- Author(s): Kevin M. McGeough
- When: 2016-04
- Where: Journal of Religion & Film
When The Passion was released, its extremely graphic violence horrified critics and scholars of religion although its success at the box office indicates that this, if anything, made the story of Jesus more appealing for viewers. Now that more time has passed and expectations surrounding levels of acceptable violence in cinema have changed, it is worth reconsidering how cinematic violence is used as reception strategy in Biblical cinema. Considering The Passion with more recent Biblical films, Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings, it becomes apparent that violence is not only used to expand laconic Biblical narratives but to invest them with a sense of verism, to situate the stories in either specifically historical or generally mythological time, to elicit audience sympathy, to remake Biblical characters into figures of heroic masculinity, and to harmonize Biblical story-telling with cinematic genre conventions. Viewing violence from a genre perspective, this article explores how considering instances of cinematic violence as light or heavy helps to better understand the complexities of the roles violence plays in adapting Biblical stories for the screen.