The Bible as Commodity in American Cinema

By Gavriel Moses.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Typically, the Bible in Cinema is discussed as source for narrative materials or, if the film is set in the modern world, by analysing the allegorical, typological, or allusive way it references the Bible. My project, of which this essay is a segment, intends to discuss, on the other hand, films in which the Bible appears as cultural object on screen, and does so as a productive element of story and character. Objects in the cinema by and large “are” content. Books as objects, on the other hand, “have” content. They convey a clear meaning in and of themselves. The Bible, more than most books, comes to the screen charged with centuries of variously transmitted contents, versions, interpretations, and varieties of cultural usage. The vast majority of western spectators share this repertory in some measure, and are aware of its value. Values such as these, as we know, can be exploited precisely because people have much invested in them. Treated as a commodity, the Bible generates narrative productivity as cultural object in many films, affecting storyline, characterization, even the outcome of the film. It can be sold, as I argue in this essay, in a literal as well as metaphorical sense.

Keywords: Bible, Cinema, Material Culture, Cultural Object, Narrative Productivity, Book as Character, Cultural Canon, Film Discourse

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp.11-20. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 776.422KB).

Prof. Gavriel Moses

Associate Professor Film Studies & Italian Studies, Department of Film & Digital Media, Department of Italian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA

Gavriel Moses has, for many years, taught Italian Cultural Studies, Film Studies, and the Theory and Practice of Filmmaking at the University of California, Berkeley. His research and writing pays particular attention to the interaction of different art forms, literature and film in particular. About the latter is his book The Nickel Was for the Movies (University of California Press, 1995). He is currently working on a book about the Bible as Cultural Object in Cinema. Two essay from this project have already appeared in print.

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