Mary Magdalene - Film Club Review

marymagdaleneThis week we look at the biblical biopic of Mary Magdalene, starring Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix.

Title: Mary Magdalene
Genre: Drama
Classification: M
Director: Garth Davis

A young girl from the village of Magdala resists the traditional roles of women in society, and takes the opportunity to rebel by following the newly famous Jesus and his disciples.


In general, did people enjoy this film?

This film runs the middle road, and our response to it did very much the same. It doesn't give you a lot to hate, but it doesn't give you a lot to love either. The casting and acting was certainly a highlight, and the softness was almost a refreshing take on the often intense and dramatic nature of biblical films, but the story didn't quite involve enough to intrigue you.
The intention here seems to be to liberate Mary from the stories often told of her and present a more "realistic" telling of events. However there almost doesn't seem enough to flesh out a feature film. The filmmakers relied more on aesthetic and cinematic lingering shots than complex story. Perhaps this can be forgiven when you're attempting to keep the audience interested, knowing they will likely already know the ending. This film definitely plays it safe.

What did they like / not like about it?

I haven't seen a lot of biblical films but I get the impression they are often epic in scale, very dramatic and overblown. This seemed to have a more laid-back tone, which I appreciated. It also had a pretty consistent and aesthetically pleasing style. I didn't know much about the story going into this, which I think helped, because I felt like I learned something. I'm glad the filmmakers took the opportunity to present Magdalene's life free of the demeaning rumours that have been around for hundreds of years. However, the film didn't present her as having much personality beyond her wish to follow Christ, and I didn't feel that Rooney Mara added much to make the character more engaging. I loved Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus though. - Liam

This film would resonate with a very specific audience. However, this audience does not include myself. There were aspects of the film that I did enjoy. For instance, Roony Mara manages to make a great impact as a character who doesn’t have a particularly complex script. The cast do a fantastic job of playing these under-dramatic characters which is a refreshing comparison to recent biblical films. For myself, the film didn’t evoke much emotion or thought for discussion. It was an understated and non-controversial retelling of a classic biblical story. - Sally

A film about a woman drawn to an enlightened sect of the time, possibly (or not) to escape the shackles of expectations and duties foisted upon women then…. and now.  Though somewhat dull, slow and deadpan it maintained a curious interest to those of us raised with a Christian background (woe betide you if you pulled the plug at any time)! More importantly It seems Mary was crucial to the story of Jesus as she was the only one who witnessed the “arising from the dead” on which Christianity is based.  Hence the raison d'être for the film I presume….. otherwise why bother! - Eddy

Honestly, it was weak. And boring. Even though we already know the plot (spoiler: he dies at the end), there was no true urgency to anything, covered up with dozens of useless, lingering reaction shots which probably literally took up 20 minutes of screen time. It was self indulgent but completely devoid of any true emotion. - Lukas

The characters are really the strong point of this movie. Both Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix's performances are just magnetic. The storyline is slow and quiet and the portrayal of Christ, Mary and her apostle brothers, takes place predominantly in nature. Mary is portrayed as a strong, highly spiritual and compassionate woman who has the ability to transcend the hierarchy of her position as a woman in a band of men. She is accepted unconditionally by Christ, but never actually manages to win over her apostle brothers - who seek to silence her at the end - and so, she strikes out on her own to share the message of Christ's resurrection. One wonders if the film's two female directors are in-fact commenting - in the wake of post-feminism - on the familiar story of woman as spiritual leader (or any leader for that matter), being regarded as a threat by men in positions of power. 

While this film didn't have much of an impact on me, there was something about it that I appreciated. It looked beautiful and there was a softness to the story telling that explored a different version to most biblical media. I'm not sure that I fully believed Joaquin Phoenix in this role, but there was something about Rooney Mara that played well to the character, though I wish it had delved deeper and explored more - whether true to the original story or not. - Mali

Keywords used to describe this movie:

Religious. Biblical. Aesthetic. Soft. Fragile. Boring. Grey. Void. Shallow. Beige. Sandy. Christian. Predictable.

Would people recommend it to a friend?

Most likely not.


What did you think of Mary Magdalene? We'd love to hear your thoughts! And make sure you stay up to date with the films so you can join in the conversation next fortnight.



And the next film is…

Title: CargoSDC_2381324_2018-09-8--00-14-59
Genre: Horror
Classification: MA15+
Director: Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke

After an epidemic spreads all over Australia, a father searches for someone willing to protect his daughter.

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