Stories and images from the Christian Apocrypha have appeared in popular, or ‘non-ecclesiastical’, settings since the Middle Ages when the various collections of lives of saints, books of hours, mystery plays, and incunabula repurposed apocryphal traditions for devotional purposes. Examples of such use have increased exponentially over the last century, in music (Gustav Holst’s ‘Hymn of Jesus’, Tori Amos’s ‘Original Sinsuality’), fiction (Thomas B. Costain’s The Silver Chalice, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code), television (the ‘Hollywood A.D.’ episode of The X-Files, the Banned from the Bible documentaries), and film (Rupert Wainwright’s Stigmata, Abel Ferrara’s Mary). For the most part, these works, though entertaining, misrepresent and sensationalize the content of the texts, but their value lies not in what they say about ancient texts and traditions but in what they say about the interests and anxieties of their creators and audiences.
This article discusses the relationship between cinema and atheism, and draws out some of the analogies used to describe the role of cinema in modernity (particularly similarities between Plato’s cave and the cinema experience and images of cinema as ‘dream-like’). It examines the work of Soviet film-maker Dziga Vertov in particular, and looks at his use of anti-religious and atheist themes. The article suggests that while little attention has been paid to the topic of cinema and atheism, there is a rich seam of thinking to be mined here, and there exist unresolved questions about the ‘religious’ dimensions of cinema itself that go far beyond the force of the odd parodic or documentary atheist film.
Robert K. Johnston
Despite the problems inherent in defining the scope of creations associated with Israeli cinema, it is relatively easy to define the cinema's boundaries and to delineate the writers of essays, books, and anthologies who deal with it. This is not the case when attempting to define Jewish cinema or deciding what constitutes writing about Jewish cinema. This article discusses this issue extensively, along with some of the side issues that derive from it. Before that, however, this article reviews the history of writing on Israeli cinema, since this sheds much light on the difficulties involved in reviewing writing on Jewish cinema.