The Passion of The Christ meets Joan of Arc
The troubled Mary leaves her small hometown of Magdala to join Jesus and his apostles, much to the dismay of her family, who wish for her to adhere to the traditional role of a woman in the 33 AD community.
Thanks to Pope Gregory, one leading perception of Mary Magdalene (until far too recent years), was that of a rebellious prostitute. I was interested when I first heard about this movie because I had not seen details of her life explored in such depth in cinema previously, and the trailers made it clear that it would be addressing this historical perception. The notably talented cast really caught my eye; actually my two favourite actors, Joaquin and Rooney, together on screen. I was holding my breath with anticipation.
[Cue the unveiling of the horrifying Weinstein pursuits. May all his cinematic ventures now forever be tarnished, but that’s another story, another post]
As with the aesthetically amazing Lion (2016), Garth Davis achieves cinematic beauty with Mary Magdalene. The everlasting landscapes of Italy serve well as one of the locations. Hazy, earthy colours make this picture look almost like a moving tapestry printed on old parchment, paired with a mesmerizing score to orchestrate a movie which is very pleasing to the senses.
Although it feels like it never actually gets to the point,Mary Magdalene is a well needed representation of a woman we thought we knew all about. It is an observation of Mary’s life that poses questions I never thought to ask and brings an incredibly humane take on her story that is relevant to every day in age. This was a courageous woman seeking truth and spiritual significance in a frustrating world, ever enduring the constant undermining and condescendence of the men surrounding her.
I have to say I found Joaquin Phoenix a little uncomfortable to watch as the vulnerable, whiny, American Jesus. Albeit a refreshing take on the Biblical figure. Meanwhile, Rooney Mara was impressive, with minimal dialogue and a whole range of emotions depicted through an unwavering, rigid and beautifully peaceful persona.
Mary Magdalene may disappoint the most conservative of Christians, as may any representation of the Bible on the big screen, and similarly it may come across fruitless and dull to those who are religiously uninterested. As someone who is neither, I found some moments very emotional to watch, but I also found parts of the movie to be lengthily flat.
Nevertheless, the reason why it’s a good thing that this wasn’t an action packed, sparkly, emotional rollercoaster of a drama is because the story of Mary Magdalene is a socially, politically and spiritually important one that will resonate with viewers in various ways. As star studded as it is, there is also something redeemed through its plainness.
What were your thoughts on this movie?