"it is refreshing to see a well known story being told from a female point of view"
Hollywood has always been fascinated with the theological figure of Jesus, his history and his role as the Messiah of Christianity. This time, instead of focusing on his miracles and his tragic sacrifice, Mary Magdalene shifts the point of view to one of the most disregarded and misrepresented apostle, Mary of Magdala.
History has always been unfair to this religious figure, at first she was considered by Pope Gregory I as a prostitute who had redeemed herself by joining Jesus’ congregation, whereas recently she has been recognised by the Church as a saint and the first woman disciple following Christ to Jerusalem. In this regard, Mary Magdalene wants to celebrate the truth behind such a controversial figure in Christianity.
In The film, her point of view becomes the main voice of the story and it acquires a more delicate and introspective tone. Directed by Garth Davis, Mary Magdalene brings to the screen a story focused on a woman who dedicated her life to a new religion. A woman devoted to a man who had to carry around the weight of the whole world on his shoulders.
What makes this movie different from any other about the passion of Christ is the fact that Jesus’ name is barely mentioned throughout the film: he becomes only a part of Mary’s story because it is told by following her footsteps as Jesus’ disciple.
As one might expect from a film about religion, the pace of the movie is not fast and filled with action. The length seems to stretch at times, however, it fits the timeless story that is being told on screen without being overly epic or pretentious.
The cinematography uses both aerial and close range shots throughout the film, while the panoramic frames of the landscape are used to allow the audience to be instantly immersed in a much simpler reality in which time is marked by work, family and pray.
The close ups, instead, give an introspective window into the minds and souls of the characters. The camera silently follows the story engaging on a deeper level with the protagonists, highlighting their state of mind and their real feelings, enhancing their reactions as witnesses to Jesus’ miracles.
Mary Magdalene is described as a devoted daughter and a kind soul always ready to help. That same eagerness and desire to have value in her life brings her closer to religion, however, as a woman, she can only turn to prayer when she is allowed to.
Her desire to be more independent in her belief allows her to embrace Jesus’ preaching and to follow him and his apostles to Jerusalem to bring the real Kingdom on to Earth. After many different projects, finally, this is the perfect role for Rooney Mara to showcase her talent. Her quiet presence on screen is perfect to portray Mary Magdalene and her journey with the Messiah. She is delicate in everything she does on camera, however, she also highlights her character’s strength and her deep connection to Jesus and his religion. Mara is capable of showcasing both Mary’s determination and devotion by giving a really strong performance as the only woman disciple in a world in which men once again prevail. Her voice becomes stronger the more she perceives that she is part of something bigger than herself.
Mara's chemistry with Phoenix makes the relationship between Mary and Jesus pure, leaving aside any allusion to something deeper than friendship and devotion. Joaquin Phoenix once again completely looses himself in his role. His performance is strong, even though, in this version of the story, he plays the supporting role of the man that would change Mary’s life.
The cast ensemble, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor and Tahar Rahim, playing Peter and Judas, give outstanding performances without outshining Mary’s voice, but rather offering her the chances to raise it and speak her mind.
In a moment in history in which women are finally fighting for their rights, it is refreshing to see a well known story being told from a female point of view. Mary Magdalene might not be as choral as The Passion of the Christ, but it definitely redeems Jesus’ first female follower by putting her at the centre of the story for the very first time.