Laurence Fishburne to play Melchizedek in The Alchemist?

laurencefishburneI’ve been doing a lot of research into films based on the book of Genesis lately, so I was intrigued to hear, via The Tracking Board, that Laurence Fishburne may play Melchizedek in an adaptation of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, which Fishburne himself is slated to direct.

I haven’t read the book, which concerns a Spanish shepherd who goes to Egypt, so I have no idea how closely the book’s Melchizedek corresponds to the Melchizedek of the Bible. But Wikipedia says the book’s Melchizedek is “the king of Salem”, which fits. It also says he gives the book’s protagonist “the magical stones Urim and Thummim” and that he wears “a gold breastplate encrusted with precious stones” — both of which sound like something we would normally associate with the Israelite priesthood, which didn’t exist until long after the biblical Melchizedek’s time.

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Noah interview round-up: co-writer Ari Handel

Two weeks ago, I posted a collection of interviews with Noah director Darren Aronofsky, and I have updated that post with new interview clips ever since. But in the meantime — especially as Aronofsky has gone overseas to promote the film — there have also been a number of interviews with his co-writer Ari Handel. So I figured I should start a post to collect those, too.

I interviewed Aronofsky and Handel together myself back in February, and I linked to a more recent interview with Handel in my post on the infamous snakeskin.

Handel was also featured prominently in a “faith leaders” video that I posted a couple weeks ago, and I have previously linked to interviews that he has done with Hollywood Jesus and Hugh Hewitt. See also the interviews that Handel and Aronofsky did together to promote the Noah graphic novel here, here and here.

And now for the new stuff. [Read more...]

Exclusive: Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel on how they developed the script and where they really got the name for Emma Watson’s character in Noah

My interviews with Darren Aronofsky: 1998 | 2014 pt 1 | 2014 pt 3 | 2014 pt 4

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of seeing Darren Aronofsky’s Noah and speaking to both Aronofsky and his co-writer/co-producer Ari Handel immediately after the screening. The following is part two of our conversation. You can read part one here. The film comes out Thursday night.

I’ve heard multiple times about the poem that you wrote, was that high school or is that late elementary, or–?

Darren Aronofsky: That was seventh grade, so I was like 12, 13, probably.

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Bible movie of the week: The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966)

The title speaks of beginnings, but the film itself marked the end of an era. The post-war Bible-movie craze — which began with Samson and Delilah (1949) and arguably peaked with Ben-Hur (1959) and its record 11 Academy Awards — petered out over the next several years, and The Bible: In the Beginning… (1966) was pretty much the last major Bible film to be produced by a Hollywood studio for the next couple of decades.

The problem was not that the film was a flop, per se, but that it cost so much to make. Reliable box-office figures are harder to find, the further back you go in time, but according to Wikipedia, at least, The Bible was the top-grossing film of 1966, with a domestic gross of $34 million. Then again, roughly half of that money would have stayed with the theatres, and the film is said to have cost as much as $18 million — and that probably doesn’t count the cost of prints and advertising. So whether the film made its money back would seem to depend on how well it performed overseas.

In any case, I recently revisited this film and noticed a few things that I thought were worth noting here. (See also my recent post on Abraham and the Three Visitors, which discusses one scene from this film that I don’t get into here.)

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Abraham and the Three Visitors: five filmed interpretations

Fred Clark posted an item last night in which he expressed surprise that the story of Abraham and the three visitors in Genesis 18 is a lot stranger than he had thought. For one thing, Abraham and the visitors eat a meal that mixes meat and dairy, and would therefore be regarded as non-kosher by many of Abraham’s descendants. But, more crucially, Clark notes that one of the three visitors — who are often called “angels” — seems to be God himself. A walking, talking, eating God.

Personally, I’m surprised that Clark is surprised by that last bit, partly because it has always seemed clear to me that one of the three visitors is God himself. It’s certainly implicit in the text itself — not least because, after God finishes “standing” with Abraham and discussing the fate of Sodom with him, only two of the three visitors arrive in Sodom itself. Presumably God himself was the third visitor.

But beyond the text itself, nearly every single dramatized version of this story that I have seen has suggested that there was something different about one of the three visitors. So I had always assumed that that was a standard interpretation of the text, if not the standard interpretation of the text.

Here is how five different films and TV shows have dealt with this story.

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The Bible / What works and what doesn’t in the ambitious mini-series

It’s common these days for each new episode of a TV series to begin with a montage that sums up all the relevant plot points from previous episodes. So it was only natural that, when the History Channel aired its five-part mini-series The Bible over the month of March, all but one of the episodes began with narrator Keith David intoning, in his deep baritone voice, “Previously, on The Bible…”

All of the show’s strengths and weaknesses are captured in that one phrase. Produced by Mark Burnett (a TV mogul best known for unscripted “reality” shows like Survivor and The Apprentice) and his wife Roma Downey (who once starred in Touched by an Angel), the mini-series rushes through the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, in ten hours — though it’s more like seven, once you bracket off the commercial breaks — and it zips through the stories so quickly that you barely notice when they are compressed even further in those opening sequences. But the mini-series also makes a point of emphasizing the continuity between Bible stories in a way that is quite rare among Bible films, and in a way that sometimes allows individual stories to shed light profitably on others.

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