Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Judas", from "Close to Jesus" series, explores the moral ambiguity of the infamous disciple

The third of the “Friends of Jesus”  (or "Close to Jesus") franchise-series films is “Judas” (2001), played by Enrico Lo Verso.  The film (which seems to have to fit a fixed 94-minute length for television) depicts the narrative of Judas Iscariot, which is a lot more complicated and morally layered than people often realize.

Judas is approached by his fiancée Sarah  (Aglaia Szyszkowitz)for  hard currency money (that belongs to the disciples), to bribe the Romans to free her brother, Jesta.  He refuses at first, but becomes disenchanted with Jesus’s behavior with the “money changers”, making enemies.  Eventually he gives Sarah the money, not realizing it will be used for an assassination plot involving Barabbas. 

There are some scenes in the middle where Jesus washes his feet – there is a good deal of intimacy, as in the other “Friends” film.  Jesus says that a servant cannot be greater than his master, and that he cannot challenge his master’s message.  (That might sound like an invitation to pandering.)  In the meantime, more of Judas’s family (and other friends’ families) are arrested after the assassination. Judas thinks that if he identifies Judas by kissing him in Gethsemane, Jesus will save himself (using his "powers") and everyone will be freed.  In fact, Judas’s family is freed but Jesus expires on the Cross. Judas has a philosophical argument with Peter (who had denied Jesus, even more “cowardly”) just before the death, and Peter cannot stop Judas from hanging himself out of grief at the end.

The footage in the crucifixion scene seems to be the same as in the "Thomas" film (Dec. 8). The scene where the Romans offer the mob the choice between freeing Jesus and Barabbas is quite effective, and would tie in to some of today's films about wrongful convictions (or the "Innocence Project"), which I will cover soon. 
One of the interesting aspects of the plot is the loyalty that Judas feels to other family members, and to the family of his fiancé.  Family responsibility was a communal thing in this society, extended to siblings and didn’t wait for your own children.

On June 4, 2011, I reviewed a gay-themed film called “Judas Kiss”, and I’m not sure that I see a clean parallel between that film and the Biblical story.  In that film, the young filmmaker has made a short film by that name, which he is trying to get into a campus festival, when he “betrays” and older man who may be a time-travel instantiation of himself.   But the social tenderness among the younger male characters in the film is rather striking, sometimes almost reminiscent of the Biblical story.

There is a short film (13 min), rather a lecture,  from “Rebel Alliance Media”  called “Judas Iscariot: His Betrayal and Death” (no longer available).

Picture: Flint Hills in Kansas (2006), not so far from the fictitious "Smallville".  

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