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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The Garden of Eden gets cameos in Noah and Son of God

I attended a preview screening of Son of God last week, and while it’s far too early to post a review of that film (it doesn’t open theatrically until February 28), producer Mark Burnett and the others who spoke at the screening were certainly keen to drum up interest in the film and its impending release; they asked everyone there to spread the word via social media, etc. So consider this blog post my small contribution.

One detail I did find interesting is the fact that the film begins with a montage that ties the story of Jesus to the stories in the Old Testament (using footage from the OT episodes of The Bible, of course). That means that this film begins, in part, with Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, just as Darren Aronofsky’s Noah will apparently do.

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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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