Music at GMC

The King of Kings

Film: The King of Kings
(1927 Silent Movie shown on a big screen)
Starring: HB Warner (Christ)
Dorothy Cummins (Mary)
Ernest Torrence (Peter)
Joseph Schildkraut (Judas)
Jacqueline Logan (Mary Magdalene)
Date: 7.30pm, Saturday 31st March, 2012
Improvisation: David Briggs (organ)
CD available: Yes - please contact Music at GMC here

A very special treat for cinema and organ fans took place at GMC just before Easter week when we played host to a screening of the 1927 silent movie ‘The King of Kings’ with a special live organ improvisation by acclaimed musician David Briggs.
The King of Kings follows Jesus’ life from when he first meets Mary Magdalene, through the Crucifixion and Resurrection to his ascension into Heaven. Nearly all of the film’s subtitles are quotes or paraphrases from Scripture. One of the last sequences of the movie, the Resurrection, is in Technicolor.

David Briggs is an internationally renowned organist who has built a worldwide reputation as an innovative musician and dazzling performer. Increasingly sought after for his orchestral transcriptions and improvisation, his performances are applauded for their musicality, virtuosity and ability to excite and engage audiences of all ages.
David studied organ with Jean Langlais in Paris. The first British winner of the Tournemire Prize at the St Albans International Improvisation Competition, he also won the first prize in the International Improvisation Competition at Paisley. At the age of 17 he obtained his FRCO (Fellow of the Royal College of Organists) diploma, winning the Silver Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians.

The film was moving enough in its own right, but with David's sensitive improvisations it became especially memorable.This was David’s third visit to GMC and it was undoubtedly an evening to remember.

The Plot

We see Mary Magdalene, here portrayed as a wild courtesan, entertain many men around her. Upon learning that Judas is with a carpenter she rides out on her chariot drawn by zebras to get him back. Peter is introduced as the Giant apostle, and we see the future gospel writer Mark as a child who is healed by Jesus. The Virgin Mary is shown as a beautiful and saintly woman who is a mother to all her son's followers. Our first sight of Jesus is through the eyesight of a little girl, whom He heals. He is surrounded by a halo. Mary Magdelene arrives afterwards and talks to Judas, who reveals that he is only staying with Jesus in hopes of being made a king after Jesus becomes the king of kings. Jesus casts the Seven Deadly Sins out of Mary Magdalene in a multiple exposure sequence.

Jesus is also shown resurrecting Lazarus and healing the little children. Some humor is derived when one girl asks if He can heal broken legs and He says yes, she gives him a legless doll. Jesus smiles and repairs the doll. The crucifixion is foreshadowed when Jesus, having helped a poor family, wanders through the father's carpentry shop and, himself a carpenter's son, briefly helps carve a piece of wood. When a sheet covering the object is removed, it is revealed to be a cross towering over Jesus.

Jesus and His apostles enter Jerusalem, where Judas incites the people and rallies them to proclaim Jesus King of the Jews. Jesus, however, renounces all claims of being an Earthly king. Caiaphas the High Priest is also angry at Judas for having led people to a man whom he sees as a false prophet. Meanwhile Jesus drives away Satan who offers Him an Earthly kingdom, and he protects the woman caught in adultery. The words he draws in the sand are revealed to be the sins the accusers themselves committed.

Judas, desperate to save himself from Caiaphas, agrees to turn over Jesus. Noticeably at the Last Supper, when Jesus distributes the bread and wine saying that they are His body and blood, Judas refuses to eat. He puts the cup to his lips but refuses to drink; he tears off a piece of bread but lets it drop to the ground. Towards the end, Mary confronts her son and tells Him to flee the danger that is coming. Jesus replies that it must be done for the salvation of all peoples. They leave the room but the camera focuses on the table where a dove flies on and stays for a moment.

Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane where He is soon captured by the Roman soldiers and betrayed by Judas. Judas' life is saved, but on seeing that Jesus is going to be killed he is horrified. He takes a rope that the Romans had used to bind Jesus' wrists and runs off. Jesus is beaten and then presented by Pontius Pilate to the crowd. Mary pleads for the life of her son and Mary Magdalene speaks for Him but Caiaphas bribes the crowd to shout against Jesus.

Jesus is taken away to be crucified, though He pauses the Via Dolorosa to heal a group of cripples in an alley, regardless of His weakened condition. He is crucified and His enemies throw insults at Him. (One woman even anachronistically eats popcorn and smiles with glee at Jesus' crucifixion.) When Jesus does die, however, a great earthquake comes up. The tree where Judas had hanged himself with the rope used to bind Jesus's wrists is swallowed up amidst gouts of hellfire. The sky turns black, lightning strikes, the wind blows, the people who had mocked Jesus run on terror, and the veil covering the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple is torn in two.

The tumult ends when Mary looks up at heaven and asks God to forgive the world for the death of their son. The chaos ends and the sun shines. Jesus is taken down from the cross and is buried. On the third day, He rises from the dead as promised. To emphasize the importance of the resurrection, this scene from an otherwise black and white film is shot in color. Jesus goes to the Apostles and tells them to spread His message to the world. He tells them "I am with you always" as the scene shifts to a modern city to show that Jesus still watches over His followers.

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