Two Minute Film about the Woman at the Well

12 11 2009

At the website   Bible Films Blog Matt Page noted a new text-to-movie software program from which is called State.   He challenged individuals to give it a try, and so here is my two minute film on the “Woman at the Well” from John 4.

Gospel of John Retelling

This experiment with creating a “film” using a biblical text was a fascinating experience.  I spent about three hours on this little project (which probably shows in the roughness of the quality); however, it was enough time to get a feel for how this program might be useful in pedagogy related to biblical studies.

First, because I was using the free version of the program created by Xtranormal, I only had two set locations I could choose:  (1) a talk show setting, and (2) a street scene.  I am shocked they would not have provided a Judean countryside circa 30 C.E.  So of course, this film does not have a first-century period feel, but actually this was good.  It caused me to be creativity.  I chose the modern street scene.  In this location, one can see in the opening shot the large sign in the background indicating a laundromat.  Here is the inspiration for the text-segment about the “Woman at the Well.”  At least there was some parallelism with water and a daily chore.  Because this setting and adaptation is modern, I chose Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch Translation of John 4: 7-26.  It works on some levels better than other translations (for example, it frequently used contractions which are pretty typically of usage today), but still it is not perfect for this scene.  There are a few words with which the text-to-movie translator had trouble, such as, “ma’am.”

The free version of this program places many limitations of what one can portray on the film, such as types of characters (I had the option of four).  Actually, the one I chose for Jesus is wearing a shirt with a fish on it (well actually fish bones) but perhaps one might read into this some Johannine symbolism.  Other limitations included actions, sounds, voices, and many other elements.  But again, these limitations made me think in some different ways.

One of the pedagogical opportunities this type of exercise presents is for students to get a sense of the many and various decisions to be made in telling the story of Jesus.  It certainly should create a deeper sense of appreciation for the selectivity of the Gospels writers as they composed their stories of Jesus.  One example of an insight I gained is that I had never thought of John 4:23-24 perhaps functioning like a narrative aside.  Of course in John one frequently encounters the writer’s asides by which he gives the reader/listener extra (insider) information.  One of the functions available in this program is the ability to allow a character to face and address the camera directly.  This technique is perfect for illustrating these narrative asides.  If you view the film, note that scene where Jesus addresses you the viewer.

Death of Claude Levi-Strauss

8 11 2009

The man often called the “father of modern anthropology,” Claude Levi-Strauss, died on October 30, 2009, at the age of 100.  He was only a few weeks shy of 101; he was born November 28, 1908.


Levi-Strauss influenced the social-scientific methodology in New Testament studies, especially in the methodology’s earliest years.  In a very simplistic trajectory, Levi-Strauss influenced the anthropologist Mary Douglass (see especially Purity and Danger [1966], and Natural Symbols [1970]), who in turn influenced some of the earliest New Testament scholars such as Bruce Malina, John Elliott, Jerome Neyrey, John Pilch.  These scholars turned their attention to anthropological studies and how these studies could be used as interpretative strategies for understand the New Testament world.

Levi-Strauss emphasized that experiences are often influenced or structured by a series of opposites, that is, male-female, purity-pollution, good-evil.  This approach is a cornerstone for understanding the New Testament world as a shame-honor society and was highlighted by Bruce Malina in his 1981 book New Testament World:  Insights from Cultural Anthropology.

The Wall Street Journal carried this interesting quote from Levi-Strauss (it is taken from a 2005 article in Agence France-Presse):   “We live in a world where I feel out of place. The one that I knew, that I loved, had 1.5 billion inhabitants. The world today is made up of six billion humans. It is no longer mine.”  Perhaps an understandable feeling, but a bit sad that a man who studied humanity could feel so out of place.  One might think he would be enthused because he had more of humanity to observe.