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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: May 2014

Chapter 5 - “Speak of the Devil”: The Portrayal of Satan in the Christ Film

from Part II - Film



The Nature and Aims of the Chapter

This chapter aims to examine the portrayal of Satan in the Christ film. The discussion is divided into two parts. Since Satan comes to us with a history, the first part sets the context for the subject by reviewing relevant aspects of the representation of the Devil in scripture, the Church Fathers, tradition and folklore, art, literature and film. The second part focuses on four biblical epics or Christ films that demonstrate, in particular, the various and interesting ways that filmmakers have treated this personification of evil (Cecil B. DeMille, The King Of Kings, 1927; George Stevens, The Greatest Story Ever Told, 1965; Martin Scorsese, The Last Temptation Of Christ, 1988; and Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ, 2004). Note will be taken not only of how Satan is portrayed, but also of the ways in which these portrayals relate to precursor texts and traditions, on the one hand, and to contemporary understandings of evil, on the other. The key emphases and approach employed in the chapter, therefore, are related to characterization, reception history, intertextuality, social context and ideology.

Approaching the Subject Critically

Films can be explored from a number of angles. They can be approached in respect of their form, style and other aesthetic qualities: camerawork, editing, sets and mis-en-scène, visual quality, lighting, soundtrack, music and so on. Films are also interesting for their social context and ideology. They reflect the culture in which they were produced, and the audiences for which they were made.