Sunday, April 5, 2015

Silent Sundays: King of Kings (1927)

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“But what evil hath He done?”

            Yes, it is Easter. Yes, I am watching and writing up a Biblical film. How original I know. I thought about doing another type of silent film but when I saw King of Kings saved in my favorites folder for silent films on YouTube I could not pass it up. Plus, Cecil B. DeMille directed this film. How could I not pass it up?
            This telling of the story of Jesus begins in a royal court. Mary Magdalene. Like most people she knows she too laughs at God and gives in to whatever pleasures and vices she wants. Mary becomes upset because Judas was seen with a group of beggars led by Jesus. In a rage she has her finest things made ready so she can go and tell Jesus off. Several people in the court tell Mary she has no chance against Jesus he has changed so many.

            Judas has only joined Jesus because he thought Jesus would be king of Israel and give him high office. Spies from the High Temple have been sent by the High Priest Caiaphas to look for Jesus and hear what the people have to say about Him. These spies are a Pharisee, a Scribe, and a Temple Guard. All three try to tell the people that Jesus is not a man of God. A crier calls the Sabbath. The Pharisee turns to his other compatriots and says they will wait to see if Jesus heals on Sabbath so they have something to accuse Him of.
            The first time Jesus is seen is when a blind child opens his eyes for the first time. Jesus healed the boy of his blindness. The boy sees Jesus’ kind face, loving face surround by a holy light. It the first face he sees. Jesus lovingly embraces the boy.
            Mary Magdalene finds Jesus. She is immediately taken and disarmed by Him. He cleanses her of the Seven Sins. When she is fully cleansed, Mary covers herself with her robes and then goes to Jesus and kneels before Him.
            The Scribe, Pharisee, and The Guard return to Caiaphas to tell him that Jesus healed someone and then called God His Father. Caiaphas tells them to take the Guard Matthew to find Jesus. If He does not pay a tax He will be arrested, if He does than He will offend the people. They find Jesus and force Him to pay. Jesus has Peter and Judas pay for them.
            One day Jesus is approached by Martha and Mary of Bethany. Their brother Lazarus has died and they would like Him to resurrect Lazarus. Jesus goes to the tomb and resurrects Lazarus. Those who believe in Him look on in awe and those who do not flee.
            Jesus and his disciples next go to Jerusalem much to the annoyance of Caiaphas. The High Priest tries to think of something to do with Jesus. A woman is convicted of adultery and is the brought in to the Temple. Caiaphas has the woman brought to Jesus who if He lets the woman go can be stoned to death in her place. Jesus stops the men from stoning the woman. He tells the men if they are without sin then let them be the one to cast the first stone. When everyone leaves Jesus asks the woman if a man has accused her, she responds that no a man was not the one to accuse her. Jesus tells her to go and sin no more.
            The Temple is littered with sinners and stalls for people to sell their wares. Jesus has enough and knocks everything over and causes a stir to drive corruption from the Temple. This outburst greatly angers the corrupt Caiaphas. He sends his guards after Him. Caiaphas wants Jesus to be taken but not in the open. He has Judas tell them where Jesus is staying with the Disciples. It is the Last Supper. Jesus knows He will be betrayed and by Judas so He has Judas leave to do what he has to do. Judas lets the guards know that he will point out who Jesus is with a kiss. Jesus is arrested on Mount Sinai.
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            Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilot for trial. Pilot cannot understand why Jesus is being tried since He has not done anything wrong. He lets the people and the priests determine whether Jesus should be punished so his hands are kept clean. Caiaphas orders his priests to bribe the rogues of the city to shout out that Jesus is a traitor. Pilot asks the crowd is they would rather have the murderer Barabbas released or Jesus. The crowd chants for the release of the murderer.
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            As part of His punishment, Jesus is made to drag His cross through the streets. A young boy He had healed is beside himself because of what Jesus has to go through. The boy tells his father that if he were a big man he would help his friend carry the cross. The father takes to heart what his son tells him and comes to Jesus’ side when He falls and has trouble getting back up.
            In the meantime Judas has gone mad because he has caused the blood of an innocent man to be spilled. At the trial one of the guards threw a rope in Judas’s direction. He took the rope and walked to a tree close to the hill where Jesus is set on the cross. He watches the crowd sneer and jeer at Jesus and the guards keep the faithful back.
            In the ninth hour since He was placed upon the cross, Jesus dies. God sends a storm of rain, wind, and thunder and lightning. All the non believers and evil people run away only to be killed by falling boulders and trees. Caiaphas runs to the Temple to beg God to punish him and not the people of Jerusalem. The Temple comes down on him.
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            Three days later Jesus rises from the tomb and returns to his Disciples.
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             I know the story of Jesus from having gone to church and Sunday school. I was worried I was going to be bored since I knew the story but Cecil B. DeMille’s direction was just amazing. It is one of those where the direction really enhanced the story. DeMille’s direction captured every single emotion be it love, faith, devotion, greed, hate, or lust his camera captured it. So many scenes were moving and beautiful. The one shot in one scene that has now become one of my favorites from a film is after Jesus and the Disciples leave the Last Supper and the camera stays focused on the chalice Jesus and the Disciples drank out of. The scenery surrounding the chalice fades to black while the chalice is lit in Holy light. I could not get over how beautiful that scene was. It is a scene I will always remember. Another scene that was perfectly filmed was Jesus carrying the cross. DeMille kept the camera focused on the end of the cross as it dragged on the ground. He not only captured the burdensome cross he also captured the people rallying either in ignorance or sadness.
            King of Kings is one of the best silent films I have ever seen. It is visually enthralling and beautiful. Knowing the story it actually took on a whole new life to me. You do not need to be religious or Catholic to see King of Kings. If you love beautiful films that are perfect from the writing to the acting to the direction to the scenery and everything else you be amazed with King of Kings
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