Passion of Joan of Arc: Dreyer

As we begin Lent, take a look at this stupendous film: here it is on Vimeo. See links below for critique and reviews as well as Dreyer’s own statement of cinematic mysticism.

Here’s the film with English subtitles:

 

https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/69-realized-mysticism-in-the-passion-of-joan-of-arc

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Silent Film (1903): Life and Passion of Jesus Christ : The Annunciation

This is an early (1903) silent film about the life of Christ.  The camera is stationary, which gives the impression of filmed theater, and the story is told in a series of scenes. I will here provide a description of the first scene of the movie, the annunciation. My remarks are borrowed from Catherine O’Brien’s analysis in the Celluloid Madonna.

In the annunciation scene, Mary is pictured holding a water jar, a detail suggestive of wells, which are symbolic places for betrothals in the Bible. The apocryphal Protevangelium of James depicts the annunciation to Mary in a domestic setting.  Mary meets the angel upon returning from a well.

Here, in this movie, the angel once he appears has a lily in his hand, a symbol of purity.  The angel fades in to make its presence felt and fades out to disappear. The angel hovers in mid-air. Mary bows to acknowledge the angel’s holiness. The angel moves lips and makes hand gestures to express the message that he carries from heaven. No fear or protest is indicated but rather devotion and acquiescence as Mary bows to receive the message and in assent.

As Mary rises and raises her arms to heaven, the gesture indicates that she is making herself a handmaid to the Lord in an historically significant act of volition.

The entire movie is visually quite fascinating. The absence of sound heightens the visual effects.

Question: What are the advantages of silent film, aesthetically, in portraying the life of Jesus?

Farkhunda: Martyr from Afghanistan : Crucifixion

In 2015 Farkhunda, a young woman of Afghanistan, was savagely beaten and put to death by a mob. Her alleged crime was that she had burnt the Qur’an: a false accusation. Jesus Christ was crucified and put to death on grounds of religious blasphemy.

Wherever  spiritual freedom is assaulted and crimes are committed against the innocent — on  grounds of religious absolutism — Jesus is crucified, once again. Here’s an article about Farkhunda:

And another:

Martyred in Afghanistan

In the Christian gospel, the resurrection signifies the victory of life — and justice — over against their opposites (death and injustice). Let’s learn from Farkhunda’s martyrdom and support the cause of justice in Afghanistan and around the world.

Here’s one way to give: Women for Women

Or, if you are not able to donate money, learn and care and give as you are inspired to do.

Santa Librada: Christ/Mary (boundary crosser)

Argentina Librada

Saint Librada Argentina

Popular devotion captures the scandal of the Cross,  contravenes distinctions between heaven and earth, male and female, the sacred and profane.  Saint Librada, who is popular in Argentina, exhibits such boundary crossings.

According to Marcella Althaus-Reid in Indecent Theology, “Santa Librada is worshipped as the female crucified Christ of the urban poor.” She is an ambiguous Christ/Mary: female like Mary but crucified like Christ.  Often she is portrayed as blonde, as Jesus tends to be. Thus, Mary transgresses the site of the Cross — (like a female Jesus) — while Jesus becomes a transvestite, adopting the garb and look of Mary, for instance by wearing a shawl and necklace– in a “pattern of divine transvest00Liberata_Santaism.” 

As a boundary crosser, “Librada’s worship originated around legal and social transgression. An old traditional prayer asks her to deliver a person from the police because she is the protector of petty thieves and bandits, who are understood in Argentinian society as thieves by necessity, not choice.”  Librada is similar to other Santos Bandidos (Bandit Saints), who are heroes for assisting the poor to take risks for their own survival, for instance by small thievery. Thus, boundaries between virtue and vice are also blurred.

Saint Librada is not to be confused with Saint Liberata, aka Saint Wilgefortis – herself gender-transgressing. She is known as the bearded Saint. See: Paris Review: the Bearded Saint

See also: bearded woman

librada

 

 

 

Our Lady of Guadalupe as a Mirror for Our Selves

 

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Yolanda Lopez, a Chicana artist, produced this tripartite series of portraits (in 1978): The Guadalupe Triptych. The woman, who is depicted as a runner, is the artist herself. The picture is called:Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe.lopezyolanda6

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“Essentially, she [the Virgin of Guadalupe] is beautiful, serene and passive. She has no emotional life or texture of her own” so Lopez commented…..”Because I feel living, breathing women also deserve respect and love lavished on Guadalupe, I have chosen to transform the image. Taking symbols of her power and virtue I have transferred them to portraits of women I know….As Chicanos we need to become aware of our own imagery and how it functions. We privately agonize and sometimes publicly speak out on the representation of us in the majority culture. But what about the portrayal of ourselves within our own culture? Who are our heroes, our role models?” “Yolanda M. López Works: 1975-1978,” San Diego, 1978.

Amalia Mesa-Bains gives this interpretation of  the series:  “López’s Guadalupes are mobile, hardworking, assertive, working-class images of the abuela [grandmother] as a strong, solid nurturer, mother as a family-supporting seamstress, and daughter as a contemporary artist and powerful runner.”

On Yolanda Lopez and Guadalupe Triptych

See also: The Guadalupe Series

The First Female Directed Film about Jesus: La Vie du Christ (1906)

Alice Guy, the first female film director, produced a film (silent) on the life of Jesus. Consisting of 25 painted tableaux (typical of passion plays), together with location scenes (which take place outdoors), La Vie du Jesus (1906) is distinctive for its portraits of women.

Guy highlights Mary Magdalene’s primary role as the first witness of the risen Christ (Matt 28:7; John 20:11-18). Whether or not her themes count as “feminist,” Guy seems to go out of her way to include women in every scene–for instance, instead of  Simon of Cyrene, as the one who carries the cross of Jesus (Luke 23:26), six women do.  Eight women find the empty tomb (Luke 24:1-5), while many women are present at the foot of the cross.

Here’s the film (which runs 33 minutes).

Further References:

The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film
edited by Rhonda Burnette-Bletsch, See contribution by Carol A. Hebron, re: Alice Guy and La Vie de Christ, ch. 32, pp. 545-547.

See article: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 | Posted by Film International, Alice Guy’s La Vie du Christ: A Feminist Vision of the Christ Tale; http://filmint.nu/?p=9219

Women Film Pioneers: https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu/pioneer/ccp-alice-guy-blache/