Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

Norman Jewison and Melvyn Bragg ' S Jesus in 1973 and Mark ' S Gospel

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

Norman Jewison and Melvyn Bragg ' S Jesus in 1973 and Mark ' S Gospel

Article excerpt

Dr. Jayhoon Yang, Hyupsung University

Abstract

Interpreting Norman Jewison and Melvyn Bragg's film Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) as a passion narrative, I examined it by employing the four dimensions of the cinematic quest for Jesus movies that Barns Tatum suggested. This film parallels Mark's Gospel. It adopts significant Markan motifs and themes such as "way (hodos)", "blindness of the disciples", "servanthood" and "thinking the things of God". It also employs Markan structure in the opening and the closing of the movie, and portrays Jesus, as well as other characters, as Mark does.

[1] Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock opera, [1] Jesus Christ Superstar, has been presented at countless theatres all over the world. The recording industry profited greatly thanks to its beautiful songs such as "I Don't Know How to Love Him" and "Superstar." Jesus Christ Superstar is not, however, merely a musical product; it is a passion narrative that deals with the last week of Jesus' earthly life, as well as Lloyd Webber and Rice's response to the gospels that they probably read or heard. Furthermore, when a Canadian director Norman Jewison and Melvyn Bragg, who co-wrote the screenplay, made a film of this rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar in 1973, it was not just a Jesus movie but a sort of meta-criticism of Lloyd Webber and Rice's passion narrative.

[2] In this article, I will examine Norman Jewison and Melvyn Bragg's Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) as a passion narrative, questioning how they interpreted Lloyd Webber and Rice's work, as well as the gospels. I will discuss their Jesus Christ Superstar by employing the four dimensions of the cinematic quest for Jesus that W. Barns Tatum suggested: the artistic, the historical, the literary and the theological aspects. [2] I will deal with Jewison and Bragg's work focusing especially on the literary and the theological dimension, and by doing so discuss its relationship with Mark's Gospel.

Artistic Dimension

[3] The artistic dimension considers whether a Jesus movie has achieved an artistic integrity as a film. It is not easy to discuss whether Jewison and Bragg's Jesus Christ Superstar reached an excellent artistic standard by examining the literary elements, such as plot and structure, of the Jesus Christ Superstar text, because it is based on what Lloyd Webber and Rice have already produced. Therefore, one should consider how creatively and artistically Jewison and Bragg reworked their Jesus Christ Superstar.

[4] Gilbert Seldes has once harshly criticized Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings (1927) as a failure as a film because it was nothing other than "reproductions of famous paintings" in many scenes, losing the characteristics of film as moving pictures. [3] From Seldes' point of view, the Jesus-on-the-cross scene in Jesus of Nazareth (F. Zeffirelli, 1977) and the Last Supper scene in The Greatest Story Ever Told (George Stevens, 1965) also seem to be reproductions of famous classical paintings, and to be criticized as being short of artistic integrity.

[5] Jewison and Bragg's Jesus Christ Superstar, on the other hand, is far from Seldes' criticism. Jewison and Bragg, as David Greene did (Godspell, 1973), removed traditional and typical images from characters, settings and costume that classical Jesus movies or paintings used. Worth noting is that Jewison and Bragg separated Jesus from other characters: Jesus is wearing a first century garb whereas others are in modern dress; he also has a traditional halo around his body in the beginning and at the end of the film. [4] Jewison and Bragg also inserted some famous paintings about the passion of Jesus such as M. Grunewald's The Crucifixion (1515), which increases an artistic value of this film ("Gethsemane"). Jewison and Bragg's Jesus Christ Superstar has its own creativity, bringing the Jesus film business a fresh inspiration and a new breakthrough. …

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