THE FILMMAKER AND JESUS
Jesus of Hollywood
By Adele Reinhartz:
Oxford University Press, 2007. 313 pp. $29.95
by Kathy Perry
Marshall McLuhan once said about media that: "It is not so much the message as the sender that is ’sent’." It could just be that moviegoers are starting to take that message seriously. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004) prompted interest in how films about Jesus operate as vehicles for personal motive and bias –how they communicate the beliefs, fears and hopes of their makers. The stir over Gibson’s motives indicates that audiences moved beyond just asking whether The Passion was a good movie; we also began asking just what Gibson was up to in presenting the Gospel story as he did.
Adele Reinhartz’ book Jesus of Hollywood takes a look at how various filmmakers have constructed the characters of Jesus, his family, friends, followers, and enemies. Her examination goes back as far as Henry Vincent’s The Passion Play at Oberammergau in 1898, although she focuses primarily on films that will likely be more recognizable to readers. Her book is a guided exploration into the dilemmas faced by filmmakers in interpreting and reinventing the Jesus story, as well as the methods, techniques, and strategies they use to meet these challenges.