Mary Magdalene Movie and Music

The new movie Mary Magdalene is one that I’m going to need to see at some point. But some of the things I’ve read and heard do not encourage me to rush to do so. Larry Hurtado, for instance, blogged about the movie and writes:

It ought to be difficult to make stories as riveting as those in the Gospels bland and uninteresting. But the Hollywood record largely shows them fully up to the task, and, sadly, this film is no exception. In focusing on the Magdalene, and in not portraying her as a “fallen woman,” the film is technically notable. But, aside from its numerous historical mis-steps, including its characterization of the title figure, it also has to be judged a poor-to-middling movie (as seems reflected in the several newspaper reviews).

I was struck by his words all the more because we had Amy-Jill Levine speak at Butler University recently, and she emphasized the history of domestication of Jesus’ words – making them much tamer and more boring than they would have been originally. I found myself wondering whether I could overcome this and imagine Jesus speaking in a manner as engaging, entertaining, and downright funny as Levine herself was.

Joan Taylor and Helen Bond have also had a conversation about the movie that I have yet to listen to.

The Bible Film Blogs has had more than one post about the movie, including one focused on Judas. That connects us naturally with Jesus Christ Superstar, which will be on TV on Easter Sunday with a star-studded cast including John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Alice Cooper! That musical tells the story from Judas’ perspective, and it was interesting to discuss it in my class recently, especially after having learned that it would be on TV at Easter. (See also George Athas’ recent blog post about the musical).

Mary Magdalene interested me in connection with my course on the Bible and music as soon as I heard about it, since I heard that the soundtrack composers Hildur Guðnadóttir and Jóhann Jóhannsson had drawn on the Psalms in their work (and of course, simply by being the film score for a film on this topic, their work would be relevant!)

Have you seen the new Mary Magdalene movie yet? If so, what are your thoughts about it?

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  • Tim Bulkeley

    I’ve seen it, like any film (and especially any Jesus film) they had to make lots of difficult decisions, what to cut how to bridge the gaps… on the whole I thought it was one of the best adaptations of Jesus’ story I have seen, and especially interesting for its portrayal of Mary M. The start was slow and I almost fell asleep, but once it got going it was interesting, and not only to a professional 😉

    I do wonder where all the other women around Jesus went, the film seemed to suggest Mary M was the only one!