In new film, Mary Magdalene is rechristened a revolutionary, healer and baptizer

Religion News Service | 4/19/2019 | Staff
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(RNS) — Daughter. Sister. Doula. Repairer of nets. Fisher of men (and women). Revolutionary. Believer. Healer. Baptizer. Companion. Witness. Disciple. Apostle to the apostles.

In the new film “Mary Magdalene,” the biblical character Mary of Magdala is all of these things and more — but not the one role in which she was historically (mis)cast: the so-called “fallen woman.”

Misunderstood - Years - Mary - Magdalene - Reputation

Misunderstood, misinterpreted, and maligned, only in recent years has Mary Magdalene’s reputation been restored, both by official religious decree and in popular consciousness.

In the new film, Rooney Mara’s depiction of Jesus’ closest female follower — “Mary you are my witness,” he tells her after she washes his feet before the Last Supper — is the embodiment of this contemporary (some might say “corrected”) vision of an ancient archetype.

Millennia - Mary - Magdalene - Persona - Imagination

For nearly two millennia, Mary Magdalene’s enigmatic persona has captured the imagination of artists of all stripes, from painters, iconographers and sculptors, to novelists, musicians and poets.

In most of these portrayals, Western art has depicted Magdalene, variously, as a voluptuous ginger-haired temptress, a sorrowful penitent who weeps as she prays for forgiveness and a dutiful follower clutching the foot of the cross on which Jesus suffers or cradling his feet while his mother holds his crucified corpse.

Magdalene - Director - Garth - Davis - Partners

“Mary Magdalene” Director Garth Davis and his filmmaking partners went into their initial stages of research “assuming we would be making a film about a prostitute,” said Producer Iain Canning. “We were just sort of embarrassed and horrified that we’d been part of a mistaken narrative. So that was even more a catalyst and reason to fast-track as much as we possibly could a different interpretation.”

Raven-haired, lithe Mara, who is perhaps best known for her title role in David Fincher’s thriller “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” portrays Mary Magdalene with an almost hushed delivery. Her understated, clear-eyed portrayal lent...
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