Follow TV Tropes


Film / Mary Magdalene

Go To
Her story will be told.

And she asked him, "What will it be like, the kingdom?"
And he said, "It is like a seed. A single grain of mustard seed which a woman took and sewed in her garden. And it grew, and it grew. And the birds of the air made nests in its branches."
— The opening voiceover

Mary Magdalene is a 2018 film by Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett, directed by Garth Davis. It stars Rooney Mara as Mary Magdalene, the disciple of Jesus Christ (Joaquin Phoenix) who was the first to witness his resurrection.

The film sets about to correct popular misconceptions about Mary—particularly the idea originated by Pope Gregory that she was a prostitute. It depicts her as a strong-willed young woman from a small coastal village who encounters Jesus on his travels and becomes his first and most devoted follower and counselor. She is portrayed as deeply spiritual in her own right, with a powerful intuition.

This film provides examples of:

  • Based on a True Story: Very little is know about the historical Mary Magdalene, and the film tries to fill in the gaps.
  • Bookends: The film begins with a series of long shots of Mary sinking slowly through the water. At the end of the film, her determined walk away from Jesus' resurrection site is intercut with similar shots—this time with more followers visible in the water above her.
  • Breaking the Glass Ceiling: The other disciples are hostile toward Mary at first because they do not believe a woman can have the deep connection to God required of a follower of the Messiah, and they are afraid traveling with a woman will reflect poorly on Jesus.
  • Character Title: It's just called Mary Magdalene. They probably would have gone with just "Mary" if that wouldn't have made people think it was about Jesus' mom.
  • The Confidant: Mary understands Jesus's struggle and becomes his closest advisor among the disciples.
  • Elemental Motifs: Water is closely associated with spirituality in the film. The scenes of Mary diving deep into the water suggest her religious devotion.
  • Face on the Cover: The box art shows Mary's face in her hood, looking out into the horizon.
  • Perspective Flip: Retelling the well-known story of Jesus from Mary Magdalene's perspective.
  • Race Lift: Jesus and Mary are both portrayed, ahistorically, by white actors, while others of the disciples are of different races.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: There's no real-life footage to show, obviously, but the film ends with a series of title cards giving info about the real Mary Magdalene, including her frequent misrepresentation as a prostitute.
  • A Saint Named Mary: Certainly not a deliberate reference to Mary, Mother of God (who also appears in the film) since it was a common female name, but Magdalene is portrayed as saintlike in her compassion and wisdom, reinforcing this trope. Of course, she's also venerated widely as a saint by many Christian churches.
  • The Storyteller: Mary's mission at the end of the movie becomes to spread the word and tell Jesus' story.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Mary's role to Jesus.
  • Symbolic Serene Submersion: The film begins with a long series of shots of Mary floating deep beneath the water, a loose garment clinging to her, while her opening monologue plays in voiceover. This seems to symbolize both her surrender to the higher powers guiding her and her own ability to dive deep into spirituality. The film ends with a repeat of some of these shots, except this time other figures can be seen in the water above Mary, suggesting that her testimony paved the way for others to find Christ.