Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Mary Magdalene

Last night saw me attending a screening of Philippa’s stupendous Mary Magdalene film. I had hitherto thought that I’d be the quintessential anti-audient when it came to a film about Jesus, but it I found the experience utterly transporting. The story, as you might guess from its title, is told entirely from the perspective of Magdalene, a figure whose fundamental importance has been suppressed by Catholicism for the best part of two thousand years. It’s only relatively recently that revisionism has taken place. I actually had no idea that, within the last two years, the Vatican had actually upgraded her status to that of an apostle/ disciple, which strikes me as pretty big news. I don’t know a great deal about Christianity, but it’s always fascinated me that an entire religion can be based on the concept of resurrection without whole-heartedly celebrating the person who Jesus first appeared to in his zombie state. Surely, this fact alone makes Mary Magdalene of crucial importance to the faith?

The other thing which I’ve never been able to reconcile is the role that Judas plays within the religion. Judas, it strikes me, did only what he was destined to do. Without Judas, there would have been no crucifixion and because Jesus needed to die in order to be resurrected, anyone, from Herod to Pilate, who played a part in the great order of things, should, by rights, be up there in heaven with the main man. For this reason, I was hugely impressed by the portrayal of Judas within Philippa’s film. They gave him a back story which offered a reason for his fanaticism and ultimate betrayal, and he was really sensitively played by a North African actor with a luminous, kind face, which was a million miles away from the brooding nonsense we tend to associate with portrayals of that man.

The film was exquisitely shot with a massive emphasis on faces and eyes. It also felt surprisingly wintry, with rolling mists sliding down hillsides, and dark, brutal winds rustling hair and scarves.
Philippa’s writing is moving and self-assured, and I sat in the audience, a really proud man.

I took Abbie with me, as I felt, of all of my friends, she was likely to get the most out of it. I’m therefore very pleased to report that she loved it as well.

There was a Q and A afterwards with Philippa in one of the hot seats. The audience, many of whom were religious scholars, were very warm, although I got a bit angry when one of them started banging on about her issues with a white actress playing “a woman of colour.” Mary Magdalene was Jewish and Middle Eastern, which, as far as I’m concerned, means she could have been anywhere from very pale skinned to North African in appearance. It is as legitimate to have her played by a white woman as it is to have her played by a black woman. If the actress chosen had looked like Agnetha from ABBA, I might have taken issue with the casting, but I was really happy with the way that the actress looked. Actually, a much more interesting debate might have been about the visual authenticity of Jewish and Palestinian actors being cast in central roles, against the barriers that opposing personal faiths might have generated in this regard.

There’s little else to say about yesterday, as I spent the entire day packaging up CDs to send off to people who had preordered copies of Em. I walked into the post office with ninety padded envelopes and I could see the woman behind the counter mentally preparing herself for a long haul! Largely as a result of Nathan’s knitting fans getting behind the project, I was hugely excited to be sending packages to USA, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Germany, Spain, Iceland, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and Switzerland. What a small world we live in!

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