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Barabbas is also the title of an 1893 book by Marie Corelli.


Barabbas is a 1961 film expanding on the career of Barabbas, from the Christian Passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark and other gospels. It starred Anthony Quinn as Barabbas, with Silvana Mangano, Katy Jurado, Arthur Kennedy, Harry Andrews, Ernest Borgnine, Vittorio Gassman, and Jack Palance, and was distributed by Columbia Pictures. The film, conceived as a grand Roman epic, was based on the Nobel-Prize winning novel Barabbas (1950) by Pär Lagerkvist. A previous film version of the novel, in Swedish, had been made in 1953.

The film of Lagerkvist's novel was directed by Richard Fleischer and shot in Rome under the supervision of producer Dino De Laurentiis. It included many spectacular scenes, including a battle of gladiators in a Cinecittàmarker mock-up of the Colosseummarker, and a final crucifixion shot during a real eclipse of the sun. The music score by Mario Nascimbene contained a stark experimental component—what the composer himself called 'new sounds', in order to demonstrate the eclipse as a supernatural event in the Judean age (see liner notes of CD of original soundtracks of Alexander the Great and Barabbas, music composed, orchestrated and conducted by Mario Nascimbene).

Plot

Shortly before the crucifixion of Christ, Pontius Pilate (Arthur Kennedy) 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 (Silvana Mangano). 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 the tomb 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 Christ's followers to demand what happened to the body - they do not know where he is but do believe he is risen. Soon, Rachel's teachings lead to her being stoned to death by the same men who had Jesus crucified. When Barabbas comes across them later while robbing a caravan, he assaults one of the men. For this, Barabbas is arrested by the Roman authorities. 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 sulfur mines of Sicily - where the medallion designating him the property of the Emperor is placed around his neck. He manages to survive a hellish existence for the next 20 years in the mines. Eventually he is chained to Sahek (Vittorio Gassman), who was sent to the mines in punishment for letting slaves escape. Sahek was also a Christian - and had carved a cross on the back of his medallion. At first Sahek hates him, but the two men eventually become friends. After some time Sahek becomes too weak to work, and is about to be killed - but the mine is destroyed in an explosion. Sahek 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 the wife of the local prefect - who is due to leave for Rome to become a Senator. She insists that they be brought along.

Once in Rome the men are trained to become gladiators by Torvald (Jack Palance) - the top gladiator in Rome. During this training Sahek is overheard speaking about his faith, and is executed by Torvald. The next day Torvald and Barabbas battle in the Colosseum, with Barabbas winning. Impressed, the Roman Emperor Nero sets Barabbas free. Barabbas finds the remains of Sahek, and takes him to the catacombs where the local Christians are worshipping for a proper burial.

The movie ends in the aftermath of Great Fire of Rome. Barabbas confronts Roman soldiers and tells them that he is a Christian. Barabbas dies by crucifixion in the persecutions that followed the fire.

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