It’s that time of year when religion theme movies come out to play. I was ready for some religious action and went with hope to see Risen.
Let’s start with what I loved. There’s only been one depiction of Christ that I’ve liked and that was in the Matthew Series. In this film, Cliff Curtis has a sweetness about his portrayal that drew me in. The film locations and sets take the viewer to the time period. I delighted in the correct use of Christ’s given name, not the twisted, Latin version we use today.
Joe Fiennes had the tough job of carrying the story along, and he accomplished this but just barely. He looked more comfortable in the battle scenes, which were well conceived, depicting how the Roman military conquered the known world. (China was thousands of years ahead of Western Civilization at this point in time, but that’s another story.) Poor Joe attempting to work his way through a mystery, and find his path after his discoveries, well…not so much. Joe sort of deflated as a regular guy.
I also loved the political aspects of the film, the showing of another perspective and backroom dealings, of how religious leaders plotted to get rid of a threat to their power structure and sleazy dealings in the Temple. (Recall the turning over the tables in the courtyard? Caiaphas and his family had control of that side of the business.)
The way the Pharisees used Pilot and Pilot hoped to use them to secure his own position was nicely rendered. Pilot was definitely under the gun with Tiberius about to visit the troubled Palestine. Tiberius was a vile man and worse emperor. He had no patience for inferiors bungling up the works. In this film version, Caiaphas is marvelously slimy and evil in contrast to the dignified and holy Joseph of Arimathea, a true servant of God. These character contrasts and Curtis’s depiction of Christ made the picture in my opinion.
The clinkers were the use of stirrups and saddles on military mounts. Nuh-uh. Don’t believe me. Look at the bas-reliefs that exist. Egyptians didn’t use stirrups either. They were used elsewhere in the world, but not like what we have today and used in this film. Then there was the funky scene where Joe gets a costume change all within the same time segment. Guess they had to keep the actors on horseback somehow.
There were a couple of other silly things but they didn’t bother me much. What really got to me is coming next, the Mary Magdalene bashing. It goes on and on, even though it has no scriptural verification.
Pope Gregory I took it upon himself to do some Biblical revisionism during a sermon wherein he set Mary M. down as a prostitute. And so the insult was born. The ugly lie has held on throughout the centuries, perpetuated by men, in text, art and repeatedly in film—yeah, that’s you Mel Gibson. This saddens me, especially since I otherwise liked this film. Even got teary-eyed in places. It’s still no excuse for trashing a woman Christ loved and relied on as confidant and friend. His own disciples griped about her, but they were men reared in a culture and religion that separated women and men in religious settings.
So what excuse do men (and sloppy screenwriters) have today for abusing a holy woman? I’m not even going to go there. Too sick, boring and wearying. Anyway, sans the stupid bit in the barracks asking soldiers for a show of hands to see how many men Mary had screwed, I would have really liked this film. If you don’t mind the toying with Biblical truth/ female bashing, go see it. Tis the season.
FYI: Prophecy Denied, the first book my fantasy series is free March 4 through 7.
Also check out Empty Altars by Judith Post, last day free!