The process of translating a book story into film is known as Film or Movie Adaptation. Movie adaptation gives meaning and life to the stories that are confined in books. It is basically spoon-feeding a viewer of scenes and characters in contrast to the tedious imaging demanded of the reader in the written accounts. What is observable in Movie Adaptation is that there are an obvious similarities and differences with written accounts.
Primarily, the reason is due to the fact that written accounts are too long to fit into the usual time runs or that although the topic was interesting, it lacked entertaining scenes that would draw a crowd of modern viewers or does not evoked the kind of emotion that is expected of such a situation or incident. That is why stories taken form books oftentimes were not literally translated into films. Story revision however must be done carefully and with a degree of discretion especially involving historical events.
Fictional stories can be easily manipulated but true stories should stick to the truth (Dudley 95). The Biblical movie the Passion of the Christ based on the historical crucifixion of Christ, true to its nature as an adaptation, had similarities and differences from the written account. Similarities and differences can be observed on the personality and characters of the Biblical figures as well as portrayal or delivery of certain scenes. II. Discussion A. Similarities 1. Biblical Characters
The most prominent Biblical characters portrayed in the film are Jesus, Mary and Mary Magdalene, Jewish religious leaders, Roman soldiers and Pilate. In the gospels, Jesus is presented as a humble, loving, compassionate and forgiving person whose origin is both divine and human. He was born for the sole purpose of dying on the cross for man’s redemption (Thompson 1085). In other words, the defining moment of his life is his death through the crucifixion. Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ strictly adheres to the Biblical personality and character of Christ.
Christ’s is never seen as vindictive in spite of the abuses and insults heaped upon him by the persecuting Jews and Romans. His love and compassion goes forth freely as he asks God to forgive them for according to him they do not know what they were doing. He humbly accepted his cruel fate at the hands of his creation.. His love for Mary was extraordinarily communicated through his eyes. But what the movie had enforced in Jesus character was his unbelievable restraint in the midst of angry mobs.
His refusal to speak, to call the angels of heaven to save him, or to his divine powers to smite his accusers was very admirable and worth emulating. Another prominent figure of the story is Mary, Jesus’ Mother. The Biblical movie coincided with the written presentation of Mary as a devoted, sacrificing and loving mother, pure and simple at heart. Her compassion and anguish at the plight of his Son and her willingness to surrender to the will of God can make a viewer appreciate Mary more in the movie. Alongside Mary was the devoted Mary Magdalene whose penitent heart showed forth in the movie.
Another prominent character from which the popular “washing of hands” idiomatic expression is taken (signifying a person’s way of removing guilt or participation of an action or decision) is Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. Like the Bible Pilate is portrayed as a cowardly, fearful man who cannot stand up to his convictions (Thompson 1019). The last groups to have made a deep impact in the movie are the persecuting Jewish religious leaders and the Roman guards. They can be described as the blatant antagonist of the story (Satan is the prime antagonist but his wicked ways were more subtle).
The Jewish leaders and the Jews were portrayed as a group of men hungry to see Jesus crucified. These vengeful and hateful attitudes are faithful to the description of the Bible. The Bible clearly said that they even prefer to see Barabas free, the notoriously convicted thief, than to let Jesus escape the crucifixion. Portraying Jews in such a manner arose protest from the other races, especially the Jews, declaring that it has anti-Semitic undertones (Carroll 2004). The Roman soldiers on the other hand were also seen to as cruel.
Although not directly involved with Jewish skirmishes on religious matters, they were also eager to take part in the vicious carnage. Some of them however showed signs of a tender side. 3. Dialogues and Setting The entire movie was devoted to the final hours of Jesus on earth. It began with his prayer in the garden at Gethsemane, his arrest at dawn upon the betrayal of Judas, to his being brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin, his appearance before Pilate, his agony on the way to cross and finally his crucifixion. Generally, these scenes are faithful to the Biblical account.
Some dialogues spoken fits the biblical statements, such as Jesus words “Father forgive them for they do no know what they do” , as well as the dialogues of Jesus and his disciples during the last supper and many others. The whipping of Jesus on the way to the cross, his being nailed in it between the two convicted thieves , the casting of lots of the Roman soldiers are also found in the Bible. The way Jesus was being scourged and bloodied invoke man’s deepest sympathy or appreciation for his suffering and passion for humanity.
The bible even said that due to flogging “he was so deformed that he does not resemble like a Man”(Thompson 714 ). B. Differences Although the Biblical movie has many similarities with the Biblical story, it also had many obvious differences. Many people may argue that the addition of such a scene may be excused as “Hollywood’s artistic liberties” for the purpose of expanding the Biblical text or widening the confines of the story in order to draw more appreciation and understanding of the topic on hand. 1. Portrayal of the crucifixion.
The movie was focused on the final hours of Jesus, from dawn to three o’clock in the afternoon when Christ’s died. The agony and torture on the way to the cross and Christ’s eventual crucifixion was shown in a vivid, horrifying detail: flesh come off after whipping, Christ’s hand was stretch beyond limit when nailed on the cross, constant whipping from beginning to end of the journey, a bloodied Christ’s keep falling off, and a nailed Christ was turned flat on the ground with such forceful brutality sending a cloud of dust in the air.
It was the first time that such a bloody and cruel portrayal of Christ’s crucifixion ever hit the big screen. Though the Bible did mention whipping and nailing, it did not evoke the same imagery of torture as seen on the movie. The movie seems to be too brutal and full of bloodshed( Carroll 2007). One reason perhaps is because the Bible did not exactly offer a detailed account of such event while the main focus of the movie was the crucifixion itself. The problem may be due to the fact that it was easier more to picture what really occurred on screen than on paper.
In other words, the emotion of the moment is easily communicated and understood through the big screen. There is a possibility that such forms of cruelty are experienced by Jesus in the hands of the Roman soldiers for Roman soldiers are known to be cruel executioners (Perry 98). What the movie was trying to achieve though is that the viewer will appreciate what Jesus did for them, and not to treat Jesus crucifixion as just another historical event of his life. 2. Scenes not found in the Bible.
There are countless scenes not found in the Bible. Some of the notable scenes are: Jesus crushing the serpent with his foot in the Garden of Gethsemane. This scene can never be found in the Bible (Thompson 1017). The significance of the serpent could be that since it is a popular symbol of Satan, it signifies that Satanic influences are near, ever ready to dissuade Jesus from fulfilling his supreme mission of dying in the cross . When Jesus crushed the serpent’s feet, it means that he was victorious over the devil.
The scene may help the viewer to realize how hard it must have been for Christ to surrender to the will of the Father with regards to the way he was going to die. A sensitive reader may then appreciate how strong and noble Christ’s really was. Satan , in the form of a beautiful woman, did came to tempt Jesus to forego his mission in saving men for she argued that it was a burden too hard to bear for a single man. Both the conversation and satanic appearance in the Garden were not recorded in the Bible. What is disturbing in that scene (and in many scenes afterwards) however is that Satan was represented by a beautiful woman.
Nowhere in the Bible is Satan portrayed as such though he may “appear as Angel of Light:” It would have been more realistic and religiously fitting if Satan was portrayed as a male. The scenes on the way to the cross were full of incidents that can never be read in the Bible. For instance, Mary and the traditional Veronica wiping the face of Jesus with a fresh linen handed to them by the wife of Pilate. Although not found in the Bible, this is clearly an accepted tradition in the life of Christ by the Catholic Church.
According to traditional Catholic stories the face of Jesus became imprinted in the linen and was then preserved( . The female Satan also kept appearing on the way to crucifixion, obviously taunting Mary. Another scene worth mentioning is that Jesus met Mary on the way to the cross. This is not mentioned in the Bible, nor was it implied that she was there at all. Biblical account tells of the appearance of Mary at a later time, when she stood at the foot of the cross of Jesus with the disciple John at her side.
The arrest and trial of Jesus happened so fast so that probably Mary did not arrive until Jesus reached Golgotha. In the light of this argument, the much earlier appearance of Mary is a clear deviation of the Biblical account and may not be considered as Hollywood artistic liberties. In the movie the nailing of Jesus on the cross was very brutal wherein the Roman soldiers stretched his hand beyond its limits to match the hole on the cross so that his arms was literally broken. Aside from that, Jesus and his cross was turned together in order to hammer the protruding nail at the back of the cross.
It was a very pitiful and painful sight indeed. What was notable and sickening is that amidst that scene is a bird, probably a vulture that plucked the eye of the crucified men. III. Contribution of Movie Adaptation to Biblical Story In the movie the passion of the Christ, the reader was brought into a live and detailed enactment of the sufferings of Christ during crucifixion. Some scenes were added to draw a heightened emotional response which the director or the creator of the story believed was originally present in the situation( Dudley 95).
But since the movie is based on the Bible which is believed to be the inerrant Word of God, certain scenes not mentioned in the Bible should not be included unless strongly implied, because they may bring confusion or disrespect to the faith from which it was based. Also, Jesus is indeed a historical figure whose events mentioned in the Bible truly occurred so that truth is essential to the movie. III. Conclusion The Biblical movie The Passion of the Christ revolves around the final hours of Christ based on the Biblical story.
Naturally, since it was derived from the Bible, it depicts scene mentioned in the Biblical account. However, some scenes were added that can be classified as “Hollywood’s artistic liberties”. In some scenes, particularly the nailing of Christ where his hand was stretched beyond its limitation so that it crunched or when the cross from which he was nailed was turned upside down so that Jesus was beneath the cross, the reader cannot help but appreciate what Jesus did. In other words, that scene evokes the rightful emotion of gratitude for what Christ did for men.
However, some scenes may not be rightfully expanded but actually deviates from truth like when Satan appeared as a beautiful temptress. Work Cited 1. Dudley Louise and Austin Faricy. The Humanities. New York: MacGraw-Hill, 1973. 2. Carroll, James l. An obscene portrayal of Christ’s Passion. Globe Newspaper Company. February 2004. Retrieved November 9, 2007 from http://www. boston. com/ae/movies/articles/2004/02/24/an_obscene_portrayal_of_christs_passion/? page=2 3. Perry, Marvin. A History of the World. New York: Houghton-Mifflin Company, 1988. 4. Thompson, Frank Charles. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible. Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1983.
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