Thursday 20 March 2008

Anthony Burgess in Jesus of Nazareth

As many of you know (well, many, a large proportion of the very small number of people reading this blog) I am a big admirer of Anthony Burgess. I will one day write a complete entry about him. After discovering him with A Clockwork Orange (I guess that's the standard way), I was happily surprised to see that he also wrote the script of Jesus of Nazareth, my favorite Biblical movie (maybe the only adaptation of the Gospels worth watching). I used to watch this movie every Easter since I was a child. A Clockwork Orange was my literary epiphany, but I knew Burgess from an early age through his Jesus. Without knowing, of course. I was happily surprised to see that the movie is available on youtube, which makes it possible to watch it this during the Holy Week, as I used to do when I was living in Québec. It's also terribly funny to see the comments left on youtube from religious people, blessing the ones watching the movie, blessing those who uploaded it on youtube, etc. Ironic, since Anthony Burgess was an agnostic, lapsed Catholic and almost accused of being the Antichrist when the movie A Clockwork Orange was released. As an adult, I now take pleasure to discover the Burgessians elements of the script, in the lines especially. I am wondering, if there are any of Burgess admirers reading this entry (who knows? one can hope), if they found many Burgessian elements in Jesus of Nazareth.

And I hope nobody will think this is a religious blog reading the last few entries.


holly wynne said...

Now, that's bizarre. I had no idea of Burgess's involvement. Thanks for pointing it out.

It was my favorite as well, regardless of how much "poetic license" is taken with the subject matter.

Guillaume said...

Burgess wrote the script after the financial success of Moses the Lawgiver. It was requested by the producer Lew Grade (ironically a Jew). So the movie was written by an agnostic lapsed catholic, directed by a homosexual and produced by a Jew. In the meantime Burgess wrote a novel, Man of Nazareth. Not as good as the movie, I think, but his Kingdom of the Wicked is great (and there is also a movie/mini-serie based on Kingdom made at the same time). I think Jesus of Nazareth takes as much license as most of adaptation, probably much less than many. His "Moses the Lawgiver" is more freely adapted, it is in many ways an existentialist movie disguised as a Biblical one. But Jesus is rpetty faithful. What I really love about it is that it made the story so natural. Characters don't declare Biblical verses, they have real conversations (Abigail asking Mary to mind the step when she telling the Holy Family about the stable, for example).

Anyway, back on topic, some characters are very Burgesian: Saint Peter is a grumpy fisherman quick to anger who gets drunk, King Herod is an obese Machiavellian tyran, Herod Antipas is a lecherous adulterer, Judas Iscarioth is an intellectual filled with self-doubt.