Thursday, March 17, 2011

40 Days of Lent: Day Nine

Godspell's Probably Inadvertent But Nonetheless Subversive Demonstration Of The Religious Impulse

I've always had a soft spot for Godspell, the musical retelling of the gospel of Matthew done as children's theater. The songs are either undeniably catchy or touching, whether or not you agree with the words. The nonstop mugging of the cast gets on my nerves, but it's balanced by beautiful shots of a depopulated New York City. The Last Supper scene always gets to me, more for its depiction of someone saying goodbye to friends he'll never see again rather than for any New Testament reasons.

However, last time I watched Godspell a little bit of business went by and I thought "Did I just see what I think I saw? They couldn't possibly have meant that the way I'm interpreting it." It is, in just a few seconds, an effective demonstration of the religious impulse, almost a parody of said impulse.

It's about 24 minutes into the movie, during the comedy bits that follow the song "Day By Day." The disciples are cavorting in a junkyard (which is a sentence I can't imagine ever writing again) when we see one of them plant a small twig.

Jesus then comes by and waters the twig.

Unbeknownst to the first disciple, another disciple comes along and replaces the twig with a young tree.

The first disciple, while ignorant of the perfectly normal explanation of what has happened, is amazed at this "miracle."

Rather than look for any logical or natural reason for what occurred, she attributes it to Jesus and His magic...

and becomes His follower.

As mentioned above, I don't think this was intended as anything more than comic business. While this is happening, the other disciples are painting each other's faces and playing with a beat up car. Nothing else in the film is as subversive, but it's hard not to see this little vignette as an example of someone becoming religious because, in their ignorance, they attribute to a god or religious leader something that's actually part of the natural world.

1 comment:

Iva said...

or an attempt to discredit anything that people believe about Jesus and his followers. "The loaves and fishes? Don't you remember the delivery made by Red Lobster when Jesus wasn't watching?"