Sunlit Water

November 21, 2006

Jonah

Filed under: Culture — by teofilo @ 1:41 am

In an effort to push that embarrassing teenage-Angst post further down the page, I’d like to share an idea (recently mentioned elsewhere) that I’ve had for a long time: a feature-film adaptation of the Book of Jonah.  We read this book in its entirety every year during Yom Kippur afternoon services, which I’ve always taken as an opportunity to think about the story, one of my favorites from the Bible, and how it would make a really kickass movie, with awesome special effects and elaborate sets and costumes.  I could use a collaborator on this project (preferably someone who knows how to write screenplays).  Any takers?

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22 Comments »

  1. It Ain’t Necessarily So could play over the titles.

    Comment by The Modesto Kid — November 21, 2006 @ 7:34 am |Reply

  2. Want to know something really fuckin weird? Google returns that video as the top hit for a search on “Jonah he lived in a whale”, text no important word of which appears anywhere on the page. High tech.

    Comment by The Modesto Kid — November 21, 2006 @ 7:37 am |Reply

  3. The Veggie Tales movie was Jonah, wasn’t it?

    Comment by mealworm — November 21, 2006 @ 8:53 am |Reply

  4. Tim LaHaye might have some cool ideas for special effects and scene transitions.

    Comment by The Modesto Kid — November 21, 2006 @ 9:03 am |Reply

  5. “We’re sending our love down the whale” would be a good song if you had a scene where everyone was trying to give Jonah emotional support while he’s trapped.

    Comment by eb — November 21, 2006 @ 12:33 pm |Reply

  6. This sounds like a great idea. I’ve always wanted to write a novelization of the 40 years of the desert from the point of view of Aaron, who I think generally gets the shaft.

    Jonah’s cool because it has an obvious climax, although it happens about 1/3 of the way into the story. Isn’t the actual climax a bit anti-climactic for Hollywood?

    Comment by mrh — November 21, 2006 @ 2:14 pm |Reply

  7. As a putative descendant of Aaron, I heartily approve of the idea of a movie from his perspective.

    The obvious climax does come a bit early, it’s true, but I think you could make the main storyline be Jonah’s development as a character. He’s really one of the most fascinating personalities in the Bible.

    Comment by teofilo — November 21, 2006 @ 6:29 pm |Reply

  8. Not exactly Jonah but some similarities.

    Comment by The Modesto Kid — November 21, 2006 @ 8:20 pm |Reply

  9. My dissertation director, who also does Biblical studies, has suggested that Jonah and Job are both extremely complex satires on the unreasonableness of God. In the case of Jonah, it’s not that he’s a total coward that he doesn’t want to go to Nineveh; it’s because he knows that God is going to save those heathen assholes anyway, and he just wants Jonah to go there and tell them they’re all going to die, which will make Jonah a liar.

    This makes the end of the story much more interesting. He’s pissed off at God and wants to die because God has made an ass out of him for the sake of people whose sudden conversion is a miracle anyway.

    Comment by A White Bear — November 21, 2006 @ 9:49 pm |Reply

  10. There’s a lot of interesting reading in the Hebrew Bible if you keep in mind that it wasn’t all written for the purpose of being a holy text. Before the Jews were the “people of the book,” there was a lot of great literature written that, like all ancient literature, uses gods and devils as characters or narrative forces.

    Comment by A White Bear — November 21, 2006 @ 9:51 pm |Reply

  11. 9: That’s an interesting way to look at Jonah. I’ve always thought of him as the sort of prophet who glories in the aesthetics of divine justice; he seems seriously pissed when God doesn’t smite Nineveh. Like I said, a fascinating character, however you interpret the story.

    10: For sure. Jonah and Job in particular, but there are others. And then there’s the Song of Songs, of course.

    Comment by teofilo — November 21, 2006 @ 9:58 pm |Reply

  12. 10: In fact, those are generally the best parts.

    Comment by mrh — November 21, 2006 @ 10:01 pm |Reply

  13. Well, and the Elisha story. It’s twice as long as the Elijah narrative, but Elijah gets all the exegesis because it makes sense from a holy-text perspective. Elijah is the prophet who does miracles to prove that Yah(weh) is God, but Elisha is a nutter who barely lifts a finger to save anyone, and mostly just goes around smiting people (like the boys who call him “Baldy”). My theory is that he has a lot of power, but his only purpose is to bring about the holocaust that kills off all but 7,000 of the Jews. His entire career and power is futile, like that of Saul.

    Comment by A White Bear — November 21, 2006 @ 10:02 pm |Reply

  14. Yeah, Kings is full of fascinating stories that don’t make any sense theologically. Judges too.

    Comment by teofilo — November 21, 2006 @ 10:07 pm |Reply

  15. I’ve written a screenplay, but it was mostly the ravings of a mad man; you probably don’t need any help with this. Since you already have the plot, the main thing you need to worry about is formatting, just knowing what a screenplay looks like. There’s software you can buy that does the formatting for you. Or you could read a bunch of screenplays and copy their formatting. I would suggest the software.

    I think it’s a good idea, and you should pursue it. I always liked the Jonah story. Jonah is sort of a badass. He basically tells God, “no I won’t, screw off,” and gets off without being smited. It’s a different take on religion, that you can be defiant to a certain degree. Jonah is kind of a dick, but he’s a fearless dick. And then there’s the gourd.

    Comment by text — November 22, 2006 @ 12:50 am |Reply

  16. Here is info on the software I used. It looks kind of expensive. I was able to use a friend’s copy; he got his from school. There are screenplay writing type books, but my prejudice is that the formulas they prescribe are unnecessary, that to the extent they are true, it’s because they are so broad that they encompass any type of story. But those books are out there, and there are probably people who have actually sold screenplays who would advocate them.

    Comment by text — November 22, 2006 @ 1:00 am |Reply

  17. I actually read one of those books once, when I was a kid. (I was a weird kid.) My plea for collaborators wasn’t really very serious; I know people IRL I can turn to for help with formatting and stuff. And again, I’m not sure how serious I am about the whole thing. I do appreciate the support, though.

    Comment by teofilo — November 22, 2006 @ 1:04 am |Reply

  18. 15 — “smited” s/b “smitten”.

    Comment by The Modesto Kid — November 22, 2006 @ 6:05 am |Reply

  19. that’s how I originally wrote it, but then I thought, no no, that gives the wrong impression.

    Comment by text — November 22, 2006 @ 9:59 am |Reply

  20. Wrong impressions are the spice of life.

    Comment by The Modesto Kid — November 22, 2006 @ 11:26 am |Reply

  21. Syd Field, Screenplay, is one of the many books that is both on the lists “Books I’ve read” and “Books which when I see people reading I make negative value judgments of them.”

    There are a couple of reasons I shouldn’t do this, and I’ve decided that given the results of this survey I should just switch to making positive value judgments of everyone I see reading a book.

    Comment by washerdreyer — November 27, 2006 @ 5:18 pm |Reply

  22. Meant to link to the survey referenced here; reading comments there is some dispute as to its accuracy.

    Comment by washerdreyer — November 27, 2006 @ 5:23 pm |Reply


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