Friday, 23 March 2018


Well done FJF... I ask readers to take some remarks as tongue-in-cheek... This an open platform, therefore, an equal opportunity is given to personal views expresses by contributors! 


Will feminists like the Mary Magdalene movie? Only if they believe in forgiving rapist murderers. ‘You must forgive them’ says Joaquin Phoenix’ Jesus to a hard-faced, hate-filled woman lamenting a friend’s rape and killing. Not many ‘sisters’ will accept that, I surmise. But then nowhere does the real gospel Jesus teach that, forgiveness or not, such monsters should go unpunished...

To Jesus’s Apostles, this soulful Mary of Magdala utters ineffable sayings like ‘you do not understand because it is beyond understanding’. Best line in the film. With a certain Gnostic appeal. The whole movie smells of Gnosticism, actually. Not that such writings be always women-friendly. The apocryphal Gospel of the Egyptians has Christ threaten that: ‘I have come to destroy the works of the female’. And in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas St Peter tells the other disciples: ‘Let us drive Mary away from us because women are not worthy of eternal life.’ No wonder Mary and Peter (played by an African - odd but…so be it) clash in the film. Matriarchy versus patriarchy? Or #MeToo stuff? Certainly Gnostic. This Mary Magdalene isn’t just the 13th disciple. She is the true, best disciple. And she alone preserves J.C.’s authentic message. (A bit wishy-washy, alas.) If you have swallowed Da Vinci Code gobbledygook…it figures.

The film piously purports to rescue the Magdalene from a church tradition that saw her as a redeemed harlot, as in the Tintoretto portrait above. St Luke says she was once exorcised and seven devils came out of her but there is no mention of prostitution. Later, Mary was confused with another, nameless female who was a sinner. She anointed Jesus’ feet with a precious ointment and kissed them, weeping. He then forgave her many sins, to the scandal of a Pharisee (St Luke 7:37). What if Mary had been a repented harlot, I ask? Why so bad? One of Jesus’ ancestors was Rahab, the Jericho prostitute who helped the Hebrews to conquer the city. An indispensable link in the chain of salvation. And doesn’t St Matthew report the Messiah as chiding the self-righteous Pharisees: ‘The tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you’? Does this very feminist movie show a Victorian morality streak?

Mercifully, the relationship between Mary and Jesus is non-sexual. The scene of her baptism is perhaps a bit erotic but that’s not my beef. Jesus commissioned his followers to baptise but never personally did so himself (St John 4:2). Guess the script wanted to emphasise Mary’s exalted status but it negates the text’s plain meaning. Further, she is placed at Jesus’s right hand during the Passover’s Last Supper – another liberty. A puzzling scene as the unleavened bread distributed around looked to me like the Rakusen’s Matzos crackers you buy in M&S. (Delicious but bloody constipating!) Considering that serial abuser Harvey Weinstein was originally the executive producer maybe it makes sense. Good job Harvey is now cast out, confined by the sisters to the outer darkness where ‘there is weeping and gnashing of teeth’. Serve him right!

Rooney Mara’s beautiful Magdalene is tough. As when she stares off a looming Roman centurion. In fact, the Romans are the villains of the piece. Pretty safe, they are no longer around and can’t complain but this particular Roman-born priest will. Roman soldiers arrest Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane whereas they were guards and servants of the Jewish High Priest and the elders. The action then abruptly shifts to the Crucifixion, in which the Roman soldiers played a part, but it so skips Jesus’ trial before the High priest and Pilate’s repeated attempts to save him. It is wise not to provoke charges of anti-Semitism but doctoring out a key, telling passages of the Gospels is unforgivable.

Boringly, Judas is whitewashed as a Jewish patriot/freedom fighter who wants to force the Messiah to start a revolt against the Romans. Not 30 pieces of silver but ideology is his motive for betraying the Son of God. The shallow-minded will buy that but it trivialises the whole meaning of Jesus’ mission, as well as, again, contradicting the Gospels. When it came to earthly politics, Jesus was astutely non-committal. ‘Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’ sums up his divine strategy jolly well. As he prophesied, the eventual insurrection stirred up by Jewish fanatics ended with the total annihilation of Jerusalem and the expulsion of Jews from Palestine. In challenging Rome, the zealots made a rod for their own back.
And Jesus? He works miracles and rises from the dead, fair enough, but… Joaquin Phoenix is unhandsome. A problem? We don’t know what JC looked like but if Mary – a mere human – is portrayed as good-looking it would be even more fitting that the Son of God should be physically stupendous. Is this carping? Well, a movie about ‘the greatest story ever told’, and the God-Man, is a special movie. The super-hero should be aesthetically attractive. Phoenix’s ugly mug is, frankly, a turn-off. He had a comely brother, River Phoenix, who died tragically young. Had he lived, he would have been the ideal Jesus. Blame me if you must, my Italian soul cannot bear ugliness. Besides, isn’t beauty an attribute of the Divine?
This film won’t please Muslims. The Qur’an disavows the Cross and the Resurrection and both are shown. Can’t be helped, I guess.
The film is slow. A few times I yawned. This Magdalene, spiritual though she may be, lacks fire in her belly. (I dread to say this but…cojones?) A feminist counter-Gospel should be more incendiary than that. Maybe Camille Paglia, my favourite feminist, should have a go?

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


** follow on Twitter (
| ** friend on Facebook (
| ** forward to a friend (

Copyright © Fr Frank Gelli
Email Marketing Powered by MailChimp
** unsubscribe from this list (
| ** update subscription preferences (

No comments: