By midlandsmovies, Jul 19 2018 07:49PM
Mary Magdalene (2018) Dir. Garth Davis
Garth Davis (Lion) directs this new biblical drama about Mary from a small town called Magdala who joins Jesus and his disciples in 33AD from his initial teachings through to the crucifixion and his eventual resurrection.
After defying her family she finds a connection with Jesus’s words but joining his group causes conflict with the male disciples. Mary is played admirably by Rooney Mara (Social Network) whilst Jesus Christ superstar sees Joaquin Phoenix delivering a strange mix of bland universal platitudes to hoodwink people into his way of thinking and, strangely, a Roman age stoner.
The film’s slow pace tries to take some interesting new angles. There are hints upon celebrity culture as Jesus is mobbed by those wanting to be healed as well as the role of an women in Christian history.
Not being a huge fan of religious films owing to my own personal scepticism, the film rather dully goes through the motions delivering Jesus Joaquin’s career highlights - from healing the blind to the crown of thorns with rather ponderous and monotonous inevitability.
As films like these attempt to humanise Jesus with added realism, for me that approach makes his teachings seem more like the hokey nonsense of a rambling huckster. Call it religion, call it cultism, call it simply human nature – we have an inherent natural desire to follow a leader who provides us with answers to a chaotic world. Imposing meaning where there is none. Saying there is a plan and order when it’s simply chaos. And with a white man saviour complex – it is as blatantly “problematic” as anything in media today – here it’s magnified by one that’s changed the course of history.
Back to the film however, it was difficult to break through my own preconceptions on the subject but the cast do an admirable job of fleshing out the characters beyond their Bible quoting. Although the snail’s pace and constant staring into the distance began to further grate, one huge positive was the stunning locations used. Shot in multiple areas in Italy the film contained an array of amazing coastal vistas showing the beauty of the world whilst capturing the simplicity of life from a time long ago.
For me however, my cynical doubts around the subject simply couldn’t be broken through on a narrative, aesthetic or even cinematic level. Granted this would be hard to do with any film but the lack of engagement and dreary recounting of Jesus’s life gave this film no chance. In fact, it’s simply as dull as a Sunday sermon and one that I couldn’t wait to end.
Midlands Movies Mike