Guises of the Christ-Figure
The profile of the Christ-figure in film can include a number of elements or dimensions, all of which can be recognized on the one hand in the fullness of their meaning in Jesus the Christ, and on the other hand to a lesser extent in the figure of Christ represented in the film in question. 1 At the same time, the filmic Christ-figure assumes a number different guises or forms, each of which serves as an appropriate metaphor of the totality of the Christ-event or of some dimension thereof. So far in this book, we have considered this reciprocal dynamic between the Christ-figure and the Christ figured through the detailed analysis of individual films, in most of which the totality of the Christ-event is represented. In addition, most of these films are recognized classics, masterpieces of the filmic art. In this chapter, which is conceived as a wide-ranging overview of the Christ-figure theme in film, we shall shift our approach. From an attention paid almost exclusively to classic films, we shall here consider a wide variety of films, some classics and many very popular. As well, moving from a detailed and extensive analysis of a limited number of films, in this chapter we shall focus briefly on a larger selection of films, the intention being to suggest how widely and how variously the Christ-figure imagery is diffused in the seventh art.
Since the filmic Christ-figure does not always reflect the totality of the Christ-event, in the first part of this chapter and by looking briefly at a number of films, many of them popular rather than classics, we shall consider how different dimensions of the Christ-event are represented in individual elements or images or sequences of the films in question.
Reflecting the wholly other, transcendental character, or at least origins of the Word-of-God-made-flesh, the filmic Christ-figure often has mysterious origins. This mysterious quality is evident in Pasolini Teorema ( 1968) where not even the name of the strange "visitor," let alone his origins and destiny, is known: he arrives announced by an "angel-figure," and departs the same way. As we saw in chapter three, the transcendent dimension is also present in the western, Shane, in which the mysterious origins and destiny of the enigmatic hero are never fully revealed. Sometimes the Christ-figure comes from outer space as in Stephen Spielberg E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial ( 1982) or from another time zone, as in Vincent Ward The Navigator: AMedieval Odyssey ( 1988)