We watched Chocolat last night, the tale of a chocolate-maker and her daughter who arrive in a rural French town at the start of Lent, 1959. It is a beautiful film; I could write about the symbolic use of colour – blue, and red, and orange – but I recognise not everyone watches a film the way I do, so I’ll spare you…And it is a deeply theological film, a truly Easter film. It is a study of how those in authority use religion to control others, creating a community in their likeness, of skeletons-in-the-cupboard hidden behind whitewashed tombs…of their deep suspicion of anyone who comes into their town spreading life, gift-giving, reconciling, welcoming-in the broken, bringing hope…of the battle between hate and love…and love’s eventual overwhelming of hate, in the very moment of love’s deepest despair. A community learning – as the young priest finally comes to see on Easter morning – that goodness should not be measured by what we Do Not Do, but by who we are willing to embrace.
This afternoon, we watched Jesus Christ Superstar. Like the fictional chocolatier in late-50’s France, this 70’s-tastic film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Passion Play caused deep distress to the religious right in the UK…And yet, as with Chocolat, it is a truly Easter film, exposing and confronting our assumptions about Jesus [“Jesus Christ, Superstar! Do you think you’re who they say you are?” – almost certainly not!] as well as our assumptions about religious propriety. Of course, it has dated badly – the beautiful, blonde Jesus; the casting of a black man to play the principle villain, Judas – unless, of course, we allow these givens to challenge the very cultural prejudices they represent.
But, it hasn’t been a bad way to celebrate with Jesus this sacred/secular Easter Bank Holiday weekend. Not bad at all…
Holy Week , film , Chocolat , Jesus Christ Superstar