The Passion (HBO/ BBC)
The Passion, BBC/ HBO, Feb. 2, 2022
Finally today the box arrived. Two DVD disks, The Passion; can’t wait to see this work. Written by Frank Deasy. My expectations were high, and they are being met. This is a remarkable production.
Just seen the first 50 min. episode. What terrific storytelling. We see Jesus and his team outside Jerusalem, getting ready to enter the city.
Lots of people about; some of the disciples are nervous. Should we take another gate?
One of the men knows the scripture that will be fulfilled within the next hour.
What follows is a strong expose of the powers that be, in Jerusalem. Pilate and his Roman power-structure. Cajaphas and his team, supported by the Temple Guard. The way Joseph Mawle portrays Jesus is beautiful, strong, still, deep, impressive, and relatable. James Nesbitt as Pilate is equally strong in a completely different way. Ben Daniels as Cajaphas is also very effective and believable.
I’m deeply intrigued. With all the gospel films that I have seen, I know how hard it is to get this work right. And here, the BBC IS getting it right I think. This first episode contains a lot of sub-plots, all of which is relevant to the storyline, to what comes later. The scene between Jesus and his older mother is a revelation. Never seen such a unique scene between Jesus and his mother Mary. Here the writers got hold of it.
The camera work is excellent. The drama is constantly very crowded with lots of visual layers to give depth to the environment. So well done!
The work is not rushed and yet, there is a tremendous pace to it. And slowly we are beginning to see how Jesus is preparing for the confrontation that is looming.
Having watched the second episode (30 min., as apposed to episode 1: 55 min.), I begin to see certain short-comings.
The story of Jesus (as recused in the 4 gospels) is THE hardest story in the world, and of all times. Telling this story is more or less IMPOSSIBLE. Many attempts have been made, and some films are worth watching…
So I’m under no illusion that my attempts, if ever I get the chance, would fare any better. Bottom line I the we are called to keep telling the story, even while every ‘telling’ has certain short-comings.
In this second episode, Jesus speaks up to his disciples about ‘his sacrifice’. He spells it out to them, how he will be taken captive, physically abused (Jesus used a different expression), and put to death. The disciples are dumbfounded. Great to see some of them protesting etc. But the point her is that this new understanding of Jesus’s mission, for me, seems to come out of nowhere. Actor Joseph Mawle speaks the lines from the script (I trust) and he does it well, but I can only follow this surprising and very unusual ‘welcoming-of-being-murdered’ because I know the story. What I’m really missing here is the ministry years that have gone before; three years in which time an awful lot happens.
Having said this (and should say more about the issue of leaving the ministry years out of the film), this version of THE PASSION does manage to put quite a lot of story detail into this passion. I can’t help but compere this TV series with ‘The Passion-of-the-Christ’ by Mel Gibson. IN Mel’s version (of the Passion) there are a bunch of flashbacks to the earlier days. Those flashbacks are also helpful to build the present story (the passion); fill it in a little more, and give the viewer better understanding of what is happening in the moment.
The BBC Passion starts with JESUS and his men entering Jerusalem for the Pass-Over weekend, as where Gibson’s film starts with Jesus in Gethsemane, just before he is arrested (by the Temple Guard).
What I miss is getting to know Jesus through his ministry; the time when he proclaimed the Kingdom-of Heaven (IS AT HAND/ HAS ARRIVED!); also the time when He healed thousands of people and performed many other miracles. Those miracles were never a ‘showing off’ of his (endless)powers; the miracles of Jesus were always a (Godly) response to a human need. Here we get to know who Jesus really is: HE IS GOD INCARNATE.
He even has the power to undo death! He stills the storm; walks ON the water, even in the midst of a storm. He time-travels; suddenly appears on the other side of the lake. Over the years of His ministry Jesus heals scores and scores of people; they come out in their thousands hoping to receive healing, and longing for empowerment. Many people were in desperate need and deeply oppressed. Jesus has an answer for those people; He was, and is THE ANSWER. The ultimate is of course that He allows for his killing (by the Jews & the Romans)TRUSTING that His FATHER will stir him back to life, a few days later…
Any film depicting just The Passion is going to run into difficulty revealing (to the viewer) the DIVINITY of JESUS. If a film leaves that out, my guess is that the writers/ producers will assume that the viewer already knows who Jesus is, and they thing: that should be sufficient. But, to me, that is NOT a good choice; not at all. If a film is to bring a certain revelation to the viewer, the film-makers should look into all that Jesus did in the 3 years of His ministry.
Now having seen the complete film I’m left with a host of thoughts and impressions. I LOVED watching this film; it was done with great care, I think, even though it diverts from the Biblical story in several places. But I think the writer can be forgiven for doing so; I think he (Grand Deasy) had reasons for doing so.
Frank Deasy tried to give us fresh drama, not scenes that are taken straight from the scripture (or from another Gospel film); he tried to keep surprising us, and he succeeded, much of the time. For this (good) reason he left small details (from the gospel account) out of the film, and then wove the left out detail back in, later on. Good drama! This happens several times, especially in parts 3 & 4 of the series (of 4).
Many examples of this approach result in fresh drama; beautiful, powerful statements that you’ve never heard said in this particular way.
The way the script (the movie) plays with the re-appearance of Jesus, first to Mary, later to 2 disciples who stand in for the 2 men who make their way (walk) to Emmeus. By now we (the viewers) can tell that this is Jesus, looking different (blond hair f.i.). I applaud that.
Another thing he did successfully, is to re-frase the text from the dialogue in scripture. He uses fresh, down-to-earth words/ sayings. Behind those words I could hear the official scripture, but now there is added meaning; the drama is working so well, it feels like I have never seen THIS story. Wonderful!
Later on Jesus appears to all the disciples; we hear the Lord’s voice, but we (the viewer) don’t actually get to see Him. OK, I can live wit that, but something begins to bother me. The film maker (writer/ director) is beginning to pull out of the story, just at the point where, I think, it is getting really exciting. Why is the film-maker going shy?
I think the reason is that the writer/ director (Frank Deasy/ Michael Offer) can’t quite exercise the FAITH that Jesus personifies and proclaims.
We’ve now entered the realm of the super-natural; Jesus suddenly appearing & disappearing; miracles happening. I guess the writer saw as his job the power-play between Jesus, Cajaphas, and Pilate. All that has come to an end, so it is time to bring the movie to an end.
Still, Mel Gibson, proclaiming himself a man of faith, struggled to portray the resurrection, and ends the story there; shocking state of affairs. Other gospel films have left the resurrection out altogether. So, we’re doing well here, seeing Jesus as we knew him, alive and speaking.
The scenes we are given are beautifully done, but I regret that the film wouldn’t go any further. I guess, when you call the film ‘The Passion’ the script doesn’t have to go much further. In a place where there are many sick, hoping for healing, Jesus speaks to Peter; gentle words; words of life; a commission of sorts. At some point Jesus began to move (away) and Peter grabs his Lord, and holds him back: “Please don’t go” says Peter. Good drama; I could feel the reality of that. Jesus speaks reassuring words, and then he does go. He walks away, and gradually disappears. In ‘normal’ drama that can be a beautiful, meaningful ending. In this case it stands for the ‘ascension’. OK. I understand, the film-makers, in their personal secular preposition did their best to write/ film an ending they can live with.
But I live with an ‘ending’ that is far more powerful than this; the ending that I know, is also a new beginning, the introduction of the Holy Spirit. Once Holy Spirit arrives (replacing Jesus) and making His home with us, all things are possible. Sadly the film makers couldn’t go there. When their Jesus sippers it feels like He is going to go to another country and start all over again (to end up getting crucified allover again). Clearly the universality of what has happened (Jesus has conquered death) has ESCAPED the film makers. Too bad.
Another observation here is that, getting to an amazing ending, it will be necessary to BUILD a STORY CONSTRUCTION that has a strong foundation. Like building a TOWER. You need a strong foundation to build a tall tower. In order to see the STORY of JESUS go to another level, after the resurrection, much press-work is needed. The film (the story) ha to BUILD toward the next level, and that happens during the ministry years of Jesus. All the elements of the NEXT LEVEL are revealed during the ministry years of the Lord. One of them is the mysterious glorification on the mountain (top) where Jesus meets with Moses and Elijah. Peter & John witness this amazing event.
Another crucial event during the ministry years is the raising-up of Lazarus. Jesus brings several other people back from the dead! During these years Jesus perform hundreds, if not thousands of miracles; people flock to Him in their thousands. Amazing things happen. Miracle after miracle.
After His resurrection Scripture doesn’t mention miracles; one reason for that is the simple fact that the 12 (now 11) disciples were no longer together with Jesus (as in 24 hours per day); Jesus moved in & out of situations constantly, for (at least) 40 days. By now Jesus WAS the MIRACLE. His appearance set people on fire for Him and for the Kingdom.The energy and vision that were being released set in motion a movement that was designed to go world-wide.
I am keen to see this film again. It is well written, well acted, beautifully filmed; great editing, brilliant music; on a par with Franco Zeffirelli’s ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, perhaps even better. This ‘Passion’ film (for TV) arrived a few years after Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’; for me, this film has definitely replaced Mel Gibson’s film, and I’m grateful for that. This film provides an excellent way of introducing the STORY of JESUS to audiences around the world. I will put it at the top of my list, together with ‘Jesus’ (Jeremy Sisto) and ‘The Miracle Maker’.
The Passion of the Christ
I remember watching this film in the cinema at a special event. The local cinema, together with a church organization (I think), did special screenings of The Passion for pastors and other church workers, ahead of screening this film for the general public. There was tremendous anticipation, even a sense of AWE; perhaps also some worry, even trepidation. Watching this film was going to be a life-changing event. Together with Christ we were going to undergo crucifixion, and, hopefully, resurrection. And for much of the time (of watching together with this Christian believer crowd) it was heavy-going indeed.
Afterwards there was a sense of relief (that it was over); also a sense of exhaustion. This passion story in the hands of Mel Gibson had been brutal and literally deadly. What left me in-limbo afterwards, was the fact that the resurrection was so unconvincingly portrayed. It seems that Mel Gibson (whom I respect hugely) had put all of his creative energy and spiritual messaging into the destruction of the messiah. Once Jesus was dead, there was nothing left, it seemed (which, in a way, is correct). In the gospel story this is also the case (total devastation), but heaven is going to present the biggest surprise in all human history, and the overall story is going go to a whole new level.
Sadly, it seems that Mel Gibson never managed to meditate on this part of the story sufficiently, to discover how this AMAZING TURN-AROUND, can be translated into film (making). The aggression and destruction unleashed on ‘the King of the Jews’, need an equally strong answer, in terms of film-making, in the way the resurrection (and later Pentecost) are presented. It doesn’t seem that Mel Gibson took sufficient time (out) to explore this essential part of the story. The Passion-of-the-Christ film fades at this point. And that was more of a shock to me, than all the violence that I witnessed that afternoon at this special screening. I went home feeling gutted…
Later I began to read scripture, and years later I took the time to read extensively on this film. I think, the book: ‘PERSPECTIVES on The Passion of the Christ’ is excellent and thorough. No need for me to make those comments; the book lays it all out, carefully done. Published by Miramax.
Mel Gibson has often been asked if he would do a sequel, covering the book of Acts. Quite a few times he has said ‘yes’ to this question, but his life has taken him in a different direction, I think. The world owes him for a very unique film, made by him. This film has certainly stirred up much, including ‘inspiring’ other film makers to produce fresh works based on the gospel (and Acts). To this day, however, nobody has been able to produce a film (series) that stays close to the truth of Scripture and, at the same time, presents a strong, powerful and moving account of the New Testament story (stories). It will take GENIUS and HEAVEN’S TOTAL BLESSING to do this.
The other thing that has lingered in my memory (of seeing this film) is the language that is spoken in this film, Hebrew, Latin and (reconstructed) Aramaic, if I’m correct. I’ve read commentary saying that the language spoken by the various characters in the film are not actually the languages that they spoke, historically speaking. From where I am standing that hardly matters; I don’t speak (understand) any of these three languages. I do find it interesting that Mel Gibson chose to use these languages. Question is WHY? And the next question is: what does it do to the film (and the viewer) that these obscure languages are spoken?
My guess is that Mel Gibson wanted to have his film be as AUTHENTIC (looking and sounding) as possible. The costumes are very elaborate (and impressive); all the film-making is of the highest quality, including the music of course. The violence of the Roman execution by crucifixion is in ‘good’ hands with Mel Gibson; in his previous film ‘Braveheart’ there is plenty of violence. As an actor he has a great deal of experience in filming violent scenes. Through the gospel story we know that Jesus chose to embrace death-by-execution; he became the Lamb led to the slaughter. It is no small thing however, that this ‘slaughter’ was done through the worst of execution-methods: crucifixion.
This meant a great deal of extra suffering for Jesus, on top of Him having his life taken from him. Imagine a criminal, being condemned to death, not being put to death through a quick procedure, but through causing intense pain for the longest possible time; many hours, sometimes more than a day. Unheard of obviously. (For me, any death penalty, the killing-by-the-state of a prisoner is WRONG! The death penalty should be abolished!)
Crucifixion was this kind of slow-torture-to-death. It was a Roman SHOW of power, and a stark warning to anyone who was considering some action against Rome.
In some strange way, the story of Jesus having to go through this ‘being tortured to death’ was a GIFT to Mel Gibson; because he is (was?) obsessed with violence. I know this is a radical thing to think/ write. In my observation, this country (the USA) has a HUGE problem with violence. It could be labelled as IDOLATRY: the way Americans LOVE their guns, and LOVE watching violence. It is a sickness, a disease!
So Mel Gibson decided to film that part of the Gospel story that talks about (depicts violence); the gospels tell us about Jesus’s arrest which in itself was an aggressive act. We also read how Jesus was STRUCK in the face when questioned by Cajaphas. We read about the flogging of Jesus and soldiers mocking Him; and we read about the crucifixion itself, which was (as mentioned above) a horrific way of executing a prisoner.
But Gibson has GONE TO TOWN, dramatized the utmost violence from beginning to end.
Much has been written about this. People who have seen the film have responded in two different ways (overall):
-those who found all the violence quite unbearable (and unnecessary), and
-those (a large part of the Christian audience) who felt that Mel Gibson did ‘us’ a favor teaching us the severity of the punishment (that Jesus took on our behalf). The more suffering, the higher the price (that Jesus paid), and therefor the more we should appreciate what He did for us. These people, who were (and are) deeply impressed with this film, are also of the opinion that the way Jesus was depicted (acted impressively by Jim Caviezel) through his actions, words, through the imagery, editing, and the amazing music etc. He, Jesus impressed us with HIS LOVE so much, that (in the viewer’s eyes) He ROSE ABOVE the (extreme) violence. Therefore the film took us (those that have loved the film, and still love it) to a deeper understanding of HIs LOVE, His authority, and His ability to come back to life.
I suppose, the viewer reads into the film what they bring to it; their faith, their doubts; whatever their spiritual, emotional, mental condition regarding matters of the Christian Faith, including their ‘religious’ experiences as children and their experiences of church (if any).
Why should I be writing along these lines?
Well, I think that this film has done a very strange thing, something that I worry about. Those people who felt that the violence (in the film was too much, tuned out mostly; these people will have gotten little else fro the film; they are unlikely to ever watch it again.
The other group rose to the occasion and LOVED the film. They quickly found (invented) an important reason for (all) the violence: it was so that we would MORE appreciate the sacrifice that our Lord made for us. But something else is happening here, I think.
The film (The Passion of the Christ) is a very impressive piece of film-making (as described earlier). When is first came out, getting a pre-view of the film was offered to church leaders etc.
From the start the film was HAILED (commercially promoted) as a RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE.
The fact that all the characters in the film speak the original languages (we assume), adds to the way the Christian audience approached this film: with great AWE, as if Mel Gibson had actually been there during the original passion. I clearly remember that feeling among the church staff that was now gettin a preview of this HOLY FILM: we were going to see THE LORD going through the Passion, AS IT REALLY WAS, the authentic (re) presentation. The key word here is: AUTHENTIC. This film was perceived (by many Christians) as 99% AUTHENTIC, the way it really was!
So, while we don’t understand the dialogue in Aramaic (we get to read the sub-tittles), we feel we’re in the presence of GOD INCARNATE. By now Mel Gibson can do with us as he pleases; we’ve totally dropped any kind of guard against theological heresy; against a possible subtle distortion of the actual story; against anything that was added to the gospel account, or left out.
So, these people (who LOVED the film, RAVED about it) bought into the extreme violence to being with, and also into a weird interpretation of the Gospel story. These people end up ‘worshiping’ the film (which could be called idolatry).
TWO BIG PROBLEMS!
Through this film people (mostly Christians) are learning to tolerate ever increasing levels of violence, in films, and in society. We literally learn to PUT UP with serious violence, and this CORRUPTS our integrity, and the integrity of our children. If someone wants to disagree here, I have a question for them.
What would become of Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’, if he were to decide (which he won’t) to edit out MOST of the violence. There would be little left of the film! If Gibson saw that drastically scaled back movie, he would understand that he should rethink the script thoroughly, and do a whole bunch of extra filming, to arrive at a proper film that can be released into the whole world (once a film goes out, it can never be taken back).
This re-constructed film (with plenty of extra scenes etc.) is the film that Gibson should have made to begin with. He wouldn’t agree, and many people may not agree, but it is the VIOLENCE that actually SELLS this film. It is also the VIOLENCE that dominates the story of this film, while none of the gospels give any indication, what so-ever, that the violence was ever so important. If a film maker wants to emphasize the ‘very high price’ that Jesus paid being crucified (a slow tortured death), the emphasis in the film making (and in the script to begin with) should be the LENGTHY ENDURANCE of hanging on (from) a wooden system (a cross), high above the ground, while being mocked etc.
Not being able to move; hardly being able to breathe while suffering intense pain etc. The mental agony that this will bring; the temptation to CURSE, to (almost) explode in HATRED. A dying person might have hallucinations, flash-back memories etc.
If a film-maker wants to emphasize the severity of the execution method, then they should develop filmic ideas of how to capture what I’ve just described.
Mel Gibson simply fell for the temptation to depict physical violence in almost every scene; it is the language that Gibson speaks most fluently. The violence in this movie is also a reflection of the state of American film making. (The USA film industry produces lots of violent movies ongoing. Silicon Valley produces violent video games non-stop. These film and video games are HUGE money spinners. All these materials do HUGE and LASTING DAMAGE to the CULTURE, WORLD-WIDE!)
Those people that have LOVED this film, have, without realizing it too much, bought into incorrect theology. This is what happens when you submit to an extreme situation. And watching this film (especially in the cinema) and not turning/ walking away, leaves the viewer little choice BUT to accept the violence, be hammered by it to the point where ‘anything goes’. CULTS work along these lines of intimidating their ‘audience; in that ‘accepting place’ (the viewer has drops their sense of critical thinking) cults recruit converts. I think the Gipson film will for ever be seriously PROBLEMATIC for these reasons. I feel ashamed that the church embraced this film so unthinkingly and passionately.
Sadly this movie connects too much with the political right (and nationalism going rampant in the church) and becomes like a weapon to threaten people with along the lines of:
“If you don’t follow Jesus, you’re going to hell! If you don’t follow Jesus, you’re an anti-christ liberal; you’re the enemy.” Clearly aggression breeds aggression. Others have written about the mistaken ‘teachings’ of this movie in terms of theology. The book ‘PERSPECTIVES on The Passion of the Christ’ goes into detail on this.
The Revolutionary, film by Joyce & Robert Marcarelli/ Paul Crouch @ TBN/ 1995
This film was produced by Paul Crouch; very much his vision and his work. Joyce Marcarelli wrote the script; her husband Robert Marcarelli directed. Phil Cooke was the line-producer.
First off, the title, ‘The Revolutionary’, doesn’t seem to match the content of this film too well. Nowhere in the film is there some kind of reference to this particular tittle. The way the script is written, if I see this correctly, is rather from an evangelical PoV: Jesus came to die for our sins. Of course, someone might call that a revolutionary act, but the word revolution is more associated with the overthrow of government, as in the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution. In the days of Jesus there were ‘freedom fighters’ who wanted to instigate a revolution agains the Romans. The very presence of those ‘fighters’, and their way of thinking, was a threat to the Romans (and indirectly also to the Jewish leaders, as they wanted to keep the peace with Rome). To me the tittle of this film could have been better chosen, to cover the actual story of the film better.
In some ways this film reminds me of Pasolini’s film ‘Il Vangelo Secondo Mateo’. Pasolini deliberately made a movie that looks like an amateur production done with mostly simple people who are all from the same remote village where the filming was done. This approach (by Pasolini) is not too far removed from the tradition of the ‘Mystery Plays’. It represents a work-by-the-local-people, entirely non-commercial, authentic, a little rough, kept fairly simple and short; poor quality, but with good-intentions shining-through; no special effects etc. You can only watch this kind of film if you have understood this local focus, and are willing to enter the world-of-the-story in spite of glaring filmic problems, for script, poor acting, poor camera work, poor everything. Pasolini’s Gospel Film is along the lines of the THEATER-OF-THE-POOR; it’s a FILM-OF-THE-POOR movie.
The Revolutionary sits on a slightly different TRACK however. The film makers have tried to make a quality movie, but have had to cut many corners due to a lack of budget. While this film very much looks like a ‘FILM-of-the-POOR’ movie, along the lines of Pasolini’s movie, the film-makers didn’t make the ‘POOR THEME’ their choice. Had they done that, they would not have picked a professional actor who was being flown-in from the USA. That’s expensive.
The poor quality of the Revolutionary, sadly, stems from a lack-of-budget. Instead of keeping production simple and local (to where the film-makers are based), the film makers decided to do the entire production in Israel. That’s another expensive choice. I wonder, why Israel? Was it done from a ‘religious view-point’, as in: this is the story of our Lord, and to honor Him with this movie, we have to go & film where He really worked the earth: Israel. Maybe, that’s how they decided to go to Israel. What other advantage was there in filming in Israel. The sets in this film are all very simple, and in rural locations. Why not film in Spain, or in Morocco, or Greece, or Mexico, or (even) in Texas or California? Authentic looking (amateur) actors can be found in all of the countries, or states.
The film makers have involved lots of people-from-Israel in this film (and possibly Israelis who aren’t Jewish and hail from Palestinian back-ground?). None of those people were good actors, but they brought a sense of authenticity to the project. The disciples seemed better actors, even though they didn’t have a whole lot to say or do. They looked authentic enough, even though most of them had way to much HAIR (huge wigs/ heavy beards).
So, this kind of local CAST gives this film a certain authentic FEEL, along the lines of Pasolini’s film. But if this LOCAL, authentic FEEL was important to the film makers, why put a typical American actor right in the center of it? John Kay Steel did a fairly good job with the part of Jesus, but why not look for a gifted local actor, so that the whole production can have the same authenticity. John Steel is good in certain scenes; he’s a good story-teller, I find. So, for some of the time, he comes into his own, and he blossoms. In those moments we forget about the local Israeli FEEL.
But there are many other moments in the film where John Steel seems out of place; not only his skin color and his looks, but also his behavior is as someone from the WEST. This Jesus looks and behaves like an OUTSIDER, and if the film-makers were so keen on being ‘authentic’, their choice of lead-actor undermined their desire to make this film ‘authentic’. The result is a movie that limps. In some places it is strong; in other places it doesn’t work, and it falls into that genre of ‘poorly made christian movie’. We have plenty of those…
I guess, the film makers decided to bringing their Jesus with them, from the USA, as they flew to Israel to do the production. They were playing it safe. Had they been willing to exercise their faith in this area (of finding a regional actor for the part of Jesus), the end result would have been a different film; probably a BETTER film.
Likewise, the film-makers could have ‘gone with their Jesus actor (John Steel) and gathered a suitable cast around him, in a film-location that suited the low budget reality of this movie. The result would have been a better movie, I think.
Jesus reads the Isiah scripture and proclaims that ’Today this scripture is fulfilled, in your hearing (in your ear)’. The ‘elders’ and others in the synagogue get angry with him, and then, suddenly a demon possessed boy appears and takes center stage, right there inside the synagogue. In scripture Jesus leaves the synagogue, and the people intend to throw Jesus off some cliff (or high rock formation). Jesus then miraculously walks through the angry crowd and walks away. This important follow-through of the Isiah reading and proclamation by Jesus is lost due to the demon possessed boy being inserted here by the script writer. For me, this produces more loss than gain.
Jesus speaks the be-attitudes; he speaks way too fast. We don’t see the people receive anything. The relationship between Jesus and the people is not clear (not visible in the film). The film fails badly here.
We hear Jesus tell the parable of the prodigal son, but sadly the part of the older brother is left out. Again the script writer interrupts the story that scripture gives. And again, for me, there’s more loss here than gain. Poor writing really.
The scene with Nicodemus visiting Jesus, at night, is beautiful and powerful. John Steel does a beautiful job here.
Overall, I find the script of the film not strong and lacking good story flow, a story that is growing toward an intense confrontation; I find the passion-story especially poorly treated in this film.
The appearance of angels is a disaster; their voices are awful. The voice-over preech at the end of the movie is unhelpful. All the voice-overs are unnecessary and get in the way (of the audience engaging emotionally with the film).
This film was released in 1995. At that point in time several other gospel films has made their way to the public:
-Pasolini’s ‘Il Vangelo’
-Zeffirelli’s ‘Jesus of Nazareth’
-Peter Sykes’s ‘The JESUS Film’
-Martin Scorsese’s ‘Last Temptation of Christ'
Zeffirelli’s film was a surprise film of high quality (in all departments). An enormous achievement, and a powerful film.
The JESUS Film was done, more from a ministry perspective, I think. Carefully written and well produced; short compered to Jesus of Nazareth.
I wonder what MOTIVATED the film-makers (of The Revolutionary) to make their film at this time. It looses out hugely compared with ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. It doesn’t reach the ‘status’ of ART HOUSE FILM as Pasolini’s film does.
‘The Revolutionary’ is perhaps comparable to ‘The JESUS Film’. In my estimation John Steel is better as Jesus (in The Revolutionary), then Brian Deacon (in The JESUS Film). But why make this film (Revolutionary), if an equally useful film (The Jesus Film) is already available?
The Ten Commandments (1956, Cecil B. DeMile director)
The Thin Red Line
The Quest Trilogy: 40 Nights
Unique film, made by D.J. Perry and an excellent crew & cast. The dialogue is a kind of ‘spiritual language’, spoken in a dramatic setting. Some great lines, interesting bits of conversation, and monologues (in the presence of another character). Here & there ‘Jesus’ speaks while he’s alone.
The beginning of the film, with John the Baptist baptizing Jesus, kind-of gives the impression that this may be an amateur production. So, (as an audience of one) I’m a little unsettled with this beginning (of the film) and wonder what to expect next.
It begins to appear to me, that the film is a mix of ‘costume drama’ (Jesus portrayed as he ‘really’ was (supposed to be), 2000 years ago) and a contemporary ‘interpretation’. This mix of (so-called) historical & contemporary interpretations, I find fascinating. It brings the ancient story into the present age, while it honors the rural, agricultural setting. In this way, the story can reach us directly, more directly than historical drama. In a way, the approach D.J. Perry has taken with ‘Forty Nights’, is in line with the approach ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ takes with the Biblical story.
It is obvious through the dialogue and the impressive imagery that D.J. Perry is deeply sincere, and I am very much taken in. Yet, I struggle to see this man as ‘Jesus’. What I’ve seen so far speaks to me more along the lines of the ‘Mystery Play’ where an actor plays the part of Jesus. So it is here; this big man with his rough beard and long hair is showing us Jesus, more or less.
The Devil appears to the Jesus-Man (for me, it’s half Jesus, and half D.J. Perry) in the form of a teenage boy, a young man, who is remarkably effective in the way he speaks and moves, relaxed and yet scoring points all the time. The devil changes appearance a number of times.
The JesusMan speaks brief prayers to God, his father. God is not being impersonated…; but the devil is! He comes back, almost constantly. There are also scenes with flash-backs to the JesusMan’s childhood, of him as a boy speaking with his parents etc., and flashbacks to the grown Jesus, speaking to his (older) mother about getting ready to go on his mission. She would rather he stays at home; the mission will be dangerous…
After about 40 minutes of watching this film, I’m beginning to tire of the endless conversations with the devil. Many times the devil tries to entice Jesus to say certain things or do something; every time Jesus refuses, but then, at one point, Jesus takes the hand of the devil. This is odd, especially after many refusals; why take the devils hand? The devil clearly cannot be trusted, and must be resisted. The devil suddenly puts Jesus in some other location etc. Jesus continues to resist the devil, as is written in scripture.
After having watched a little over an hour of the ‘Forty Nights’ film, I am incapable to hear more of the seemingly endless conversations between Jesus and the devil. Did the devil dominate Jesus’ time in the desert THIS MUCH? Maybe he did; I don’t know. Would Jesus give the devil this much attention? You might say, the devil simply kept showing up; Jesus had little choice… Food for thought.
I guess, at the one-hour point I was also tired of all the ‘spiritual’ conversation which is hardly a conversation at all. Here, the strength of this work (spiritually charged inter-actions between characters) becomes it’s weakness; the film seems incapable of going anywhere else…
Meanwhile I begin to think of the film ‘JESUS’ with Jeremy Sisto in the lead-role. This film also follows Jesus into the desert where the devil gives Jesus a hard time. The Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbe, playing the devil, does an excellent job tempting Jesus, as well as mocking Him.
These scenes include world-war-images etc. which function as a back-drop to meaningful dialogue between Jesus and the devil. In some ways I prefer the approach of the film ‘JESUS’, and the fact that Jesus going through the ‘DESERT-EXPERIENCE’ is a sequence in the film, not the whole film.
Perhaps the film D.J. Perry has written, produced and performed in, is a level up from the other film. Maybe the ‘Forty Nights’ film presents a new genre that challenges the viewer to a deeper understanding and better appreciation. So, I will watch the film again at some point to grow into this master-piece. The role of the Angel Gabriel is beautiful and valuable.
Certain touches in this film are plain FABULOUS, like the role of the little lamb in the film, the meeting with the child-shepherd at the end, and many other brief moments.
The music is very good, most of the time; sometimes perhaps a little too much (for my liking). The photography is impressive; great areal shots etc.; the coloring is intriguing. It seems as if we’re watching a black & white movie, with subtle coloring gently providing a certain ‘feel’. The EDIT is excellent, I think. The film flows brilliantly, back & forth between different realities/ time-frames etc., almost dreamlike. What an achievement this is, a unique movie with such an unlikely but impressive Christ-figure. I look forward to seeing the next installment of the trilogy: The Quest.
The Quest Trilogy: Chasing the Star
Interesting film, strong images, even while it’s clearly made on low budget. The personification of satan is a crucial part of the storytelling, as it was in the first film of the Quest trilogy. This is delicate ground, but good for D.J Perry that he dares to take it on. The Quest trilogy follows a certain style; most dialogue spoken slowly, strong atmospheric music with dark & deep base tones playing almost all the way through. Strong images; quality coloring; amazing skies etc. Here is an excellent cinematographer at work, and a brilliant musician/ composer.
The film feels like a dream; I found it hard work watching the whole thing. Then again, the actors are good, and they really own the story and the script. D.J. Perry and production team & crew follow their own particular style; it could have gone wrong and become over-done, but somehow the film-makers have managed to reign things in sufficiently, and move the (very slow) story forward just when I was the audience was about to switch to another film.
I’m curious to find out how effective this film (the Quest trilogy) has been in reaching secular audiences. These films are a refreshing antidote to the religiously flavored gospel & nativity films that we’ve all seen. I’ve now watched (most of) the first two films; watching this work is like a spiritual exercise, almost like a fast; not easy, but afterwards there is a reward of a kind, a fresh insight, or a deep re-assurance of the power-for-good to prevail over the power-for-evil, if you have ears to hear.
The Quest Trilogy: The Christ Slayer
Thelma & Louise
Toast - film about Nigel Slator, UK culinary guru
Really well done; the child actor and young adult actor are both fantastic. Great to see the real Nigel Slater appear in the film, at the end. There is not a whole lot of 'story' to the film, but what is there, has been handled beautifully and with great skill & taste. Great to see a quality film with a British success story!
Great film with Dustin Hoffman in the lead; one of his best films! A risky enterprise, having a man be a woman with nobody noticing, but a great script, brilliant acting by Hoffman especially, and careful directing by Pollack, saved this project from failure; Tootsie works on many levels.