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Selected Examples of “Indirect” Scriptural Adaptation/Interpretation/Allegory

Film can indirectly engage scripture along a spectrum from brief allusion through significant interpretation to adaptation of biblical stories in different settings altogether. “Indirect adaptation” here refers to significant use of biblical material or scriptural storyline, more than ordinary allusion, within a context other than retelling the biblical story itself. For example, I consider East of Eden indirect adaptation (though not an allegory) of the Cain and Abel narrative, put to use as the subtext of a story concerning sibling rivals in modern day California. This brief list is merely for illustration. The student is encouraged to look through the films treated in the books by Kreitzer, Johnston, McNulty, Reinhartz, and others, for other examples of biblical interpretation and allusion (see bibliography on Film, Culture, and Christian Reflection tab).

Gen 1-2Frankenstein (1931, James Whale, 71 min.); The Bride of Frankenstein (1935, James Whale, 75 min.). There have been approximately 200 film adaptations of Frankenstein to date. The one closest to Shelley’s book, of those I have seen, is Frankenstein (2004, Kevin Connor, 204 min.)
Gen 3Pleasantville (1998, Gary Ross, 123 min.)
Gen 4East of Eden (1954, Elia Kazan, 105 min.)
Gen 6-9 Evan Almighty (2007, Tom Shadyac, 95 min.)
JobBruce Almighty (2003, Tom Shadyac, 101 min.)
A Serious Man (2009, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 106 min.)
Job/JonahMoby Dick (1956, John Huston, 116 min.); Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg, 130 min.)
EcclesiatesGroundhog Day (1993, Harold Ramis, 103 min.); The Sun Also Rises (1957, Henry King, 129 min.)

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