Leaves from Satan’s Book (Nordisk, 1921) and Dreyer’s Script Jesus of Nazareth (1950): The Jewishness of Jesus

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In his book Speaking the Language of Desire: The Films of Carl Dreyer , Raymond Carney notes that Carl Theodor Dreyer (1889-1968) is identifi ed most often as a silent fi lm director, 1 although his directorial career spanned both the silent and sound eras. While his last fi lm, Gertrud , came out in 1964, his fi rst fi lm, The President , dates from 1919, and the fi lm for which he is undoubtedly most famous is The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928). As a result, his other work, from both the silent and sound eras, is often overlooked and even unknown to most fi lmgoers. According to Carney, another reason why Dreyer’s work is not well-known is what he calls the “Kierkegaard syndrome,” namely that Dreyer’s work like Kierkegaard’s was in Danish and, therefore, not easily accessible abroad until more recently. 2In what follows, I focus on one of Dreyer’s early works and one of special importance when it comes to the representation of Jesus in the early cinema-his second silent fi lm, Leaves from Satan’s Book ( Blade af Satans bog , 1921). This fi lm features an episode depicting the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, which we will discuss in some detail, focusing on the representation of Jesus and Judas. Less known even than some of the fi lms Dreyer did make, is the fact that he also wrote a script for a fi lm he wanted to make about Jesus. It was his lifelong dream but it never materialized, because he didn’t fi nd the necessary funding for it. However, when he died in 1968, Dreyer left behind him a vast collection of material he had collected in preparation for this fi lm, in addition to the script itself. The latter is a truly fascinating work which in my view deserves more attention. In the second part of this article, I will introduce this script and compare in more detail Dreyer’s representation of Jesus and Judas in his later script ( Jesus ) with the depiction of them in his earlier silent fi lm ( Leaves ).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Silents of Jesus in the Cinema (1897-1927)
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780415741699
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Religion and Film


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