20th March 2018

'Understated And Shrouded In Mystery'

(from www.lifeandwork.org)

 

Lynne McNeil reviews the new film telling the Easter story from the perspective of Mary Magdalene

 

MARY MAGDALENE (12A)
Directed by: Garth Davis
Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes

In the past Easter-themed movies with A-list Hollywood celebrities are released with a fanfare. But this latest addition to the Easter silver screen collection has been a little lower key, perhaps reflecting the content.

Unlike previous retellings of the Easter story, this is understated and shrouded in mystery at times, raising questions in the minds of curious viewers.

Starring Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene, Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Peter, the film is the story of the Resurrection as seen through the eyes of Mary, from her response to the simple call to ‘Follow me’ to the moment when she witnesses Jesus rising from the dead. Creative licence may have been taken with the story of Mary’s life before she joined the disciples – and with the tensions that there may have been in the group of disciples – but this simply adds to the mystery.

It is not a blow by blow account of the time leading to the Resurrection, but rather the fragmented story as seen through Mary’s eyes.

Mara turns in a masterful performance of a woman driven by a simple faith and belief in the message preached by Jesus, whilst Phoenix’s Jesus is driven by profound intensity, but with great depth as he recreates the gentle, caring son of God who healed the sick and whose miracles called the disciples to follow him.

The crucifixion is only a few minutes long and bloody, but not on the scale of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

There is no deep theological message within the film as it sticks simply to excerpts from the New Testament retellings of the events which led to the Resurrection and this is perhaps its strength. Rather than embellishing, it simply aims to give viewers an understanding and is far more likely to encourage viewers to explore the Bible further than any other Easter film.

The premise of the story is enhanced by clever lighting which is duller when understanding is clouded and brighter and sharper in those moments of clarity. Unlike some other Easter themed films, this will benefit from multiple viewings for further hidden messages.

 



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