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January 12, 2008


I had two thoughts:

1)The reason I was struck by that particular movie still--the one where Sariah's daughters comfort her--is that one of my favorite parts of Nephi 1 is the intimate husband-and-wife moment where Lehi comforts Sariah, who is worrying about their sons. There aren't really any other comparable scenes in the scriptures--that I can think of, at least. When I first picked up Michael Allred's "The Golden Plates" comic book, I flipped straight to that scene, and the way he portrays it closely matches the picture I had in my own head of it. With the tableau nature of the Clawson's "First Nephi" film, it almost makes more sense to contrast it with something like Michael Allred's comic book rather than with other films.

2)The concern religious folk have with film depictions of scriptural accounts parallels the concern many people have with film depictions of any work of literature they're particularly fond of. Once people find out someone is going to be making a film about a book, there's always a lot of speculation about what it's going to be like: Will the filmmakers cut out any of my favorite scenes? Who's going to play the protagonist? Will the protagonist look like how I imagined him/her? In short, will my experience watching the movie be anything like my experience reading the book? Of course, when that book is something you've founded your belief in your religion on, it seems there would be an added measure of concern. But I bet hardcore LOTR fans experienced the same sorts of anxieties I experience every time I go to see a Mormon film that falls in the scriptural account genre. Incidentally, I have a friend who thinks Peter Jackson should be recruited to make the definitive "Book of Mormon" movie. It's kind of a fun thought.

Its interesting that you mentioned the South African Son of Man. I've thought about the only screening I saw at Sundance. I was shocked at how the Black Jesus was shot more than by his skin color. The director was White, but he was portraying a reality that I learned from by making Jesus Black (I also was touched by the use of the artificial wings use by the children Angels even though we know that that notion is false and we might even say heretical). But the thing that shocked the most was the night-cam effect that showed their representation of the Savior. It was the Messiah a la Blair Witch. This and other formal techniques which focuses wholly on the Jesus character disturbed me more than the use of one of the most holy of all narratives for political purposes.

At the end, I asked the director if he was intending irony or agnosticism by the Blair Witch effect. He surprised me and said "devotion." What I read as tongue in cheek heresy, was his worship.

I guess the point I'd like to raise is that even though that movie had much apocryphal and/or false doctrine at its core, I found the form more extra-canonical than the narrative.

I suggest that formal embellishment has as big an influence, if not more, than embellishment of the narrative.

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