Barabbas (1961 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Fleischer|
|Produced by||Dino De Laurentiis|
|Screenplay by||Nigel Balchin
by Pär Lagerkvist
|Music by||Mario Nascimbene|
|Editing by||Alberto Gallitti
|Studio||Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||137 minutes|
|Box office||$2,900,000 (US/ Canada)|
Barabbas is a 1961 religious epic film expanding on the career of Barabbas, from the Christian Passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark and other gospels. The film stars Anthony Quinn as Barabbas, features Silvana Mangano, Katy Jurado, Arthur Kennedy, Harry Andrews, Ernest Borgnine, Vittorio Gassman, and Jack Palance, and was distributed by Columbia Pictures. It was conceived as a grand Roman epic, was based on Nobel Prize-winning Pär Lagerkvist's 1950 novel of the same title. A previous film version of the novel, in Swedish, had been made in 1953.
The film was directed by Richard Fleischer and shot in Verona and Rome under the supervision of producer Dino De Laurentiis. It included many spectacular scenes, including a battle of gladiators in a Cinecittà film studio mock-up of the arena, and a crucifixion shot during a real eclipse of the sun.
Shortly before the crucifixion of Christ, Pontius Pilate offers to release either Jesus Christ or Barabbas in keeping with the local custom. As the Bible story goes, Barabbas is the one the crowd chooses.
Barabbas leaves and returns to his friends; his friends are glad to see him, but Barabbas wants to know where his lover Rachel is. They inform him that Rachel had changed while he was away, and was following the teachings of Christ. Rachel soon returns, but she is not overjoyed to see Barabbas again. During their reunion Christ is crucified. As Christ dies the sky turns dark. Shaken by this, Barabbas goes to witness the crucifixion. Afterwards he goes to witness Christ being sealed in the tomb. On the third morning, Barabbas goes to the tomb to find it open, and Christ gone. Rachel tells him that Christ has risen, but Barabbas dismisses this as illusion, or that his followers had taken his body. He goes to see the Apostle Peter and Christ's other followers demanding to know what happened to the body – they do not know where he is but do believe he is risen. Rachel begins to teach others in Jerusalem about Christ and an impending, fiery end of the world. Soon, Rachel's teachings lead to her being stoned to death by the same priests who had Jesus crucified. When Barabbas comes across them later while robbing a caravan, he assaults one of them with stones, and while doing this is arrested by Roman troops. Pilate decides not to execute Barabbas, but instead sentences him to a life sentence in the sulfur mines of Sicily.
Barabbas is taken to the mines, where a medallion designating him the property of the Emperor is placed around his neck. He manages to survive a hellish existence for the next twenty years in the mines. Eventually he is chained to Sahak, who was sent to the mines in punishment for letting slaves escape. Sahak, which is an Armenian name, was also a Christian and had carved a cross on the back of his medallion. At first, Sahak hates him, but the two men eventually become friends. After some time Sahak becomes too weak to work, and is about to be killed - but the mine is destroyed in an earthquake. Sahak and Barabbas are the only survivors. After they recover from their injuries they are sent to the fields to work. As the only survivors of the disaster, they catch the eye of Julia, the wife of the local prefect. The local prefect is due to leave for Rome to become a Senator. Julia insists that Barabbas and Sahak be brought along to Rome for good luck.
Once in Rome, the men are trained to become gladiators by Torvald – the top gladiator in Rome. Just after one of the gladiatorial events Sahak is overheard speaking about his faith in Christ's sacrificial death, and the renovation of the world by God's fire, and he is executed by Torvald for treason. The next day Torvald and Barabbas battle in the arena, with Barabbas winning. Impressed with Barabbas, the Roman Emperor Nero sets him free. Barabbas recovers the remains of Sahak, and takes his body to the catacombs, where the local Christians are worshiping, for a proper burial.
Barabbas is separated from the Christians within the catacombs, and becomes lost while trying to find his way out. When he eventually emerges from the catacombs, Rome is on fire. Upon entering the city, Barabbas is told that the Christians started the fire. Believing that the end of the world has come (as he had heard Rachel and Sahak teaching), Barabbas begins to set aflame more buildings. Barabbas is confronted by Roman soldiers and he tells them that he is a follower of Christ. Barabbas is imprisoned with several other Christians, one of whom is Peter. Peter corrects Barabbas' mistaken intentions of continuing the burning of Rome. Afterwards, the Christians are executed en masse by crucifixion, in the persecutions that followed the fire. Throughout his life Barabbas was reputed as the man who could not die; having finally placed faith in Christ, he dies.
- Anthony Quinn as Barabbas
- Arthur Kennedy as Pontius Pilate
- Jack Palance as Torvald
- Silvana Mangano as Rachel
- Harry Andrews as Peter
- Ernest Borgnine as Lucius
- Katy Jurado as Sara
- Vittorio Gassman as Sahak
- Norman Wooland as Rufio
- Valentina Cortese as Julia
- Arnoldo Foa' as Joseph of Arimathea
- Michael Gwynn as Lazarus
- Laurence Payne as Disciple
- Douglas Fowley as Vasasio
- Guido Celano as Scorpio
- Roy Mangano as Jesus Christ
- Paola Pitagora as Mary Magdalene
- Rina Franchetti as Mary Clopas
- Piero Pastore as Nicodemus
- Vera Drudi as Salome
- Nino Segurini as Apostle John
- Jacopo Tecchi as Apostle Thomas
- Ivan Triesault as Emperor Nero
- Sharon Tate as Patrician in arena
The music score by Mario Nascimbene, which was conducted by Franco Ferrara, the noted conductor and lecturer on conducting at several famous international academies, was noted for its unusual, stark experimental component – the composer referred to his work, which included the introduction of electronic sounds achieved by the manipulation of tape speeds, as "new sounds". One of the most interesting was that during a total eclipse of the sun, which he considered to be a supernatural event in the Judean age.
- Nominee Best Color Cinematography - Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists (Aldo Tonti)
- Nominee Best Costume Design - Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists (Maria De Matteis)
- Nominee Best Production Design - Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists (Mario Chiari)
- Selected Top Foreign Films of the Year - National Board of Review
- "Top Rental Features of 1963", Variety, 8 January 1964 p 71. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.
- See liner notes of CD of original soundtracks of Alexander the Great (1956) and Barabbas, music composed, orchestrated and conducted by Mario Nascimbene.
- Barabbas at Rotten Tomatoes