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What the Bible and Old Movies Have in Common

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image of Biblical Interpretation

This essay explores some shared philosophical territory between the Hebrew Bible and great American film of the classical era (1930s and 1940s). It raises the question not of shared literary techniques, nor of cinematic allusions to the Bible or cinematic treatment of biblical tales, but rather of the position of a traditionist/ storyteller vis-à-vis the crisis points in his or her country's history. Focusing on two films of Frank Capra, on the Book of Job, and on Genesis 47 (Jacob's meeting with Pharaoh, and its aftermath), the essay examines the way themes of crucial cultural importance register in the perceptions of a story's reader or spectator, and the way that both biblical and cinematic story grapple simultaneously with the loss of personal and national innocence. These processes are then situated in the context of twentieth-century world history, where certain connections between Bible, cinema, and the destruction of European Jewry are drawn.

Affiliations: 1: Tufts University


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