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A.D. tv series

This TV series was originally 10 hours long (1985). It was cut back with crude editing; scenes (including music) suddenly ending in a super-fast fade. Still, I’m grateful that this now enables us to see the whole series in 6 hours, not 10. While the images are fuzzy, and the music is very dated and overdone, the original quality shines through in all kinds of ways. At the time, this must have been a knock-out TV series. The writing is excellent, as long as you are wiling to engage with the extensive fictional drama that almost overwhelmed the stories of Peter and Paul. Still, the series given an in-depth experience of what life was like at that time, in Rome especially, and under the Roman occupation with all the craziness and violence that affected people deeply. This includes the insane Roman violence inflicted on Christians as they were thrown to the lions in the large arenas; for the entertainment of the Roman people.


It seems that the company responsible for this production first produced ‘Moses, the law giver’ (1974), and after that they got behind Franco Zeffirelli’s ‘Jesus of Nazareth’.

A.D. was their third production, an adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s ‘The Kingdom of the wicked’. (Burgess also wrote: ‘Man of Nazareth’.)

Director of A.D. was Stuart Cooper. 

Talent: Anthony Andrews, Colleen Dewhurst, Ava Gardner, David Hedison, John Houseman, Richerd Kiley, James Mason, Susan Sarandon, Ben Vereen and Philip Sayer as the apostle Paul.

Distribution: Proctor & Gamble Productions Inc.


The story as described above, interesting as it is, distracts hugely from the story of Paul (and Peter, and James in Jerusalem) building the church (by God’s grace). The story as described above dominates al the work; the series should have been given another name (not A.D.).


There’s a scene of the apostle Peter talking to a group of children which I found not-believable. On the whole, Peter is an interesting character, but we don’t learn too much about what he really is doing etc. He comes across as kind but also somewhat gullible. I like to think that Peter, over the years, became a powerhouse for the Kingdom, alongside Paul of course. 

Paul is portrayed by UK actor Philip Sayer, who died at the age of 42 in 1989 (just 3 or 4 years after A.D. was released. Sayer is an impressive Paul; there is an amazing scene of Paul speaking 1 Cor. 13, movingly and beautifully acted/ spoken.

This TV series gave me a deep connection with Paul; I began to respect this man-of-god, wanting to hear him speak more (then what the series provides). Impressive to see how he was able to rest in his fate (getting killed by the Romans) and continue the work through the very last opportunity given. Deeply sad to see him walk to the place of execution, and after a few brief moments laying down his head, like he was (and ad been) laying down his life. The axe comes down, and his life is over.

We also see Peter being hung (upside down) on a cross; what an awful image. Yet, Paul rejoiced following Jesus in this barbaric ending of his life. Those are moments that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Like I was there when this happened. 

The series made it clear that death was not the end, and that Jesus really had overcome death. Through the deaths of Peter and Paul, even more life emerged among the younger generation of Christians. Powerful to see that happen.

I saw this TV series a couple of years ago, and was impressed at the time. Now that our project ‘The Engagement’ is gaining some momentum, I felt it was right to see the series again. It takes a bit of a time commitment; must admit, I fast-forwarded some of the Roman scenes; my interest is largely with Peter, and Paul especially. I feel I got even closer to Paul than previously. It shocks me to think that Paul, expecting death, come alive in a beautiful and deeply graceful way. Philip Sayer, who acted Paul, did an amazing job. He probably didn’t know at the time (of filming), that he too was close to the end of his life. He died of cancer just a few years later. It is as if he too laid-down his life for the Kingdom of Heaven, like Paul. I am delighted he was given the part of Paul.  

A.D. the Bible Continues (2015)

I have begun to watch this series; found it hard work watching all the intense drama, especially the ongoing conflicts between Cajaphas and Pilate, with their wives generating a whole lot more drama. I would rather the series focussed on what’s happening with the early church. We get snippets of that, but the series (this season) is rather dominated by all the political fighting…

The series depiction of the ‘early church (in Jerusalem) is dominated by fictional drama, endless political conflict between between the Jewish leaders and the Roman occupier. The DRAMA regarding the struggles (and success) of the early Jerusalem church is totally dominated by this (fictional) political drama. Watching these arguments (between Cajefas & Pilate) makes me wonder: what’s the point?


Before the crucifixion there was an urgency to this power-struggle. Now that the Lord has risen, and the Holy Spirit has come, the political fight between the Jewish leaders and their Roman occupiers is just NOISE-in-the-BACKGROUND; not interesting anymore. It’s not clear why Burnett & Downey give it so much attention. For me, by now, the series is completely OFF-THE-RAIL. (Perhaps it never was ON the rail; certainly not on MY rail.)

Maybe at some other time, I will go back to this work and watch all the episodes, patiently…

Albert Nobbs (2011) 

With Glen Close, Mia Kasikowska, Aaron Johnson and Janet McTeer; Pauline Collins; directed by Rodrigo Garcia. This is a British/ Irish drama film based on a book which had already been the inspiration for a Theatre Play. Glen Close was in the Off-Broadway production in 1982. Years later a script was developed for a film; Glen Close was involved in the writing, alongside several other writers. Fascinating! I imagine Glen Close has an interesting story here, of how she got involved in the play, and how, years later, the story was taken to film and she had another chance to immortalize Mr. Albert Nobbs. 


Brilliant acting by Glen Close in the lead-part; also by Janet McTeer as Mr. Hubert Page. Extreme situation and yet believable and moving. The story is slow in getting going and when it finally does it takes a sudden turn. Fascinating film; beautifully shot.

Anna Karenina (2012) - with Keira Knightley, Jude Law and Aaron Taylor-Johnson; director: Joe Wright/ script by Tom Stoppard, from the novel by Leo Tolstoy. Star cast and crew! Wright has also directed 'Pride & Prejudice' and 'Atonement', both films featuring Keira Knightly. Sarah Greenwood does the production design.
Great images and a mesmerizing Baz Luhrman-like visual approach, where most of the filming is done in and around an empty theatre building, on stage, in front of the stage, back stage, even above the stage and under. And of course, all of that was actually filmed in a large studio (Shepperton, England).

I love that kind of theatrical approach to film. Sad thing is, the film gets overwhelmed by these images, in my view, with this style of filming and the intensity and complexity of the photography dominating everything.

The story itself looses out, even to the point where the story becomes absurd, boring, predictable and silly. The great novel by Leo Tolstoy (1878) looses out sadly.


Personally, I got tired of watching this film after a while, when I began to notice that the story had lost me; I lost interest and the overload of imagery began to irritate (me). It seems that the DOP (together with the director?) ran away with the film. With difficulty I watched the whole thing through to the end. With such a high quality cast, a better story could have been told.

Argo (2012)

This film is based on true events taking place in Iran during the Islamic revolution; how a group of USA diplomats were very close to being taken hostage, but managed to escape under leadership of CIA man Tony Mendez. Some time later, the same man wrote a book called: The Master of Disguise (2007). Around the same time, an article by Joshuah Bearman was published in 'WIRED' under the tittle 'The Great Escape', covering the same events. Over time a film script was developed by Chris Terri, and a film production was mounted with Ben Affleck directing who is also in the lead-role as CIA man Tony Mendez.  

When watching the film I had very little knowledge of the actual events during the Islamic revolution in Iran. It struck me that this was a brilliant film with a very tight script; we were glued to the screen all the way through.

Without there being car chases and other filmic thriller usuals, the story unfolds powerfully; strong character acting (John Goodman, Alan Arkin) held us close to the turns and twists of the drama. Beautifully filmed; great editing; fabulous music; this was obviously going to be a 'big' film. And indeed, it did well; it received lots of nominations and several awards. No doubt it did well in the box-office.


Yet, there's a tale to the story, something a little unsettling. Turns out, there were a number of fairly serious inaccuracies as to what actually and really happened, at the time. Not to go into detail on that here, I guess the writer fell for the temptation to glamorize somewhat, and to push for a more commercial result. Apart from story inaccuracies, there is also the question of how (all) the Iranians were portrayed; they were all kind-off stereo-typical, collectively representing the antagonist in this film. This easy option helped to build the suspense of the unfolding drama; but it did not help to tell a human story that is less black & white. 


This kind of issue intrigues me with regards to script writing, especially when it involves true stories. Writing a film script based on a true story always means simplification, and leaving out large chunks of the story; how painful that can be. But if the antagonist is given sufficient air-time, so we really get to know them and have some understanding of their motives and possible dilemma's, it could be that the drama (and the suspense) get even stronger!  Food for thought!

As it is in heaven (2004)

Swedish film. Directed by Kay Pollack; also written by him, along with several others. The main character is portrayed by Michael Nyqvist who is totally outstanding in this film. An inspired idea was fleshed out the right way, and became a powerful film that reflects deeply on the gospel story, without ever mentioning the gospel. What a great achievement! I imagine that this film was very much the child of Swedish director Pollack. How many cinema films come out of Sweden per year, or per 10-years? Not many, that's for sure. Yet, this one film scores as high as only a handful of Hollywood productions have to date. Impressive.

An outstanding reflexion on the gospel story. Powerful film, showing us something of what Jesus was up against, and how he loved the people around him, even the unlovable person...

The story, and the film, never looses it's focus, keeps you on the edge of your seat, keeps you guessing, never gets sentimental, and takes it's audience to a spiritual place of understanding, even while subliminally providing direct connections with the gospel story. The way the main character gets wounded and sheds his blood, is directly linked with Jesus shedding his blood. We understand, without this being explained, that the 'one man' has given freedom to 'the many'. The musician has set his choir free; Jesus freed the captives by the millions.

What strikes me, is that this kind of script is (almost) impossible to generate, to create, unless it came in a true moment of inspiration; as in given-from-above. 

Within the story of the film several themes are beautifully 'treated', themes that are kind of typical, especially in church circles. Having said that, these same themes are also to be found in secular society; they are typically human, for all times and all places. No wonder, this film did really well, all around the world.  

Australia (2008)

Film by Baz Luhrmann. 

I have a special love for the Baz Luhrmann films. His work is outstanding, I think. He is a wonderfully independent and creative visual story teller. Every one of his films is worth studying; he makes amazing choices, different choices for different films. He is not afraid to do something very unusual, something that's not necessarily commercial, but it's always pretty brilliant.

AUSTRALIA is a very big film, sweeping, epic story-telling; it's very ambitious. At first viewing this took me somewhat by surprise; there is so much in the film, the story goes on and on, and the film is very long indeed. I guess, I expected a shorter film, something punchy and fast moving, like some of Luhrmann's other films.

But there is so much quality in his film 'Australia', and there's great subject matter, this film easily deserves a second viewing, if not a third. And that's what I did. Seeing the film again (and again) I learned to love this film, as much as I love Luhrmann's other films. 

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