Dood als spektakel in '2012': Voorstellingen van het einde in apocalyptische films

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientific


This article uses ‘2012’ (Roland Emmerich, usa 2009) as starting point for an analysis of the role that death plays in apocalyptic films. After a brief discussion of the way this theme is treated in the cinema, the theme is examined from the perspective of film studies and biblical studies. Both perspectives then come together in several considerations on the way death is portrayed in apocalyptic cinema, after which the authors reflect on what is new in this two-fold reading. As the film analysis shows, the catastrophic scene in ‘2012’ contains all the characteristics that the disaster genre requires. The exegetical analysis shows that the American fascination for the end of time as portrayed in Hollywood films should be understood against the background of the many interpretations that the book of Revelation has garnered over the centuries. Death appears under many guises in apocalyptic cinema. There is the death of the anonymous masses that perish in natural and other disasters, and there is that of individuals, the film’s mains characters. The self-sacrificing, valiant, world-saving death of a hero who is usually also the film’s main character is also often crucial. As in most apocalyptic films, the end fails to materialise in ‘2012’, not because the danger has passed, but because humanity manages to escape. ‘2012’ clearly borrows this scene from the flood narrative (Genesis 6-9). Humanity’s technological genius helps it survive the flood. That mankind can reverse fate is also an important recurring element in apocalyptic films. But it also puts an end to God’s role. The two-fold perspective in this article shows that stories inspired by the Bible, including films, play an important role in our popular culture. An understanding that includes these biblical elements enriches film analyses. From the perspective of biblical studies, apocalyptic films show how much this literature still appeals to the imagination and how much imagery does to give individual and collective expression to deeply human questions and emotions, such as fear for ‘the end’. Yet it also shows how the Bible can be reduced to a script, losing something essential in the process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-125
Number of pages16
JournalTijdschrift voor Theologie
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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