7 December 2005 | bkoganbing
Just Where Do Some of Those Peripheral Bible Characters Go?
I've often wondered at times from a literary as well as religious point of view what happens to some of the peripheral cast of characters in the Scripture. I'm sure that's a question that more than a few have pondered on, whether they are believers or not.
Case in point is Barabbas. All we know about him is that he was the guy that the mob shouted for when offered a choice between pardoning him or Jesus of Nazareth. Some tradition has him as a common bandit, others have him as a rebel against Rome.
As played by Anthony Quinn, Barabbas is a troubled soul. As the message of Jesus of Nazareth spreads, Barabbas is unsure of what his role is. He's realized he's been a participant in something historic to say the least. But people treat him differently. The early Christians view him with some resentment. To Pontius Pilate, played by Arthur Kennedy, Barabbas is still a no good bandit. Of course Barabbas gets himself arrested again and begins his odyssey.
The movie is an adaption of a novel by Swedish Pulitzer Prize Winning writer Par Lagerkvist and a Swedish film adaption had already been filmed prior to this international cast epic. Might be interesting to view it side by side with this one. I'm sure the Swedish film didn't have half the budget this one did.
The movie fuzzes certain issues as films of this type generally do. Pacifism is a tenet of the early Christian faith of those hiding in the catacombs. Turning the other cheek is a big thing. But Anthony Quinn isn't a Christian so his modus operandi isn't exactly turning the other cheek.
Some top flight professionals are in this cast. The aforementioned Arthur Kennedy as Pilate, Silvana Mangano as Barabbas's girl friend who becomes an early convert, Vittorio Gassman as Sahek who is Barabbas's martyred Christian friend and most of all Jack Palance in a scene stealing performance as the top gladiator in Rome. You should watch this film for him alone.
The message the film tries to convey is that Barabbas in and of himself wasn't important. Jesus's life and death were pre-ordained and it could have been Barabbas or any of hundreds of others who could have been where he was.
But the way certain folks enter into biblical stories does give writers a whole lot of license to construct wholly fictional lives around them. This is as good a film as any for that purpose.