While Jesus has attracted the sporadic interest of film-makers since the epics of the Sixties, it is often forgotten that between the advent of motion pictures in the 1890s and the close of the "silent" era at the end of the 1920s, some of the longest, most expensive and most watched films on both sides of the Atlantic were focused on the Life and Passion of the Christ. Drawing upon rarely seen archival footage and the work of both the era’s most important directors (e.g. Alice Guy, Ferdinand Zecca, Sidney Olcott, D.W. Griffith, Carl Dreyer, and C.B. DeMille) and others who have been all but forgotten, this collection of essays offers a representative survey of the Silents of Jesus, illustrating the ways in which the earliest films and those which followed were influenced by a multiplicity of factors. Written by leading scholars in biblical and early film studies this collection explores the ways in which the Silents of Jesus were shaped not only by the performing and visual arts of the nineteenth century and the technological challenges and opportunities of a new medium and industry, but also by the artistic, theological and ideological predilections of studios and directors, and the expectations of audiences as the genre evolved. Taken together, the essays collected here offer a seminal treatment of the genesis and early evolution of the cinematic Jesus.
Introduction David J. Shepherd 1. The Passion of the Christ: a form, a genre, a discourse André Gaudreault2. La Vie et Passion de Jésus Christ (Pathé-Frères, 1902-1905): Tableau Variation in the Early Cinema Valentine Robert and Alain Boillat3. La naissance, vie et passion du Christ (Gaumont, 1906): The Gospel According to Alice Guy David J. Shepherd4. La Vie et Passion de Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ (Pathé-Frères, 1907): The Preservation and Transformation of Zecca's Passion Dwight H. Friesen5. Sidney Olcott's From the Manger to the Cross (Kalem, 1912): Out of Egypt and Palestine W. Barnes Tatum6. The Star of Bethlehem (Thanhouser, 1912): The Sacred Story from King Herod to the Crip Terry Lindvall7. The Shadow of Nazareth (Venus Features/Warner Features, 1913): The Hermeneutics of an Unauthorized Adaptation Rhonda Burnette-Bletsch8. La Vie et Passion de Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ (Pathé-Frères 1913/24): Pathé's Inclination to Tell and Maître's Instinct to Show Jo-Ann Brant9. The Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, 1915) and Intolerance (Triangle/Wark 1916): Griffith's Talismanic Jesus Richard Walsh10. Christus (CINES, 1916): Italy's First Religious "Kolossal" by Antamoro and Salvatori Giuseppe Pucci11. Der Galiläer (Express-Film, 1921) and I.N.R.I. (Neumann-Film, 1923): The Silence of Jesus in the Early German Cinema Reinhold Zwick12. Leaves from Satan's Book (Nordisk, 1921) and Dreyer's Script Jesus of Nazareth (1950): The Jewishness of Jesus Caroline Vander Stichele13. The King of King's (DeMille Pictures, 1927): The Body and the Word on Film Vivienne Westbrook Final Reflections David J. Shepherd