Bible in Film

Adding to The Good Book's longstanding history on the big screen.

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The Bible, for The Decalogue, is a morality lesson, not a leisure-time activity. Its precepts are as relevant to the inhabitants of a Polish housing project as they were to the Israelites wandering in the desert some 3,000 years prior, and the film's tales of blood-thirsty justice and cruel fate magically render the lessons of the Ten Commandments as part and parcel of our daily lives, not dusty precepts out of the distant past.

This tendency stands in contrast to the other brand of Bible film--those interested in bringing the Bible, unsullied, to the big screen. This usually goes hand in hand with the desire to blow the Bible up larger than life size. The Ten Commandments is undoubtedly the most famous of these efforts (which reach back to D.W. Griffith's 1916 Intolerance). The 1950s were perhaps the high-water period for such "faithful" adaptations of Biblical narratives, almost all of which required extensive revision of the stories in question.

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Saul Austerlitz

Saul Austerlitz is a writer and film critic in New York.