1. THE ANNUNCIATION. The Angel of the Lord appears to Mary, announcing the birth of a child, which shall be called the "Son of God." 2. THE STRANGE STAR. Led by the light of the strange new... See full summary »
1. THE ANNUNCIATION. The Angel of the Lord appears to Mary, announcing the birth of a child, which shall be called the "Son of God." 2. THE STRANGE STAR. Led by the light of the strange new star, the three wise men of the East journey to Bethlehem in search of the holy child, whose birth has been foretold to them. They are followed by a large retinue of servants and a train of camels, donkeys, sheep, etc., forming in all an impressive caravan. 3. THE ADORATION OF THE WISE MEN. The wise men and the shepherds enter the lowly stable and kneel at the feet of Mary, who holds in her arms the new-born babe. Joseph stands near and watches the touching scene. 4. FLIGHT INTO EGYPT. Through the lonely Egyptian desert Mary and Joseph flee to a place of safety to preserve the life of the infant Jesus. Arriving at the famous Sphinx, Mary finds shelter for the night, while Joseph collects wood for the fire. 5. JESUS AND THE DOCTORS. The doctors and sages are engaged in a learned discussion, when ... Written by
With the Passion Play released by Siegmund Lubin in 1903, the first dramatic feature-length movies, although some film historians disqualify them because each was released in multiple parts. See more »
PASSION AND DEATH OF Christ (Lucien Nonguet and Ferdinand Zecca, 1902-5) **
With the invention of a new medium of narrative and communication, it was inevitable that the story of "the life and passion of Christ" (the film's original title) would immediately attract the attention of those seeking to dabble in the nascent enterprise. This primitive artifact is of historical value not for being the very first film to deal with these events but because it was later considered to be the first feature-length film ever released...despite the fact that, running just under 45 minutes, it isn't one technically and besides, it was originally shown in segments in serial-like fashion!
What I find more important, however, is the fact that for the next few years after its making, rather than setting up newer and more elaborate productions, it was being exploited by exhibitors by getting re-edited and distributed under various aliases. The version I watched, subdivided into virtually split-second re-enactments of the most famous incidents in Christ's life on Earth, was predictably bland on a technical and artistic level with the usual drawbacks of overly emphatic acting and stagey movement. What to say, then, about the extremely hirsute and curiously chubby actor chosen to portray the all-important central role?
Even so, it proved pleasant enough to watch given the sheer ingenuity (hand coloring specific objects, like angels' wings or soldiers' robes, for added effect) utilized to straightforwardly convey familiar material for mass consumption. Occasionally there was also the odd sparkle of inventiveness, with the angel literally obfuscating the Holy Family from Herod's pursuing soldiers in the land of Egypt. Also, I have to say the print was in much better shape than a century-old footage has any right to be. Divine intervention, perhaps?
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