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Lush, vaguely liturgical music floods the theater. A sonorous offscreen male voice slowly articulates the words, "And it was written..." or "In the year...". On the screen, clouds mysteriously separate and a semitransparent figure appears in the sky-this is the religious film.
Conventional films about religious heroes are instantly recognizable, and average film-goers can easily identify the most common sounds and images and, more significantly, the values that most traditional films of this kind uphold: unquestioning faith, chastity, virtuous suffering, and the superiority of one religion over all others.
Focusing on movies about Christianity, The Religious Film is a welcome introduction to this complex and iconic genre of film. Pamela Grace provides historical, cultural and critical background for religious films from the silent era through today, and explores the genre in its many guises-as spectacle, as musical, and as controversy. From The Gospel According to Matthew to Jesus Christ Superstar, from The Passion of Joan of Arc to The Last Temptation of Christ and Jesus of Montreal, The Religious Film captures the glory, gore, and centrality of this important genre.
List of Figures viii
1 Introduction: The Religious Film and the Hagiopic 1
2 Historical Overview 16
3 Critical Overview 47
4 King of Kings (1961): Spectacle and Anti-Spectacle 64
5 The Song of Bernadette (1943): The Religious Comfort Film 78
6 Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) and Jesus Christ Superstar (2000): The Religious Musical 90
7 The Gospel According to Matthew (1964) and Jesus of Montreal (1989): The Alternative Hagiopic 103
8 The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999): Transcendence and Exploitation 120
9 The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and The Passion of the Christ (2004): The Sacrificial Hagiopic 138