Page 1 of 1

Mary Magdalene movie (2018)

Posted: 11 Feb 2020, 13:16
by Roy
I recently saw the 2018 movie Mary Magdalene.

I enjoy historical fiction movies because there are some known "facts" but the filmmaker gets to interpret those facts in a story arc and hopefully deliver a message. Mary Magdalene is similar to The Red Tent from 2014.

First off, I learned that Magdalene refers to someone from Magdala. It is not a surname.


In the movie, Mary is arranged to marry and older man and widower. She has a hard time and eventually refuses. This brings shame and dishonor to her family and they try to exorcize the disobedient spirit out of her (nearly killing her). This brings in a plausible backstory about Mary having been "possessed." Mary is bitter and her family still expect her to Mary this guy. Mary runs away from home to follow the itinerant preacher and mystic Jesus.

Jesus is an enigmatic character. He is shown to perform miracles including raising a man from the dead. Everyone expects Jesus to usher in a new kingdom. Judas lost his wife and child in death and he is awaiting the promised reunion with them when the new kingdom happens and they are resurrected. Jesus begins to confide more in Mary and she begins gain insights that maybe the kingdom is something less than literal but rather that believers should lift where they stand to create a better world or heaven on earth. Peter becomes increasingly resentful of Mary and feels that her presence weakens the massage.

Judas is disappointed when Jesus doesn't prove his divinity in the temple and use the opportunity to usher in the new kingdom (and millennial reign). Judas decides to betray Jesus to the authorities to force Jesus into revealing himself and taking control of the government.

Jesus dies and is resurrected. Mary talks to the resurrected Jesus and the dialogue seems to support that Jesus was more interested in saving man from sin than in overthrowing governments and earthly oppressors. Mary then goes to report the resurrection to Peter and the apostles.

Peter is at first hesitant to believe Mary. Why would Jesus appear to her and not to the men? Mary is compelling and convincing in her story. Then Peter says something interesting. He says that the Kingdom of heaven that Jesus was to bring is yet to come and that all the MEN in that room are the foundation of that yet to be realized kingdom. Mary disagrees about forming a hierarchical organization. She feels that Jesus was looking for something more spiritually radical and revolutionary (radical and revolutionary love?) than just starting a church. Peter and the other Apostles force Mary out and carry on as they see fit with a more literal understanding of a "second coming" and a millennial reign that replaces world governments etc. From Mary's perspective, Peter and the other apostles are still missing the point and "looking beyond the mark" in expecting God to step in and solve all their problems.

As a movie it was rather slow. I liked it as an exercise in historical fiction. It raises questions about the interpretations and agenda of the authors of the biblical gospels (and how their message [30ish years later when these things started to get written down] might have had a different slant than the message of Jesus himself when he was alive).

Edit: I found a movie review that had similar observations to my own: ... c-thought/

I also see parallels between this story and JS, BY, Emma and Lucy Mack Smith in the early LDS church, the succession crisis after the death of JS, and the early Utah period.

Re: Mary Magdalene movie (2018)

Posted: 12 Feb 2020, 17:46
by Curt Sunshine
It sounds interesting.

I like alternative histories, as long as they are reasonably logical and not too fanciful. What you describe fits that category.

Re: Mary Magdalene movie (2018)

Posted: 17 Feb 2020, 13:23
by Roy
Yes, I am reminded of an old phrase that "history is written by the victors."

In this case there is a double whammy of the current scriptures being told from an all male point of view AND the possibility of a power/influence struggle - succession crisis with the victorious male leadership writing history in such a way as to justify themselves as the natural and foreordained successors.

This reminds me strongly of the succession crisis in our own LDS history. There was no obvious successor but there were a few different possibilities. Lucy Mack was a strong figure in the restoration and BY had her named as a "Mother in Zion" at GC after the martyrdom but I do not believe that she was invited to have any leadership role in the LDS church moving forward. I believe that she saw herself as a sort of unofficial church matriarch in that she had a habit of performing blessings on people that would visit her up until her death. She wrote the "History of JS by his Mother" that was opposed rather strongly by BY in part because of the favorable descriptions of William Smith, Lucy's son and a potential rival for leadership of the church. From Wikipedia: "Lucy Smith portrayed the Smith family as the legitimate leaders of the church, which Young may also have seen as a challenge to his leadership."

It is of course well documented the mistrust and division between BY and Emma Smith.

After BY assumed leadership of the church he began taking steps to immediately to shore up his position. I believe that this includes writing things into the history that justifies his leadership position as a natural and foreordained successor. (Not that this is necessarily bad. BY kept the church together as with an iron fist when it otherwise might have faltered, splintered, and dissipated.)

This lesson about "history is written by the victors" also has me thinking about Nephi and his description of the posterity of his brethren as having been cursed by God and marked with a "skin of blackness". Nephi's writings survive, his derogatory labeling of the people that he considered to be his enemy also survive. That does not make it an accurate or unbiased description.