One of the noteworthy things about A.D. The Bible Continues is how it really piles on the visual effects when something really supernatural happens. In fact, the series trades on the sort of images that Bible movies haven’t really gone for since the silent era, when movies of this sort functioned less as documentary-style plays — showing us “what life was really like back then” — and were more like icons in motion.
A thought suddenly occurred to me: If Jesus, a New Testament figure, can make two appearances, however obscured, in the Old Testament section of The Bible, is it possible that the cross-overs might go the other way? Could any Old Testament figures have a cameo or two in the New Testament section of the mini-series, which resumes this Sunday night?
It would be very easy to do this: All the mini-series would have to do is include the Transfiguration as part of its depiction of the life-story of Jesus. The Transfiguration, you may recall, is when three of Jesus’ closest apostles saw him talking to Moses and Elijah — and Moses has already played a significant role in this series.
Mary Goes to the Movies / How the mother of Jesus has been portrayed through a century of filmmaking.
Making a movie about Jesus is difficult enough. Anyone who would dramatize the life of Christ must strike a fine balance between his full humanity and his full divinity, and many filmmakers have erred on one side or the other. But at least the Scriptures give us ample data to work with, and at least there is broad agreement across church boundaries that Jesus was, and is, both divine and human.
But making a movie about Mary poses even thornier challenges. The Bible says little about her life, so dramatists who focus on her life — such as the writer and director of The Nativity Story, which opens Friday — must invent whole aspects of her story from scratch. Even more daunting, for filmmakers who want to reach as broad an audience as possible, is the fact that different churches have strongly different views on Mary.
Was she as fallible as any other human being? Or was she free from the stain of sin? Did she bear any other children? Or did she remain a virgin throughout her life? Should Jesus ever be shown correcting her, possibly even offending her? Or, as the mother of Jesus, should she offer him any guidance and possibly correct him?
Of the making of movies about Jesus, there is no end. In the first three months of this year alone: Son of Man, which casts a black man as Christ and sets his life in modern South Africa, got positive reviews at Sundance; the makers of Color of the Cross, which also casts a black man as Christ, established a website with trailers for their work-in-progress; and New Line Cinema announced that Oscar nominees Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog) will star as the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth in a new movie about the Nativity, to be released in time for Christmas.