' face is seen in tight close-up on the left while Mary is off in the distance on the right. Jesus, as if caught off-guard by Mary's statement, flicks his eyes up towards the camera. He turns his head. Cut back to the earlier shot, with Mary in tight close-up as she turns to look at Jesus, who is looking back at her. Then, cut to a fairly wide shot showing both characters, full body, as they stand in the frame; in this shot, they take up an equal proportion of the screen. The heightened, portentous intimacy of Mary's prediction has passed, and the film now returns to a fairly "normal" look.
In other scenes, the camera comes in close on certain characters' faces as Jesus looks at them, but it never quite seems like we are seeing them from Jesus' point of view. I think of the rather tight close-up on Judas's face as Jesus leans over the table at the Last Supper and tells him to go betray him, and I think of the not-quite-so-tight close-up on Herod Antipas's face as he sits awkwardly in his throne, and tries to look away, after he calls Jesus a "faker" and Jesus' eyes flick up in his direction. On both occasions, the shots of Jesus are filmed from further back than the shots of Judas or Antipas -- the film retains a more objective, divine, mystical restraint in its portrayal of Jesus even as it closes in for the kill, as it were, on these other characters.
There is a similar effect, but with a very different impact, near the end, when Mary Magdalene beholds the resurrected Jesus; when the camera is behind Mary, it is off to the side somewhat, so we do not get the feeling that we are seeing Jesus the way Mary sees her; yet when Jesus turns around to look at her, we cut to a shot just behind his head, and it seems like we MIGHT be seeing Mary from HIS point of view ... but then, when we cut back to the wider shot which looks at Jesus' face, and then we cut back to the shot of Mary's face, Jesus steps away and Mary comes in even closer to the camera and says "he is risen" or words to that effect. So, the overall effect is NOT so much that we are seeing Mary as Jesus sees her, but rather, that we are getting a full, unimpeded view of her joy at the Resurrection, which she then tries to pass on to us, the viewers.
FWIW, I think the closest we get to a back-and-forth set of close-ups of roughly equal composition is when Peter denies Christ, and Christ, who has just been brought outside, stands just a few feet away from Peter and makes eye contact with him. Peter is still made to feel guilty and awkward, like Judas and Antipas, but the camera does not seem to be "closing in for the kill" in his case -- the camera is more forgiving, this time, which suggests that Jesus is too.
The biblical epics of the 1950s employed a number of tricks to avoid showing Jesus directly, and those tricks are still in full effect here. For example, the film sometimes seems to make a point of staying behind Jesus' head -- as Jesus roams through the crowds during the Sermon on the Mount, or when he appoints his twelve apostles.
Consider also the use of shadow. When Jesus heals the cripple, all we see at first is the shadow of Jesus' arm on the wall above the cripple; eventually, the arm itself comes down into the frame. Later, a blind man walks along a wall and stops when his cane taps the shadow of Jesus' face; the shadow of Jesus' hand then comes up and "touches" the man's face; the man turns his face to the side -- then CUT to an extreme close-up of Jesus' eyes (which are not looking at the camera, but a bit off to the side) -- then CUT back to the man's face, as we can see that the blind man's eyes are now healed; yes, we see Jesus' eyes in this case, but I would argue that the film needed to cut away to SOMEthing so that the actor playing the blind man could take the contact lenses out of his eyes, and indeed, the fact that we focus so tightly on just the eyes of Jesus, rather than his face as a whole, may itself tend more towards abstraction or mystification than towards subjectivization here. Jesus' shadow also appears over the adulterous woman as she huddles against a wall; it also rises up from behind John the Baptist when he is in prison, causing the Baptist to turn around and look at Jesus; and of course there is that famous shot at the end, as he casts a long, long shadow that intersects with the fishing net, forming a cross.
There are only a few shots that could be called straightforward POV shots from Jesus' point of view. Two occur during the Temptation in the desert: he beholds the kingdoms of the world, which are offered to him by an off-screen, voice-over Satan; and he beholds the canyons before him as the tempting comes to an end. Apart from that, I think the only other candidate is a relatively far-off low-angle shot of Pilate standing on a balcony (or some such thing), which is followed by a close-up shot of Jesus lying on his back, mid-way through his flogging, and apparently looking in Pilate's direction; I take it, then, that these two characters are watching each other.
There is also a striking shot with the camera mounted on the top of the cross, looking down at the top of Jesus' head, as the cross is raised up from the ground and placed in its designated hole in the ground. This is SORT of a Jesus POV shot, but not quite, not exactly.
I can think of two other elements in this film that tilt its portrayal of Jesus in a more subjective direction -- the tight close-up on Jesus' face as he looks heavenward and recites the Lord's Prayer, and the shot of St. Veronica wiping his face and then being shooed away by the soldiers, as Jesus, seemingly caught off guard by her action, follows her with his eyes. But there are probably other ways of reading those shots.
Some of the other characters also get some striking POV shots. Most striking, I think, is the shot from Salome's POV as she sits in Herod Antipas's throne and watches him stagger towards her, in the distance, as he begs her to take back her request for the head of John the Baptist; the cinematography really does belittle him. Elsewhere, the camera is placed on Peter's boat as he sails towards the pier where Andrew and Jesus are waiting for him. When John the Baptist leads a protest outside Herod's palace, Herod and Pilate look down from their balconies, and John looks up, and we see the two sides partly from the other sides' points of view. Immediately before John is beheaded, he looks at the prison bars through which Jesus tried to reach him earlier, and we get a POV shot of the bars and the sky beyond. And after setting Barabbas free, the Roman centurion Lucius stares through the prison bars and sees Jesus carrying his cross.
Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 03 May 2004 - 04:01 AM.
Posted 03 May 2004 - 12:22 PM
Posted 03 May 2004 - 01:29 PM
My main thesis concerns the increasing subjectivization of Christ in film, and how The Passion manages to balance objectivity and subjectivity, divinity and humanity, mystification and demystification, probably better than any other film to date, through its use of point-of-view shots and its flashback structure. So I'm watching the older films more just for background than anything else, at this point -- I might pour out hundreds, if not thousands, of words on the older films in my note-taking in this thread, but these films, all combined, will probably take up no more than a thousand words of my chapter at the end of the day.
Posted 03 May 2004 - 05:42 PM
So, on to the visuals. One thing this film does REPEATEDLY is alternate between virtually head-on shots of Jesus and not-so-head-on shots of the people he is speaking to. This happens when Jesus meets John the Baptist; when Jesus gathers his disciples; when Jesus speaks to the cripple he is about to heal; when Jesus speaks to the woman caught in adultery; when Jesus speaks to Mary and Martha before the resurrection of Lazarus; when Jesus speaks to the disciples at the Last Supper; and finally when Jesus ascends into heaven. In all of these sequences, Jesus looks virtually straight into the camera, while the camera looks at the other people from a point just off to the side; often, when the camera looks at Jesus, his face is alone in the frame, but when the camera looks back at the other people, we see Jesus (his back, his head) somewhere in the shot. So the film frequently gives us the DISCIPLES' point of view, but not so much JESUS' point of view. We are encouraged to identify with the disciples, but not Jesus.
Which is not to say that Jesus NEVER has a point of view. But his POV shots are pretty much never of individual people. There is a POV shot during the Temptation, as Jesus looks down into the valley where the Devil has told him to jump. There is an interesting bit where Jesus and his disciples look at Jerusalem, which is off-screen, and as Jesus recites that "How I have longed to gather you..." speech (which is a natural for subjective interpretation, since it refers to Jesus' own personal desires), the image of Jesus and the disciples looking towards the left side of the screen is overlapped by a presumably POV image of Jerusalem. Later, as Jesus and the disciples approach another city, they pause and look, and the film DISSOLVES to a wide shot of Capernaum, which is followed by a CUT to a shot of Jesus and the disciples arriving at the city; the editing is a bit ambivalent, since the transition from a shot of a man looking at something far-off to a far-off shot of a city would normally seem to imply that the man is looking at that city, yet the grammar of cuts and dissolves would seem to suggest that Jesus was not looking at that city at the same time that we are, so we're not REALLY observing the same activity that Jesus is, and it's not REALLY a POV shot, is it? There is also a sequence in which Jesus sits in a synagogue and the camera alternates between profile shots in which he and other Jews look to the left of the screen, and shots in which we seem to be seeing the rest of the assembly from his POV, with people lined up against three walls and looking in the general direction of the camera.
Things get a little more interesting during the Stations of the Cross. As Jesus starts out, we see his face in close-up as he looks up; then we cut to a shot of people looking down on him from a platform of some sort, and we might assume that we are seeing what Jesus sees -- but wait, THEN we see the cross entering the frame from the right; so, okay, THIS is NOT a POV shot. Later, though, Jesus addresses the mourning women of Jerusalem -- and in one shot, the camera roves over their faces, which could very well be intended to convey Jesus' POV. Later again, Simon of Cyrene steps up to carry the cross for Jesus, who has fallen to the ground, and when the two of them exchange looks, it is now SIMON whose face is alone in the frame (in a low-angle shot), while JESUS who shares the frame with the back of Simon's head (in a high-angle shot); this is followed by a shot in which Jesus grasps Simon's arm or leg or something as Simon lifts the cross. Finally, we see the gates of Jerusalem open up and reveal Golgotha outside, and the shot may reflect Simon's POV as much as it reflects Jesus' POV (indeed, given the angle of the camera with respect to the Roman soldiers in the foreground, I think it could easily be argued that this is Simon's POV, since Simon is standing taller than Jesus at this point). However, once Jesus is actually crucified, we are back to the old dynamic of seeing him at more direct angles than we see the people on the ground.
One thing I should mention here is that, despite the relative lack of shots from Jesus' POV, the film DOES seem to suggest that Jesus came into this world to BEHOLD things. When Mary and Joseph return to Judea and pass by the miles and miles of crosses, the film cuts to a shot of the toddler Jesus' face, his eyes very alert. Not long after, the film shows the adult Jesus standing in the shadows, lurking near a city street, his face hidden from view; then the film CUTS to a series of shots depicting the grimey streets of Jerusalem, people being branded and put into slavery, and finally, sacrifices being offered at the Temple -- is Jesus OBSERVING these things, before he embarks on his mission? (This sequence ends with an aerial shot of the city and the voice of John the Baptist, which is then followed by other aerial shots that race to the River Jordan, which is where we finally get to see the face of the adult Jesus himself.)
There ARE hints of demystification in this film, mostly involving those moments where Max von Sydow gets to express Jesus' more emotional side -- most notably, of course, just before the raising of Lazarus, when we see Jesus' face in close-up from the sisters' POV and he says, "I am the Resurrection ... Do you believe this, Martha? Do you believe this, Mary?" In this moment, as Jesus is on the verge of shedding a tear, we can feel that he really, really wants the women to believe him. There is some emotion in the Gethsemane scene, too, but here, Jesus' face is shot from an angle, almost in profile, so we are not allowed the same sort of direct, face-to-face contact with him. My favorite is the scene where James the Lesser joins the disciples and asks what Jesus' name is; when Jesus tells him, James replies, "That's a good name." In return, Jesus gives him a warm, robust smile and says, "Thank you!" Something about that exchange -- and the notion of God THANKING anyone for anything -- just gives me a thrill.
Not much else to say about this one. The only other major note I made about Stevens's use of the camera concerns the way his camera moves through the crowd at Lazarus's resurrection, as members of that crowd run in excitement to share the news of this miracle. For the most part, this film identifies solidly with the followers of Christ, and not so much with Christ himself -- with just a few exceptions, Jesus remains somewhat aloof, mystified, inscrutable, objective, etc.
Posted 04 May 2004 - 01:45 AM
Plus, of course, there is the film's interesting blend of animation styles. The film consists of stop-motion puppetry for the most part, but every now and then it switches to hand-drawn animation -- and, seeing this film again for the first time in quite a while, it struck me that the switch from stop-motion puppets to hand-drawn animation always signifies a switch from OBJECTIVITY to (INTER)SUBJECTIVITY. And that, of course, plugs into the chapter I'm writing quite handily. Basically, all hand-drawn sequences fall into one of the following three categories:
Parables and stories. The wise man builds his house on the rock but the foolish man builds his house on the sand. A man carrying a bundle of logs tells someone to take the speck out of his eye, and trips himself. The Good Samaritan.
Flashbacks and memories. Jesus' remark that he must do his "Father's work" prompts Mary to recall how she looked for Jesus in the Temple when he was 12. As Mary strokes the sleeping Jesus' hair, she flashes back to the Nativity. A hand-drawn person uttering the words "Anybody who follows Jesus is an enemy of God" hovers over the stop-motion-puppet Jairus (this particular use of hand-drawn animation for memories is rather striking, since the person in the hand-drawn memory was seen just a few scenes before as a stop-motion puppet). A spy reports the raising of Lazarus to the high priests. As the stop-motion-puppet adult Jesus enters the Temple, he flashes back to his hand-drawn 12-year-old self, before reverting to his adult-puppet self (the implication apparently being that the boy Jesus was filled with wonder at the Temple, but the adult Jesus is now offended, possibly even shocked, by the presence of the money lenders). Jairus and Cleopas tell the Twelve about their experiences on the Road to Emmaus.
Temptations and possessions. The entire Temptation sequence after Jesus' baptism is hand-drawn: we see the desert from Jesus' POV as it morphs from a 3-D set to a 2-D backdrop; we see bread levitating out of a stone from Jesus' POV; Satan tempts Jesus with armies and acclaim; Jesus' face overlaps an image of a crowd urging him to jump from the Temple; the film reverts to stop-motion puppets when Jesus finally shouts, "You shall not put your God to the test!" Judas imagines people rising up under the military leadership of Jesus. Mary Magdalene sees hand-drawn demonic faces on the stop-motion-puppet Romans (eerily reminiscent of Judas and the children in The Passion, no?). Later, we see the streets, and Jesus himself, from Mary Magdalene's demon-possessed POV; when Jesus casts the demons out, the film moves through a few increasingly naturalistic hand-drawn animation styles until it finally reverts to stop-motion puppets. Judas imagines an uprising again during the Triumphal Entry. The Gethsemane sequence turns to hand-drawn animation, just in time for the re-arrival of Satan; the sequence reverts to puppets after Jesus finally turns to God and shouts, "Your will be done!"
Perhaps the most unusual use of hand-drawn animation combines features of the second and third categories. Judas, disappointed when Jesus says "Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar", is a stop-motion puppet; then we cut to a hand-drawn image of him overhearing people plotting the death of Jesus (a temptation, perhaps?); then we move to a flashback in which Jesus predicts his death. Then Judas becomes a stop-motion puppet again, and he passes a prison window through which he is spotted by his revolutionary colleague Barabbas; suddenly Judas' thoughts are hand-drawn again, as he imagines being crucified for his connection to Barabbas, then imagines living a life of luxury if he hands Jesus over to the authorities. Then he is a puppet again when he goes to offer his services to the conspirators he overheard.
So, broadly speaking, hand-drawn animation in this film always signifies a state of mind or a product of the imagination. And sometimes the mind whose state we observe happens to be the mind of Jesus.
As for point-of-view shots, I noted a few above during the Temptation sequence. We also get a shot from Jesus' POV as he arrives at the River Jordan and watches Herod's spies or soldiers ride away on horseback -- perhaps Jesus is arriving for his baptism knowing that John won't last very long. The first time Jesus meets Mary Magdalene, SHE is portrayed alone in the frame while HE shares the frame with the men he is chastising for their treatment of her (quite the contrast to George Stevens's approach!). The alternating close-ups as Jesus calls Matthew to be his disciple could be POV shots; ditto the alternating close-ups of Jesus and the woman who is cured by touching the hem of his garment.
Jesus is "demystified" to a degree in other ways too, notably through the emotion that comes through in the script and in Ralph Fiennes' vocal performance. The Temptation and Gethsemane sequences mentioned above loom large here, but there are other relevant scenes, too. For example, consider the scene after Jesus hears about the death of John the Baptist -- the way Jesus lies face-down on the ground, weeps, looks up at heaven, looks back down at the ground, etc. Also consider the way Jesus responds when he hears that Lazarus is very sick, speaking his name as though he hadn't expected to hear that bit of bad news; and consider the teasing way he appoints the Twelve ("An-droooo"). Most interestingly, for me, consider also the scene where Jesus has just caused a ruckus in the Temple, and the soldiers have mobilized, and a man yells "Teacher!" and Jesus, knowing they wish to set a trap for him, groans and rolls his eyes.
Other people get POV shots, too, most notably Jairus's daughter, who observes the construction crews in general (and Jesus in particular) when she enters the city, then observes Jesus again when leaving the city, then observes Jesus teaching a crowd several scenes later, and finally notices the holes in his wrists when he comes in for supper after coming to Emmaus with her father. Jairus also gets a jostling POV shot as he pushes through the crowd to get Jesus' attention, and the woman who is healed by touching Jesus' garment gets a POV shot of his robe just before she reaches out to touch it. Finally, when Mary Magdalene turns her head to see the resurrected Christ, her POV is blurry at first but comes into focus. Plus, the film ends with Jesus looking straight into the camera when he says he will be with his followers even unto the end of the world -- no particular character's POV is implied, but rather, Jesus is looking BEYOND the movie and straight at US.
Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 04 May 2004 - 01:57 AM.
Posted 04 May 2004 - 02:40 AM
|QUOTE (MattPage @ Apr 14 2004, 12:43 AM)|
|did you get hold of that film that was all from Jesus's POV?|
Say more about this one? Title?
Posted 04 May 2004 - 10:38 AM
: MattPage wrote:
: : did you get hold of that film that was all from Jesus's POV?
: Say more about this one? Title?
Matt's referring to Lance Tracy's The Cross, which had a short thread of its own here. Come to think of it, maybe I should have posted all these comments over on that thread instead of starting a new one. Maybe. Ah well.
And no, I haven't really tried to get hold of that film yet -- for one thing, it doesn't seem to be available on video: there is no video link at IMDB, it doesn't come up at Amazon.com, and the ICOC web page has a short promotional video clip but no links for actually ordering the film or anything like that.
Posted 08 May 2004 - 03:23 PM
I knew I had to reference Pasolini's film because it begins with one of the most unusual uses of point-of-view, or something very much like it, in this genre -- specifically, it starts with a close-up of Mary's face, a close-up of Joseph's, a close-up of Mary's as she casts her eyes downward, a close-up of Joseph's face again, and then a shot of Mary's full body -- and a body that is full with child, at that. In essence, we see Mary as Joseph sees her at this point -- as someone who bears the social stigma of being pregnant and unwed. Joseph then goes off to think about this, and we get a shot from Mary's POV as she watches Joseph walk off. Then, after a shot of the back of Joseph's head, we get a shot from Joseph's POV as he observes some children playing happily -- a cruel reminder, perhaps, of the innocence and social acceptance with which children OUGHT to be associated -- after which we get a head-and-shoulders shot of Joseph kneeling down, followed not long after by a POV shot of the angel who speaks to Joseph. When Joseph returns to Mary, we see him enter the courtyard more-or-less from her POV, and they exchange smiles. The shame of those opening shots has been overcome. A fantastic, fantastic opening sequence that uses very little dialogue and draws us into the minds of both characters with cinematic ease.
The most blatant use of POV comes during the trials near the end. We see Peter's POV of soldiers walking up the steps outside Jerusalem, before he trails along at a safe distance behind them, and we see Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin from Peter's POV as he stands behind the front row of spectators. (As Peter leaves, we also get a travelling POV shot of one of his accusers as he passes by the accuser.) Later, and more intensely, there are at least four very tight close-ups on the apostle John's eyes, inter-cut with POV shots of Jesus appearing before Pilate, and Pilate giving the crowd a choice between Barabbas and Jesus; these are followed by even more tight close-ups on John's eyes as Jesus is beaten. (It just occurs to me that it may be somewhat curious that the apostle MATTHEW never gets any serious perspective time, given that the film is named after him and all.)
Pasolini's film is full of close-ups and alternating shots of people's faces as they converse, so there's no real point in cataloguing them all here. But his use of these sorts of shots, in contrast to the more tableaux-like images of earlier films, is certainly revolutionary for this genre. Interestingly, despite this, Pasolini never really challenges the "mystification" and basically objective portrayal of Jesus that we see in the earlier Hollywood films. His Jesus is more aggressive, yes; his Jesus raises his voice more, yes; his Jesus even sheds a tear when he hears that John the Baptist has died, yes; but there is little in his film that could be considered a subjective interpretation of Christ, per se. Instead, Pasolini preserves an aura of divine mystery around Jesus.
For example, in the sequence where the angel warns Joseph to take the Holy Family out of Bethlehem and into Egypt, we see Mary and Joseph sleeping, then we cut to a close-up of the baby Jesus and we see that his eyes are open, then we cut to the angel in the doorway, and then we cut to Joseph's face just as his eyes open -- so it seems the baby Jesus was ahead of Joseph in his awareness of the angel's presence. Not long afterwards, there is a rather long shot from Joseph's POV as he watches the toddler Jesus approaching him -- Jesus is something to BEHOLD, here. The adult Jesus is sometimes shot from behind, e.g. as the disciples walk behind him and try to keep up with him as he utters his various teachings and occasionally turns around to look at them. Jesus is sometimes beheld from afar, as when we see Jesus from the disciples' POV as he walks on the water in the distance, and during the "Woe to you!" passages, as the camera lurks at the back of the crowd. So in all of this, Jesus remains someone Out There, rather than a character with whom we are encouraged to identify.
Nevertheless, there ARE some interesting Jesus POV shots, even if they don't break much new ground. We see the sky from his POV as he prays in the desert, prior to his temptation, and I believe we also get POV shots during the second and third temptations. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus passes some farmhands and says "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" and I believe we get travelling POV shots of both Jesus and the farmhands looking over their shoulders at each other. We also get a Jesus POV shot as he speaks to the crowd while watching John the Baptist's messengers leave; this is followed shortly afterward by another POV shot that roves over the crowd by the sea. And finally, as Jesus walks off after delivering his "Woe to you!" speech, he pauses and looks off to the side, and we cut to a POV of the city, and then we cut back to Jesus as he prophecies that not one stone will be left standing. Is he looking at the city with regret? Is he looking at it in an accusing manner? How do WE look at it when we see it from his point of view?
Beyond that, just a couple other examples leapt out at me. We actually get a shot from the angel's POV as she turns her head and looks over the horizon, thus redirecting the wise men. We also get a shot from John the Baptist's POV as he utters his "brood of vipers!" line while watching the priests walk up the hill opposite him. And there is a particularly shaky close-up of Jesus' face as he is on the cross that I suspect is supposed to represent the POV of Mary.
Posted 04 June 2004 - 11:06 AM
So I spent my day reacquainting myself with this mini-series, and I have to say -- yikes, this thing was MEANT to be spread out over three nights, with commercial breaks. FWIW, I remember watching this film repeatedly when I was a child, and I found I remembered it very well -- many, many bits of dialogue and even some images remain impressed forever on my memory from way back then. (It doesn't hurt that I occasionally listen to the soundtrack CD, too. I love hearing Maurice Jarre's music play over the wise men's caravans -- it takes me back to Lawrence of Arabia. So, for that matter, does seeing Anthony Quinn play Caiaphas.) It was also amusing to see how my growing consciousness of things non-Protestant has affected the way I view films like this -- when I was a kid, I always wondered why the filmmakers had named Mary's mother after the prophetess Anna (who was the only Anna of whom I knew), but now, having spent over a year attending an Orthodox church, where the liturgy always ends with a reference to the holy ancestors of God, I find myself itching to hear someone mention the name of Mary's father Joachim, who is deceased before the film begins.
Anyway, I took fairly extensive notes, but don't know how much of that I want to get into now. Zefferilli was filming for TV, so, like Pasolini, he eschews tableau-like wide shots in favour of close-ups and medium shots for the most part. I can definitely see what Lloyd Baugh meant when he said the film "thoroughly banalized" the gospel story and pre-digested it so its viewers wouldn't have to do all that much processing of the material; Zeffirelli alternates uneasily between a sort of everyday naturalism and a sort of stagey theatricality. The clearest contrast between these two techniques comes, I think, in the Nativity sequence: Mary grunts and groans as she gives birth, and as I watched this, it struck me that this was probably the first film to show Mary GOING INTO LABOUR; but then, right after this, some shepherds show up and begin portentously describing their encounter with the angels, and as they do so, they talk a little like the comic-book versions of Huey, Dewey and Louie -- one person starts a sentence and then lets someone else continue it, that sort of thing. There's a fair bit of that tell-don't-show thing in this film. Other evidence supporting Baugh's thesis would include the many scenes in which the soundscape is full of all sorts of meaningless background chatter, and the frequent scenes in which people quote scripture, often to no one in particular, etc. The whole thing is, as Zeffirelli himself said, "rigorously didactic."
And at the heart of all this is Robert Powell as Jesus -- and although I forget who said it first, I think there is definitely something to the argument that this film, and Powell's performance in particular, are tapping into the residual counter-culturalism of the mid-'70s and re-directing it away from the arena of politics and into something more "spiritual" and otherworldly. Powell's got the John Lennon hair that lets him fit in with the "hippie Jesus" portrayals of that era, but his Oxbridge accent lets him speak with Shakespearean authority, and his blue, blue eyes become the focus of Zeffirelli's resolutely mystical, "objective" portrayal of Christ.
There are moments in this film when Zeffirelli hints at something subjective in his portrayal of Jesus, but in nearly every case, the subjectivity of the moment is overwhelmed by its objective significance. For example, when Judas asks if he can be one of Jesus' disciples, Jesus buries his face in his hands for a moment, and we MIGHT think the emotion of that moment reflects his subjective humanity to some degree, but the REAL point of that scene is to suggest the divine omniscience of Jesus, i.e. the fact that he knows exactly what role Judas will play in his Passion some months or years down the road.
To cite another example, when Jesus goes to the party at Matthew's house, and Matthew's guests ask Jesus to speak, Jesus looks towards the camera -- cut to a shot of the side of the face of Peter, who hates Matthew and has just arrived at the party somewhat reluctantly -- cut back to Jesus' face as he looks up at the guests near him and says, "I'd like to tell you a story!" Jesus then stands up and tells the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and as he nears its climax ("Your brother was lost, and now is found; dead, and now he has risen," etc.), he approaches the camera -- cut to Peter's face -- cut to Jesus, who then turns his head to the side -- cut to a shot of Matthew standing up -- cut to Jesus -- cut to Peter -- cut to a wider shot of Peter -- cut to Jesus -- cut to Peter saying, "Forgive me, Master..." In other words, whatever subjectivity we MIGHT have been privy to, in terms of Jesus being motivated to tell this parable by his sighting of Peter, has been overwhelmed by the objectivity with which Jesus is depicted as he turns his mystical gaze upon Peter (and the viewer) and implores him (and us) to be reconciled to the sinners in his (and our) midst.
No time to go into the rest of the film in-depth. But I'll just list some of the more interesting shots and sequences here:
-- There are several sequences in which we see what appears to be a POV shot, then we cut back to the person whose POV we thought we were experiencing, and then, as that person walks away, we cut back to the POV shot ... except it's not a POV shot any more, it's just a wide shot that the person is now walking through. This happens when Anna casts her eyes over the village while talking to Joseph about the impending wedding, and it happens when Mary leaves her home to go with the other women to her betrothal ceremony, etc.
-- Spinning POV shot as Mary rolls out of bed and stares at the light coming in through her window. This is followed by a few POV shots as Anna tries to get a look at who or what Mary is talking to.
-- POV as Mary watches the pregnant Elizabeth come downstairs.
-- Joseph's nightmare sequence as he imagines Mary being stoned to death for being pregnant out of wedlock. (Question: why do we hear the voice that Joseph hears, when all we got of Mary's experience with the angel was a shaft of light?)
-- The wise men, Herod the Great, and various Bethlehemites all got POV shots of the star.
-- The first Jesus POV shots come when he is, like, three or four years old. Joseph has just told some children that "a ladder can sometimes reach from Earth to Heaven," so Jesus toddles off to a nearby ladder, LOOKS UP at the sky beyond the ladder, then climbs it and LOOKS AROUND at the land. Joseph gets a POV shot during this sequence too, as he momentarily panicks at the sight of his son being in such a dangerous spot. (Incidentally, this has always been one of my favorite sequences in this film, and I found a slight lump in my throat as I watched it again this time, too.)
-- Tight close-ups on the 12-year-old Jesus' face as the rabbi speaks at his bar mitzvah, and as a Zealot asks "How long must we wait O Lord for you to help us?"
-- Jesus gets POV shots up the steps of the man with the shofar and of the smoke rising through the roof as he enters the Temple for the first time; the smoke shot is almost exactly duplicated near the end of the film, when Jesus casts out the moneychangers and then pauses, staring up at the ceiling and more or less ignoring Zerah for the first minute or so as Zerah approaches him. What do we get from these nearly identical POV shots from the opposite ends of Jesus' life? Has his childhood wonder been replaced by something more critical? Is there a purity to his faith that he is trying to reclaim? Does he still find God there at the Temple, despite the presence of the moneychangers outside? Etc. (Incidentally, the implicit flashback here is made explicit in the animated film The Miracle Maker.)
-- Our first glimpse of the adult Jesus is SORT of from John the Baptist's point of view, but not really; at this point, the film alternates between head-on shots of John's face and very-low-angle shots of Jesus' face -- that is, the film literally LOOKS UP at Jesus at this point, which clearly John the Baptist cannot be doing since he is not squatting beneath Jesus but is standing across the river from him. John later gets POV shots of Jesus leaving, and of Herod's soldiers arriving.
-- The shadow of Jesus' hand falls across the person he exorcises, a la Nicholas Ray's film.
-- The camera is on Peter's boat as Peter spontaneously decides to follow Jesus and pushes his boat back into the water, telling his servant, "Take her away! Back to Capernaum!" This, too, echoes a similar shot from Peter's boat in Nicholas Ray's film.
-- Herod Antipas and Herodias get a number of POV shots of each other and of Herodias's daughter Salome. The Salome dance sequence in this film is probably the best of any that I have seen, partly because, the further and further it gets into the dance, the less and less we actually see of Salome dancing -- instead, we get some very tight close-ups, some acceleration in the music, and lots of faster and faster cuts. The important thing, in other words, is not the objective fact of her dancing, but the subjective frenzy into which Antipas and others have been whipped. In fact, you might say that the tight close-ups on Salome's face give power to HER gaze, as it is perceived by Antipas, just as the tight close-ups on Jesus' face give power to HIS gaze. Again, though, the heightened subjectivity is awkwardly followed by a sort of objective literalness, as Antipas says to Salome, "Whatever thou shalt ask of me, I shall give to thee..." "Thou"? "thee"? since when did these characters revert to THAT kind of language?
-- The apostle John recites a line (presumably from scripture) about going down "to the peoples of the past", which had earlier been quoted by the rabbi in Nazareth, as Jesus prepares to raise Lazarus -- and as John recites it, the camera goes into the tomb, until the picture is completely black.
-- The blind man healed in the temple has a POV shot as the lights reflecting in the pool fade into blurry focus.
-- Jesus and Nicodemus exchange close-ups at the end of the trial before the Sanhedrin, as Zerah says "Take him to Pilate!" There is just a HINT of a smile on Jesus' lips. (I rather like Laurence Olivier's take on Nicodemus, BTW -- a man somewhat confused, stumbling towards belief, extending compassion to Jesus, trying to get Caiaphas and the others to be more open-minded and not so dogmatic, etc.)
-- Lo and behold, Jesus actually gets a POV shot as the soldiers mock him in the courtyard right after his flogging -- shades of The Passion! Later, as the crowd calls for Barabbas, Mary Magdalene calls for Jesus instead, and someone slaps her in response -- cut to a shot of Jesus' face, presumably beholding what has happened to his follower. There are also a couple of really brief POV shots as Jesus takes his cross down the Via Dolorosa.
-- Nicodemus later gets a POV wide shot of Golgotha as he stands and recites the "suffering servant" passage from Isaiah.
And, with just a few exceptions here and there, that's more or less it.
Posted 04 August 2004 - 11:39 AM
Alas, despite being a so-called "deluxe" edition, the DVD is in the fullscreen format, and I assume the video makers have chopped off the sides of the frame, rather than expanded the top and bottom, because I seem to remember seeing the bare backside of the demoniac at Gedara when I saw this film in the theatre way back when, and the demoniac's backside is definitely off-frame in the video. But of course, questions of artistic intent or integrity are completely beside the point here -- the point of this video is to be an evangelistic tool, and if that means approaching the viewer as if he or she were typical Blockbuster customers, then so be it.
I hadn't seen this film in years, and I hate to say it, but watching it, I kept thinking I was watching a recruitment video for a cult -- the pitch at the end, made over a montage of still photos, especially rammed this home, but there were other aspects of the film's style that pointed this way. For example, the film calls itself a "documentary", and the filmmakers evidently went to great lengths to shoot the movie in Israel and get the various details right, etc.; but the very pedestrian way in which it just strings together various pericopes and re-enacts them almost exactly as written, without placing them within any sort of narrative context or giving them any sort of dramatic realism, tends to underscore the impression that these are just random legends told about Jesus, rather than straight reportage. Indeed, having a narrator dictate so much of the story, while essential in a text, is positively crippling in a film, since it reduces the characters, including Jesus, to puppets.
It is interesting to see how this film plays with the idea that some of Jesus' words and deeds may have been prompted by external, environmental factors. The boy Jesus seems to be following his parents quite diligently in the Temple, until some people pass between him and them, and thus briefly cut him off from them; after that, he apparently wanders back to the scribes and wows them with his brilliance.
Similarly, as an adult, Jesus happens to observe a camel walking by, so he improvises a saying about camels and the eyes of needles right there on the spot. It is possible the filmmakers simply want to let the audience know that Jesus was using examples that would have been familiar in his day and age (he might have seen a camel or a group of camels a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, it doesn't matter, btu the point is, he knew what a camel was and he knew his audience would know), but the way the scene is shot, it does tend to demystify Jesus just a little, by showing him turning to his world for ideas as he speaks, for inspiration you might say, instead of bringing these statements down from on high, as it were.
Also demystifying, to a degree, is the film's frequent emphasis on Jesus smiling -- and not just when children are around. I remember this being a Big Deal when the film first came out 25 years ago -- it seemed virtually unprecedented.
There is very little of what I would consider "point of view" shots in this film. I think we get one when Jesus stands back and looks at eleven of the disciples he has just appointed (he is standing next to Judas at the time, and thus Judas is not in this frame); and, interestingly enough, we get an aerial shot of the disciples as Jesus is ascended, which would seem to be shot from Jesus' POV. But that might very well be it.
More typical is a scene like the one where the pig farmers run away, into the distance, looking over their shoulders, and then the film cuts to a close-up of Jesus looking straight ahead (but not at the camera), and then Jesus casts his eyes down, and then the film cuts to a close-up of the former demoniac looking up (but not at the camera); perhaps that first shot of the pig farmers running away was a POV shot, but perhaps not, since the next thing Jesus looks at in that very moment is NOT shot as though it were a POV shot. Similarly, we get close-ups of the widow's coins and a high-angle shot of the crowd at the crucifixion, both of which are broadly suggestive of Jesus' point of view, but it is difficult to call these POV shots, per se.
We do, however, get a few interesting POV shots elsewhere: when Mary sees Gabriel, when John the Baptist sees Jesus for the first time, and when a blind man beholds the sky for the first time and declares, "I can see!"
I had forgotten, BTW, just how much extra-textual stuff was inserted into this film, which I had always assumed was taken word-for-word from Luke. The narrator frequently says things that go beyond the text (e.g., he is careful to emphasize that Jesus was only criticizing the "hypocritical section of the scribes and Pharisees", and I don't believe the word "stable" comes up anywhere in the scriptural accounts of the Nativity), I believe Moses and Elijah are given dialogue that does not appear anywhere in the text, there is a scene of a woman singing by a campfire, and, most significantly, there is some added footage in which a Roman officer (but not, I think, Pilate) tells the Jewish leaders to do something about this Jesus fellow, thus absolving the Jews of at least some guilt for Jesus' death.
Posted 04 August 2004 - 12:06 PM
: I believe Moses and Elijah are given dialogue that does not appear anywhere in the text
I'd forgotten this scene was even in the film. The only other film I can recall which includes this scenes is The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ
: I had forgotten, BTW, just how much extra-textual stuff was inserted into this film, which I had always assumed was taken word-for-word from Luke.
What even though in the main discussion on this film I mentioned a couple of the changes I'd noticed?
|Was a bit insomniatic on Friday night so decided to check this one out, and the answer is that yes I was right there is no-Lucan dialogue in the film. I only really checked out the Resurection scene and the nativity scenes. But in the resurrection scene the womenfin dthe empty tomb and see the angels appear and then rush back to the disciples and recount what has happened, whereas as Luke only says that they recounted it if you see what I mean. I left the bit of paper where I wrote the exact words down at home, but I definitely remember that as Peter rushes off to go check one of the women says “Peter, you must believe us”. |
I then went on to look at the differences between the opening scenes in the two versions. The full text version is much longer (my insomnia was cured by the end :wink), and as you say is totally different with a totally different Mary, and there seemed to be no reason for it. I suspected it might be to do with later scenes they inserted that had a different actress playing Mary of something, but Mary seems to be absent from the rest of Luke’s gospel, except the “Who is my mother part”, in which in this film we don’t see the mother and brother’s in question. Nevertheless I was surprise that Mary wasn’t included in the women at the tomb as she is named in both Matthew and Mark, and it seems reasonably controversial (given their theological stance) not to show Mary their.
I guess ultimately the reason they used a different Mary must be because they needed to film extra scenes (such as that prophesy by Anna) that had Mary in them, and the actress that played Mary wasn’t available, or had disagreed with their producers or something.
Posted 04 August 2004 - 02:01 PM
As for the added dialogue, I think I remember you remarking on that, but I didn't remember actually seeing it or noticing it myself, before. To the examples already cited here, we could add the prayer Peter says after he denies Christ, and a number of other things.