Jesus & Mary: modern movies, artworks
Questions for Bible study groups
- How has Jesus been portrayed in modern movies and artworks? His mother Mary?
- How is this different to/similar to traditional images in paintings and illustrations?
- Which do you prefer?
In brief: People often think of Jesus as serene and admired by all. This was not so. Jesus was challenging, and he was hated by many upper-class leaders. Modern movies and artworks try to give a balanced view of Jesus, showing him as wise, strong, and unflinchingly courageous, but also controversial.
The photographer Michael Belk has departed from tradition by showing an informal Jesus who laughs, argues, talks one-to-one. This is a major innovation, and a welcome one. Try to think of past paintings or images that show Jesus laughing – they are rare, if they exist at all.
Some modern images of Mary of Nazareth
Very few images of Mary show the lines and wrinkles of an aging Jewish peasant woman. Later sequences in the movie ‘The Passion of the Christ’ (see above) capture the mature Mary.
Here is a figure full of energy: hands, feet and hair all suggest movement. This is a vigorous, beautiful Mary, hands raised to heaven, feet stepping into the future.
The cathedral website describes the statue thus:
‘The ornamental space above the pair of bronze doors contains the 8 foot image of Our Lady of the Angels. The modern figure is presented as a woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet” (Revelations 12:1). The halo shaft above her head shines God’s light on her as the sun travels from east to west.
Mary does not wear the traditional veil. Her arms are bare, outstretched to welcome all. Her carriage is confident, and her hands are strong, the hands of a working woman.
From the side can be seen a thick braid of hair down her back that summons thoughts of Native American or Latina women. Other characteristics, such as her eyes, lips and nose convey Asian, African and Caucasian features. Without the conventional regal trappings of jewels, crown or layers of clothing, she has a dignity that shines from within.’