The Ascension of Christ in film: literalism, symbolism, etc.

Today is the Feast of the Ascension, when Christians remember how Jesus was taken up into heaven 40 days after his Resurrection. It’s one of the stranger bits in the Gospels — both difficult to understand, given our modern cosmology, and difficult to pull off visually — and most of what we know about it actually comes from the Book of Acts. So it’s not too surprising that most films about Jesus have tended to skip this episode.

Nevertheless, a few films have depicted the Ascension, often by mixing it with elements from other stories in the gospels, and even those that don’t depict it have often made a point of ending on a note that suggests Jesus has transcended this life in some way that parallels the Ascension. Here are a few examples.

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Exorcists and Emperors: young actors play old, then play young again in flashbacks or prequels

Further to my post marking the 40th anniversary of The Exorcist, I thought it might be fun to look at one other way in which the Exorcist movies parallel the Star Wars franchise: namely, both series feature an actor who plays considerably older than his real age, and then, in at least one of the sequels or prequels, the actor plays more-or-less his real age in scenes set years or even decades earlier.

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Top Ten Jesus Movies

They’ve been making films about the Son of God for over a century. Here’s one man’s list of those that ascend to the top of the cinematic pack.

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.

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Review: Minority Report (dir. Steven Spielberg, 2002)

Steven Spielberg hasn’t got Stanley Kubrick out of his system yet. In some respects, Minority Report is the sort of futuristic sci-fi chase movie that makes popcorn vendors smile. It’s also the sort of spectacular summer flick you expect a crowd-pleaser like Spielberg to excel at. But it also reflects the bleak, dystopic vision of things to come that made A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Spielberg’s realization of a project Kubrick spent years developing, so chilling and unfamiliar. Minority Report also stars Tom Cruise, who earned a place in the Kubrick canon with Eyes Wide Shut, and it puts him in a situation that calls to mind one of the more freakish and uncomfortable moments in A Clockwork Orange.

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