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The Apocalypse

Billy writes:

The Apocalypse - with Richard Harris/ Directed by Rafaelle Mertes

This film was produced as the last of a lengthy series, starting with Genesis: Creation, via Moses to Jesus and Paul (?) to this film.


A brave enterprise to portray John, the Apostle on Patmos, even while so very little is known about the circumstances. A book is mentioned, written by 4th century Eusebius Pamphilus about church history. Worth checking out!  

There is a love-story of sorts running through the film; I find it not believable and clumsy. But, if you (me/ one) accepts this love story as an important part of the film, then at the end, through the wisdom spoken by John (Richard Harris) the 2 lovers come together beautifully. It bring a sense of completion and accomplishment; ok. However, for me, it gets in the way of a much bigger movement: how the Spirit of God continues to overcome death and fear and hatred. John’s VISIONS are difficult as ever (try reading Revelation). The film doesn't open-up (the book of) Revelation to me; something I had hoped for...

Richard Harris is remarkable, as always; I have loved his work over the many years. He is always excellent! How sad, in a way, that this film was close to being the last he performed in. The film dates the year 200; Harris died 2 years later at the age of 72.


So many problems with this film; where to even begin. I feel like giving that a miss. Without Richard Harris, I think, this movie might have fallen to pieces, collapsed. I feel a sense of importance to learn more about John being exiled to the island of Patmos. Why, when, and under what conditions? And to study Revelation.


The Apostles After Jesus

Script written by Joyce Marcarelli/ Produced by Robert Marcarelli/ Directed by Regards van den Bergh

Billy writes:

Joyce Marcarelli also wrote the scripts for ‘The Revolutionary’ and ‘The Emissary’, both films produced by TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network). Her husband Robert directed the 2 TBN movies; this movie, he produced.

Placing ‘The Apostles After Jesus’ film next to ‘The Emissary’, it is hard to know what the relation between the 2 films is, if anything. ‘The Emissary’ follows the apostle Paul. 

‘The Apostles After Jesus’ = (mostly) ‘The Book of Acts'. Another tittle that is also used (for this film) is: ‘The Acts of the Apostles’. 

This film is part of the VISUAL BIBLE series which also includes: ‘Matthew’ (Bruce Marciano is Jesus), and ‘The Gospel of John’ (Henry Cusick as Jesus). All three films present the entire text of the Bible book (Matthew/ John/ Acts). While Henry Cusick is impressive as Jesus, this 'Acts' film is problematic because it is based upon a concept that doesn’t suit the language of film.


‘The Apostles A.J.’ film is the Book of Acts, put to images & sound. Apart from actors speaking dialogue, taken straight from the book of Acts, the film also features the character of Luke who is the ‘story-teller’ (Luke is the author of Acts). Altogether the viewer (listener) is given the complete text of the Book of Acts.

Trying to see how certain companies and individuals decided to make a certain movies, this ‘Apostles A.J.’ fits in with films by THE VISUAL BIBLE that focussed on making films which give the viewer (listener) the complete text of (one of) the gospels (and Acts).


They did all 4 gospels in this way: a voice-over speaks the text from the gospel, while actors act-out the story; we barely hear their voices. Some (Christian) critics have described this kind of film as a ‘church-film’ which helps believers ‘hear’ (and study) the gospel-text. In terms of drama, and learning more about the depth of the story (through the drama), this kind of approach makes that impossible. For me, a highly irritating (watch & listen) experience: the drama and the voice-over are in competition the whole time. I would rather watch a proper film (drama) where the story comes alive and can speak for itself. I also enjoy hearing a quality voice SPEAK the gospel-text. Mixing those doesn’t work (for me).

The film ‘The Apostles after Jesus’ (basically, the Book of Acts) does not make the drama & voice over compete for attention. We EITHER hear ‘dialogue’ (taken straight from scripture) OR we hear a voice-over (also taken straight from scripture) explaining various things. It works, but only just! Trouble is, the Scripture is not written as a drama (film) script, and yet, here the film-makers are using the text (of Acts) as their script, with actors acting (and cameras filming the action). The result is a film that is not strong (or even sufficient) drama (even while there are dramatic things happening). 

Drama requires dramatic arches, clear story-structure shaped in sequences, scenes, and acts (as in act 1, act 2, act 3). In this way, the story is built and the viewer gets involved and intrigued (about how the story will evolve, and eventually come to an end). This film doesn’t have that kind of (inner) structure, it just goes on and on. 

Acts was not written as a novel either; scripture is entirely unique in this way. And scripture is very rich and remarkable. But it’s a mistake to think that you can just put (dramatic) images to the text, and the result will be a compelling film. Not so!

This film does have a certain innocence and sweetness that comes from the humble attempt by people who didn’t have much of a budget, and perhaps didn’t really know what they were doing either. They simply had a desire to enact the Book of Acts, almost along the lines of the Mystery Plays with all the locals involved and very simple sets etc. Making the film with these very simple means did produce a few moments that are beautiful, sometimes touching. Sadly, for most of the time, the film is just boring, poorly made, full of problem-moments, and quite endless. The film clearly has no structure at al; splitting it up in a number of chapters, for instance, would have helped the viewer to take hold of it. 

The actor playing Peter sounds rather American, and looks it too; not helpful; not good casting. I wonder if he is an actor at all; he acts/ behaves more like a present-day evangelist.

I must admit, I’ve not managed yet to watch the film al the way through. At this point in time, I would rather read the Book of Acts (all the way through); that would be a better experience.

After having watched an hour of this movie, what has become abundantly clear, is that the film rests on 2 concepts that don’t mix all too well.


Concept 1: We see scenes with characters (drama); we hear their voices for much of the time, but we also hear a Voice-Over, the narrator of the story, while the drama continues (sometimes we see actors talk, but we don’t hear them {at all}).


Concept 2: The movie cuts back to the character Luke (the actual writer of Acts) and presents him as a Storyteller. On occasion Luke holds a paper document; this is where he has been writing his ‘story’. At one time, there’s a young man who reads text from this paper (scroll).


In my view, all of this clashes with concept 1. Turning Luke into a character that is IN the movie creates an ‘extra piece of drama’ that is actually not in the book of Acts. Consciously or unconsciously, the viewer will wonder where Luke is, in relation to the ‘other drama’, and when this story-telling is taking place (how much later?), and even why this storytelling is taking place. After all, in drama every scene has it’s place within the larger story and it’s effect on that story. 


The viewer might also wonder who Luke is talking to: the young man, other people, a child; who are they and why should they be interested?

In my view, putting Luke inside the film is wrong! It presents a conflict between 2 stories: (1) the story of Acts (written by Luke), and (2) the story of Luke (on a boat somewhere, for some reason) telling a few people his story… (poor drama, in any case).

The better choice would have been to have all the Acts text done through either acting or a voice-over; in that case the film-makers would have had to produce images to cover all the voice-over text where there is no acting taking place. This is do-able, and would have produced a better film. Sadly, even this choice would still result in a limping movie, because the voice-over dominates the drama (at best).


In fact, any voice-over (in my view) in film-making undermines the power of the drama. A constant voice-over running through the whole movie, KILLS all the drama (more or less). The genre of drama doesn’t allow for voice-over (even though many films apply this easy option). A voice-over is cheap trick, a cop-out, applied by lazy writers who don’t care for the (powerful) language of film; they disrespect the art of film-making.


Sound-in-Film appeals to the heart (of the viewer/ listener); every line spoken (by actors) has a certain resonance (in the way the viewer ‘hears’ these lines); music ADDS to this feature hugely 

Dialogue & music speak directly to the heart (of the viewer/ listener)!  


A voice-over usually provides ‘information’ - this info speaks to the mind (of the viewer/ listener). Since the movie is (meant to be) a ‘dramatic experience’, this info-for-the-mind INTERFERES with the main purpose of the film (to be speaking to the heart). 


The better way to present info to the viewer (listener) is to put a (hopefully brief) text box on the screen. This silent presentation of info, as long as it is very brief, doesn’t interrupt what the film is doing in the viewer’s (listener’s) heart.


Even actors present info that needs to be given to the viewer, but the scripts usually ‘hides’ this giving-of-info inside active drama scenes. The viewer doesn’t notice that they are actually being fed INFO. That’s good film making! The voice-over does the opposite!


I discover that tubi (also) features the film: ‘The Gospel of Matthew’ with Bruce Marchiano as Jesus. At the beginning of this (4 hours +) film we see the older Matthew who has 2 writers working for him, as he speaks the text. It makes for a very cheesy start to this film, sadly. There’s absolutely no need to show the viewer ‘Matthew-at-work’; by doing this anyway (for sentimental reasons?) the film creates problems for itself. I guess, this film also dates back to the time when Christian ministries first began to put Gospels on Film. This is after Hollywood had done the same, in true Hollywood style. Now it was the believer’s turn; sadly they didn’t have clue of what they were doing. The result is a film that will only be watched by believers who want to brush up on their gospel-reading.

The team behind ‘The Gospel of Matthew’ is (almost) the same as the team behind ‘The Apostles after Jesus’, with Robert Marcarelli producing and Regardt van den Bergh directing. On my screen I see exactly the same letter-type with chapter & verse, looking like this: 3:12

Interesting that THE VISUAL BIBLE, the company (ministry?) behind all this work had the vision and perseverance to do both the Gospel and the Book of Acts (however poorly it was all done). A testimony to their faith-in-action!  


Film-making HAS to follow film-making rules. A film-maker can only break a film-rule, after having learned the craft and having stuck to the rule (many times). An experienced film-maker might break a rule once in a while, but this person will have a deep understanding of what the consequences are (or might be), and why breaking that rule is going to work, in this case. 

I guess, this film (The Apostles after Jesus) stems from a time when Christians first began to make films, all Dione ‘by-faith’. They hardly knew what they were doing, but at least they were doing it. Since then, other generations have come along, and by now (in the 2020s) there are a few (only a few) good Christian film makers who work at that advanced level. Those people have an important responsibility to find professional and faithful ways of presenting the stories from scripture. A man like Ridley Scott, who is an experienced film maker, but also an atheist,

is sadly not interested in honoring scripture. He happily sells out to the commercial demands in film making, at the expense of the Biblical story (see: Kings & Gods, {not} the story of Moses). Who is there to translate Scripture to the Screen: honoring high quality film making while also honoring scripture in depth? 

The Bible (Downey & Burnet, producers)

Billy writes:

Much has been said in the many reviews that are available. It was exiting to hear about this new series, and it does look impressive.

That’s a great start! The general viewer has been spoiled with great images from expensive FILMS that have end-up on TV. Well, here's a series made for TV, and it looks as good as any of those films. That’s a great achievement! 

But sadly there are some serious problems with this work. The fist so-many episodes seems to be in a great rush, even while the film-makers insist we ‘visit’ all the great Biblical characters. So we kind-of fly right over the fathers of the faith including Moses. What is the point here, if the stories are not being told. It seems that the film maker wants to please the audience with highlights of what ‘we’ already know. There’s no challenge here, no educational edge; this work doesn’t want to rock the boat nor give us anything new; no actual themes are being planted; it’s all rather Disney-fied, reaching for the widest possible audience and achieving nothing else.

Once the gospel story gets going in episode 6, the series lands finally; you can tell, all that went before was a kind-of (lengthy) introduction. Finally we’re in the drama.

I want to take another look at episodes 6 to 10 to make sure I get the most out of this series (and not judge too quickly). It did occur to me that episode 10 was too full of story material; it seems that, with the end (of this first season) in sight, the writers couldn’t help themselves but rush through a series of events that should have been left to the follow-up season. The result is that what really counts, the climax of the gospel story (starting at the resurrection and finishing with Pentecost) did not get the solid attention that it deserves. It may well be that the follow-up season had not been decided upon, and so the film-makers tried to get into the this last episode as much as they could.  

The Chosen

Billy writes:

I remember the first time that I heard about The Chosen. They were going to raise funds to film one episode at the time. I thought this would never work. Film making is all about planning well ahead, and filming more than just one episode at one time, to keep costs down.

Well, Dallas Jenkins and his team succeeded remarkably well. The series is a FIRST in generating crowd funding to a level where they are now able to plan ahead indeed.

Having watched just 2 episodes (first season) I can report that this work is done at high quality level. Film making is a collaboration between many ‘departments’ and the success of the work is much to do with the director (and producer) achieving an excellent blend of all departments (working closely together, and all of them achieving high quality). This work is very well done!

Writing, characterization, story-telling, acting, set-design, costumes, back-ground action, camera-work, lighting, sound-design, editing: high quality work in ALL departments. Brilliant!

This series is a brand-new way of looking at the gospel story; an in-depth look at what goes-on behind the scenes. Thank God it is done as well as it is; high quality film making is ESSENTIAL when it comes to the GOSPEL.  At the opening of each (?) episode a text box appears: 

‘The Chosen is based on the true stories of the gospels of Jesus Christ. Some locations and timelines have been combined or condensed. Backstories and some characters or dialogue have been added. 

However, all biblical and historical context and any artistic imagination are designed to support the truth and intention of the Scriptures. Viewers are encouraged to read the gospels. The original names, locations and phrases have been translated into English for anything spoken.’  


The crowd-funding information mentions that this production needed to be kept ‘independent’ (from the usual Hollywood film-making machine). Filming is done in Texas.

The above text (given on-screen at the opening of each episode) is re-assuring to the Christian audience mostly; they might get worried that this series is taking a wild ride through gospel-land, like other films might have done. The intention of Dallas Jenkins and his entire team is honorable and the results are obvious: this is high quality story-telling (through the medium of tv-drama); each episode makes you want to watch the next one.

It could be that the strength of this series is also its weakness. Where the work is most intriguing is ‘behind-the-scenes’, not so much the larger and bigger drama of the clashing of ‘light & darkness’, the story of the passion. But it may be, that this series will succeed in telling ever that LARGER STORY mostly through behind-the-scenes moments. Time will tell.

Regarding the TEXT shown on-screen at the beginning of each episode, the film-makers clearly want to re-assure the viewers. A good chance that this works as intended; the average viewer relaxes trusting that all they are about to see comes straight from scripture, perhaps as in: ‘what’s between the lines’. The viewer trusts that the film-makers have done their home-work; all the drama is in-line with scripture. And, in a way, I (also) trust, that is correct. On the other hand, it should be noted that the larger part of the drama is not supported by scripture; it is INVENTED. Scripture gives very little info about the back-story to the ministry of Jesus. This series is ALL ABOUT the back-story, and we are led to believe that what we see is what really happened; what we see is how to really was. And that is, in a way, MIS-LEADING, even while the film-maker’s intentions are honorable. So, are we on un-stable ground? I’d say: perhaps yes.

Dwelling on this ‘reality’ a little further, I’m instantly back at that same-old dilemma of CONTENT versus FORM. Let’s call the Biblical story (the gospel) the ‘content’ and TV-drama (many series with endless episodes) the ‘form’. Like always, the ‘form’ opens-up a powerful ‘channel-of-communication’, but, at the same time, there’s a serious ‘price-to-be-paid’. The form of TV drama (all about back-story and endless intrigues) forces the writers to INVENT almost all the drama that’s on the screen. It could well be that, in the end, this ‘back-story’ drama tells a different story, not quite the gospel story that scripture gives us (x 4). It may be that we will continue to watch God’s grace and power at work here, and that this series will rise to the level of GOSPEL-STORY. This change would include a change of genre, perhaps in a subtle way.

Jacob’s Ladder used the genre of TV-drama to tell stories from the Old Testament, and it worked beautifully. We hinted at ‘old times’, the stories were set in an agricultural society, even while we stayed away from Biblical costumes and locations (we didn’t go to Morocco). This series reminds me of the Jacob’s Ladder approach, even while the series is clearly ‘set’ in Bible times etc. But. It is also obvious that production is not being done in Israel (or Morocco); the series successfully blends the Bible-story ‘feel’ with a more contemporary ‘feel’, or even the ‘feel’ (impression) that this drama could happen in any place at any time… That is powerful, I think, since the Bible is the forever-now Word-of-God, applicable to all people, at all times.

I would be curious to see how The Chosen is being received in other parts of the world, apart from in the USA.

So, here’s the million-dollar question that I ask myself: Is this series (The Chosen) doing what I was going to do, if I was commissioned to present the New Testament story through Jacob’s Ladder? Is the answer: this production is doing it, so I’m off the hook to dig in.

Well, perhaps the question I just asked myself isn’t quite the right one. Jacob’s Ladder came to an end with the latest series filmed in South Wales, UK. My friend Hans van Dalen challenged me, over the years, to continue to prepare for a dramatic presentation of the New Testament story. But this N.T. drama didn’t necessarily have to be done as Jacob’s Ladder. Together, Hans & I arrived at the conclusion that the ‘telling-of-the-NT-story’ would require a brand new CONCEPT. While the concept of The Chosen is not far removed from the concept of Jacob’s Ladder, I have arrived at the conclusion that, in order to tell the story of the N.T. well, a radically different concept is needed. And we mustn’t forget that any & every (drama/ film) production has it’s particular limitations (and it’s down-side). That’s true for The Chosen and true for what I am hoping to do.

My prayer for the CHOSEN TEAM is that they continue to serve God whole-heartedly in their ongoing work, that they will all stay TUNED to Heaven’s guidance, protection and blessing, and be willing to make (subtle) changes when & where the Holy Spirit indicates. The CHOSEN is a powerful work-of-God. May it continue to flow and grow and get ever closer to the heart-of-the-gospel. 

With the help of Hans, and others, and with TOTAL GRACE FROM HEAVEN, I may be able to dramatize the N.T. story is a fresh, unusual, and very different (from what you’ve ever seen) way, to present a new understanding, even a new revelation to the world (and to glorify Jesus through the work-process, from beginning to end). Heaven will stir and use this revelation to revive HIs church and receive many more people into His Kingdom, world-wide.

The Commitments

The Conspirator -   Fabulous film!

The Emissary

Billy writes:

This film is the companion of ‘The Revolutionary’ which was produced by the same team (give & take). The 2 films are of poor quality in similar ways. While the lead actor in ‘The Revolutionary’, John Steel, was strong (as an actor), the lead actor in ‘The Emissary’, Garry Cooper, is not strong. But the problems go deeper; the concept to this production is weak, the voice-overs are not helpful, the characters are not clear, the drama is often incorrect, and dialogue is poor for much of the time. All departments are at amateur level…

Still, the film-makers had the MOTIVATION and the PERSEVERANCE to cover (parts of) both stories: the Gospel and the book of Acts, in this 2-film offering. 

In previous versions of this work, ‘The Revolutionary’, the film was split into two parts (part 1: the gospel-story/ part 2: the story of Acts). “The Emissary’ was always just 1 short film (51 minutes). By the time I got to see all this work, it was presented (by RedeemTV) as two films (Revolutionary is 136 minutes).  


Producers of THE BIBLE (lux vide) managed to cover many stories of the Old Testament, and both the Gospel story and the Book of Acts.

Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett also covered (parts of) the Old Testament, and the Gospel as well as (some of) Acts.

“The Revolutionary’ and ‘The Emissary’ are less well known, but here is a third example of a producer (plus team) covering (some of) the Gospel and Acts; no small achievement in the world of film making. All three efforts, in my estimation, failed to do it well; all three lose track of the story half way through the book of Acts.

The English Patient

The Gladiator

The Gospel According to Mark


August 14, 2020 Jeff Rivenbark

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A Wilmington actor got creative when the one-man shows he planned to perform were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ashley Strand performs The Book of Mark, a dramatic narrative based on the book of Mark in the Bible. The story highlights Jesus’ baptism, crucifixion and resurrection.

Christopher Marino brought Strand to Wilmington in 2016 to do Measure for Measure with Alchemical Theatre of Wilmington.

Marino later persuaded Stand to perform the King James Version of the book of Mark which was published in 1611 the same year Hamlet was first performed.

“The language is very similar to what I was used to with Shakespeare and it fit with our mission of bringing classic texts to life,” Strand said. “I also like the idea of being the only performer on the stage.”

When the pandemic forced Strand to cancel shows he already scheduled, he and a friend decided to make a film with him performing the text inside his apartment.

“I just couldn’t accept that people weren’t going to see it, so I had to adapt,” Strand said.

“From the beginning, people were telling me to do a film version of it,” he says, “but I just couldn’t imagine it. I had designed it as an interactive show, where I was moving among the audience, sometimes even touching them. My memorization was tied to the blocking, and the central image of the show was one man being thronged by the multitude. I had no idea how to recreate any of that, and being heartbroken over the show didn’t help my creativity.”


Nevertheless, in late April 2020, Strand says he came to the realization he could accomplish the intimacy and even some of the interactivity of the round from his own apartment. “Because I wanted to capture the slight but fundamental danger of live performance—that thrill at the thought that a pretty lady might slip off the tightrope—I decided to do it all in one take.”

Strand began filming  “The Book of Mark” at the beginning of May for a total of 1 hour and 47 minutes. There was a slight sense of urgency back then, too, as Strand thought things were going to get back to normal.

The Gospel of John

A few notes by Billy:

Impressive movie. I find the beginning not all that strong; I get some ‘wrong’ signals; don’t like the narration that kicks in right away. But it’s a good voice, and not too intrusive; turns out it’s the voice of the great Christopher Plummer.

During the opening narrative there is a lot of hand-held camera movement; much of it is too fast; makes for jumpy images. But once the movie gets going, all of a sudden the quality is astounding! The edit works the drama and the narrative very carefully; this is working!

Henry Ian Cusick is impressive. I guess, what we call a Shakespearean actor. Great presence, excellent voice; strong diction; great looks (yes, looks).

Most of the cast are excellent. Even smaller roles done by skillful actors. Again, impressive. The visuals are amazing. What an incredible set! Good crowd scenes. What becomes slightly difficult, is the fact that Jesus in this gospel version speaks an awful lot. Lengthy speeches for much of the movie. This make you (me) almost dizzy; it feels like the characters (or is it the actors?) are often overwhelmed with so much text from Jesus. They are finding it difficult to understand him anyway; with the lengthy speeches washing over them, it looks like they become almost immobilized. 

Jesus speaks so much at the last supper, the the film makers have given the small crowd a couple of extra locations where Jesus continues to speak. The film makers also use ‘flash-backs’ as a way of filling in some more speech-time.

By the way, flashbacks are used throughout the movie, to good effect, and they are shown in black & white; a good device; it works! This instantly sets those scenes apart from the in-the-moment drama.

Great to see Jesus perform several healings; I wish there were many more healings to be witnessed. After all this is the realm of our savior; he moves in the super-natural with ease. I want to read the gospel of John again, to check this for myself. But since this film claims to give the entire text of John, I guess we haven’t missed any healings (according to John). Other gospels give more account, I thing, of the many healings performed by Jesus.

At the end of the film was a 10 minute ‘preaching’ bit; I found this very off putting. Can Jesus not speak for himself? Does his communication really need further explanation, especially at the end of JOHN? Can the audience not be left with the massive impression this film leaves the viewer; after all, it’s been over 2.5 hours of intens drama.

No ascension. 

I wanted there to be a little more of a separation between Jesus’s interactions with the Pharisees from His interactions with the people. It all blended into one for much of the time.

Henry Cusick was strong, and wonderfully clear-headed, intelligent and passionate, energetic, forceful at times, but also relaxed and smiling on occasion. He was on the edge, at times, of becoming erratic, looking slightly off-his-head (I struggle to find the right expression); he is making intense arguments, sometimes at length, insisting that he is the Messiah, son of God. But clearly, nobody is ever going to be ‘convinced’ by arguments. To ‘see’ that the Son of God is here, takes an epiphany, call it a flash of inspiration, a shocking realization, a mind-blowing shock-of-an-experience that suddenly arrives, like a boult-from-heaven.

So, dare I say, I began to dislike this gospel… Too many words; and, I thought, “Jesus, please, you’ll never convince anybody that you are the Christ…” But in a way, that was also what Jesus said: he often confronted people with their unbelief, and challenged them to change their minds…

I will certainly read this gospel again, carefully, to see how it comes across to me, in the reading. But excellent work by Mr. Cusick.

The narrative kind-of held the film together, which was not such a bad thing, especially during riotous moments, when the Pharisees or even the crowd was ready to stone him. Good film making, to have the Jesus character simply out of sight (not in the frame) while everybody else is moving around. Effective. The narrator then reassures the viewer, that ‘It wasn’t Jesus’s time yet!’  On the other hand, the drama could have become stronger if there hadn’t been this narrative.

Disciples were strong; scenes around Lazarus also strong. Good music.

It feels in some ways that this film follows in the footsteps of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ (with Robert {Powell). I want to go back to ‘J of N’ and see again Robert Powell’s performance. Henry Cusick is probably better.

There is an ongoing discussion about the way Pilate is portrayed (including his text). Well-staged, for me. All good movements and clear moments etc. Good film making.  The ongoing discussion covers all gospel films and compares between these films how Pilate is portrayed; strong, weak, etc.

Here we see that Pilate tries several times to have Jesus ‘be free’, but the Pharisees are not having it. I read in other sources that Pilate was brutal and barbaric; so much so that Rome called him back (later on in the story). On the other hand, it was clearly the Jews who insisted on Jesus being executed.

Much of the film (which is in effect the gospel of John) concerns Jesus arguing, often quite aggressively, with the Pharisees, where Jesus challenges these Temple authorities to the point of choosing: for or against Jesus. If they chose for Jesus, they become his disciples; if they chose against Jesus, there is nothing left for them but to seek the death of Jesus. 


There are also scenes where Jesus speaks to the crowd about eating his flesh, and drinking his blood; it’s the same kind of ‘all-or-nothing’ challenge. And so a large crowd of people walk away from Jesus. Powerful drama; makes you (me) feel slightly uncomfortable, because it is so radical and so forceful. 

I do wonder if this portrayal (of the gospel text) is correct. I like to think that in a small circle around Jesus, there was a deep peace and calm, love and healing; a kind-of mystery zone. There was also a larger circle, around Jesus, which had the Pharisees standing opposite Jesus ready for arguments and confrontations. No mystery or miracle in this (larger) circle. But this film did not give me enough (?) of that beautiful inner circle.

With many gospel films I have this feeling of disconnect, especially at the beginning of the film. We come to it (the film) with our 21st century understanding and attitudes, and suddenly we’re launched into this Biblical, ancient world. 

When Jesus invites various single men to ‘follow him’ I have a hard time believing that they are ready for this. Why should they suddenly drop their nets (would you leave your expensive lap-top computer in the middle of the street, when some stranger suggests the you ‘follow’ him? Of course not. These men are trying to make a living, aren’t they. So, at this point in the story, we are asked to suspend our disbelief AND our intelligence…

From here on this group of guys hangs out with this ‘messiah’; it seems so odd to me. For a number of reasons I haven’t quite connected with the story, and I don’t feel like I want to be one of the disciples…  What are they hoping for? Where are their families? Is this, continuously walking around the country, sleeping rough, their idea of a good time?  Food for thought, I guess.

Thinking about these issues, and how any gospel film is such an impossible project; it make me think again of the ‘Upper Room’ concept where the disciples take turns ‘acting Jesus’. But, it could be that even here, the person and character of Jesus will DOMINATE the drama so much, that we never find out much at all about the disciples. They are so very hidden in the back-ground, and -to be honest- at this point in the story, they really don’t have a clue!

What I struggle with, is the total DOMINANCE of the Jesus role. 

How about we start our story at the point of the resurrection; Jesus appears and disappears; the disciples are now really waking up. But, for as long as Jesus is ‘among us’ dramatizing the story is difficult; Jesus dominates totally!

After the ascension the focus is fully on the disciples; they’re having to wait; there’s still danger looming from the Pharisees and the Romans. They’re having to adjust to staying together as a group, even while their Lord is now not here.

This is an easier situation to dramatize (both in the theater and in film-making).  

The Gospel of John (with Joe Boyd)

Billy writes:

The Gospel of John with Joe Boyd


Remarkable telling by this man who is a talented communicator. With this presentation he -kind of- leaves behind his ‘stand-up comedy’ routine. His comedic gifting and his ability to tell a story well, makes him strong and very engaging to his audience. He is so relaxed, even while you can hear a pin drop; he is in complete command of the event, the event of him entertaining this beautiful and small auditorium filled to capacity; lower floor and upper balcony. The people receive his every word and gesture; he is very good in also leaving space for the ‘echo’ of what has just happened (in the story). 

This man has obviously worked hard and long, not only at his craft of story-telling, but also at digging deep into the story that he is communicating. He has excellent grasp, it seems of the Old Testament as well as the New. He paints the picture beautifully, starting with Abraham & Sarah, and moving on to Moses. It’s effective to stay with Moses for a few moments, as God speaks to him through the burning bush, that didn’t burn.

Joe sets the scene for the need of a savior. Through the bits & pieces that he gives us from the Old Testament, we can see that, even with the law given to the Hebrews, and even with Kings given to the people, the human race cannot get it together; the Hebrews, later the Jews (on behalf of all mankind) continue to fall short. They need a SAVIOR. 

With ease and clarity Joe Boyd then takes us into the New Testament.     


In his relaxed style, Joe takes us on the journey with Jesus, who travels a lot; and who doesn’t have a place of his own. Jesus is always staying with the people who have received him, while proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven.

The ease and the authority with which Joe Boyd presents the story of Jesus (according to John) tells me that he has spent considerable time, developing his style of telling as well as the actual script he follows. There is never a dull moment; he is brilliant at showing us quite a few characters around Jesus, and showing us their amazement and sometimes unbelief. It builds beautifully; through the events we get a feel of the group of followers, his disciples. They slowly but surely come together as a team that’s right behind him. And of course, during the passion, all of that falls apart, but once Jesus has come back, this team building goes to another level. Remarkable how much just one man, telling the story, can communicate.


A powerful moment I found the situation where a large crowd follows Jesus and are being fed by him. The very next morning the same crowd and others re-appear and want to be fed again. It is during this inter-action that Jesus communicates to the people that they should be eating his actual body, his flesh, and his blood. This is so off-putting; the entire (?) crowd leaves him; they can’t cope.

Yesterday I saw the Gospel of John with Henry Cusick in the role of Jesus. There the same situation arose, but the words of Jesus felt like a monologue that didn’t seem to come from anywhere. Not only the people were put-off by the radical words from Jesus; I was too, watching the film at home. What was lacking was a dramatic reason for Jesus to speak the way he did (dramaturgie). What a wonderful surprise to find that Joe Boyd has been able to climb into this drama, and he makes it clear to us what really happened (of course, that is still an interpretation, but at least Joe took the trouble to interpret, instead of just speaking the words, not knowing why or what).

At the last supper the same image, eating the Lord’s flesh and drinking His blood, comes back; at this point there is the grace of a strong METAPHOR: Jesus lifts the bread and the wine, and says: this is my body, and this is my blood; eat & drink of me, in this way, and remember me etc. Powerful. Quite remarkable what Joe Boyd has achieved, all by himself (and of course with help); it is as strong as yesterday’s film.

At the very beginning Joe gives his audience some context and some ‘understanding’ of what and how; call it a little bit of teaching. For. Brief moment, I though, why not just dive into the story? At the same time, I recognize the need for a little bit of ‘scene-setting’ - I like doing the same, when launching into a story (telling). But moments later, I gladly joined the happy crowd who had no difficulty at all with being taught a few things, before the story gets going proper.


The telling of the passion story is powerful! Not only because to was so very well done; also because I can sense a personal commitment behind this quality work; the way Joe brings this difficult part of the story is very personal; he allows some of the pain to hurt him personally; he is quite vulnerable, just as Jesus was, hanging there, dying, unable to breathe, deserted by most…

How powerful that in this telling, the teller becomes all the characters, including the main character, Jesus. And we really get a feel of who Jesus is. 

In a way, seeing this telling done in a theater, shows me that THEATER can be an excellent language for presenting this story. In some ways this is a better environment (for communicating the gospel story) than FILM; how extraordinary!

At the very end, Joe raps up with a small ‘speech’- again a tricky (risky) thing to do (why not let the story speak for itself?), and yet, it worked well, for me.

All together a totally wonderful surprise, to come across this work. I would love to speak with this man, at some point.    

In retrospect, I missed scripture being spoken in this presentation. In the gospel of John Jesus speaks often and at length; would have been great to have some sections of the actual words of Jesus.

The other thing is that this presentation doesn’t go further than Joe Boyd’s own experience of the good news. It couldn’t. A teller (or actor for that matter) can never go further (in their expression) than what they personally know. While this presentation was beautiful and wonderfully clear, I wanted it to go deeper. It wasn’t a deeply moving experience; yet, it was very worthwhile, and lingered with me for a long time. Thank you Joe Boyd for doing this work, and doing it for a long time; so glad it was put on film, so I could watch it today, and get blessed by the Savior and the good news.

The Help - remarkable, beautiful and deep!

The Jesus Film

JESUS, film - the Jesus Project - Brian Deacon is Jesus

Billy writes: 

The film is lush; everything is lush and sweet. The lead actor is billed as a Shakespearean actor, but Shakespeare would have shown his metal and his wit; we don’t get either here.

It throws you instantly back onto that problem, that nobody really can play the role of Jesus. Is Jesus this sweet? This un-expressive? This, dare I say, boring?

This film is obviously from a certain era; a lot of effort went into it, for sure. Large crowds; great impressive sets; abundant set-dressing. But all the acting is so very poor. No Shakespearean work to be found. Lots of teenagers involved as well as children. It is reminiscent of a church production; everybody dressed up in churchy biblical costumes. Done with great care and detail, but very ‘safe’ and boring; it strikes me as the very opposite to something that was really AUTHENTIC. I read that the producers insisted on everything totally accurate and (here’ s the word:) AUTHENTIC. But this film as un-authentic as it can be, so very stiff and life-less. Perhaps it was like authentic Sunday school!

I suppose this film was made to be shown to people who have little to no experience with watching any film. Apparently this film was taken through Africa together with a film-projector and a screen (and a generator for power-supply). People saw this film, and through it was really REALLY happening. Taking this film around the world, in this way, is a daring and brave thing to do. THAT could be labelled as authentic!

The film ends with a lengthy voice-over to photos of the drama (that w’ve just seen). Photos zoom in & out etc. We are given the gospel message, together with the various scriptures. Can’t fault it; but it makes it all so small, so very small and religious…

Still, large numbers of people have ‘accepted’ Jesus, as a result of watching this film, where ever that was. And that can only be a good thing; my hope is that those ‘decisions-for-Christ’ were followed up with pastoring and discipling. That’s where the evangelical effort so very often falls short, and that’s where the real work begins…

This film has broken some records, and has become famous. It was re-edited in some ways, if I’m correct, and re-released. This film came out 2 years after Zeffirelli’s ‘Jesus of Nazareth’.  That was a MILE-STONE of a film, when it first came out. Why didn’t the Jesus-Project Producers ask for permission to edit a short version of the ‘J-of-N’ film? Perhaps they did, and were refused?

Imagine if heaven would be willing to tell us which ‘Jesus’ film has scored the highest up-there, among the saints and the Lord Himself. Am I being dis-respectful with this kind of imagination? 

I suppose, from heaven’s PoV there’s NO film (made here on earth) that comes anywhere near CLOSE to what it was really like, and how the Lord actually presented Himself, when he was among-us.

I had difficulty staying with this film; I just wanted it to be over; I knew the story, and there was nothing surprising happening, at any moment in time. Nothing to make me think, or to pull me deeper into the depth of this extreme story. 

When Jesus (Brian Deacon) hung on the cross, there was not a spot of blood, not a drop of blood; he even seemed almost comfortable there, which made it very odd to me. 

In the end, having spent a little time reflecting on this strange movie, I find that the best way for me to appreciate this film, is to see it as a filmed Mystery Play; and this was a matinee showing for all the family. That explains the sweetness, the lack of actual drama (and true conflict), the absence of blood, the soft colors of the set-dressing and the costumes; the well-meaning but lackluster cast. It was a show by the family for the family. Maybe one day I’ll have a better appreciation of this film, but for now, it’s on the bottom of my list.  (Billy, March 23, 2021)  

The Kite Runner  - a sensational film - all time classic!

The Last Emperor

The Lovers on the Bridge

The Matrix

The Miracle Maker

Billy writes:

Possible THE BEST Gospel film in the repertoire. 


Miraculous how this film came together. The puppetry technique is unique. This took place before the USA movie industry developed some hugely impressive techniques along the lines of ANIMATION. I imagine that this puppetry technique has already fallen by the wayside, pushed aside by other powerful  methods. PIXAR in the USA for instance have developed computer models through which they have mede movies like TOY-STORY. 

This Russian - Welsh co-production is unique. The puppets are beautiful; the hands especially have an expressive flexibility. The puppets have been photographed so very carefully in the beautiful sets; it pulled me right in. This is a feast for the eye, it is endearing; it has a deep quality.

There is a certain woodenness to the movements; it is very obviously a PUPPET-SHOW. But such a beautiful puppet-show, it touches at an emotional level. It also has a certain symbolism; this art form allows for the meaning-of-the-moment to communicate. The puppet gives you the ESSENCE of the event.

Through watching (some of) the Making-Of I learn that the actors voicing the puppets were given the lead in their voice work. What a great choice; the puppet players (manipulators) worked their puppets to speak with the given rhythm and expression etc. This is one reason why the film works so very well.

The cast of actors is truly impressive; great quality there. Ralf Fiennes is fabulous.


The MUSIC is superb! What a brilliant job by Anne Dudley..

The SCRIPT is TOP NOTCH. Murray Watts has woven together various strands and written a masterpiece! Quality dialogue; the way Murray has rephrased many well’ known lines from scripture is impressive.

To bring the little girl front & center of the whole story, works a dream! This little girl is not so little anymore at the end of the movie; by now she has become a strong follower of Jesus; this girl is going to be a powerful-house for Jesus!

Even the girl’s father represents choices people had to make away from doing what was expected & safe. 

The ANIMATION in this film is very useful and powerful. The film makers gave themselves a complete other language to express the super-natural, the spiritual realm.  The animation was also used to illustrate the parables told by Jesus. Very good!  The way the film moves between these two languages is very effective.


I wanted this film to be longer, include more gospel story, and more teaching by Jesus. This gospel film held my attention like no other. I think I will return to this film soon, to study the script of this piece in every detail.

On reflection I noticed that the scenes of the crucifixion and what leads up to it, were kept short or left out. I guess this is to do with the children’s audience that this film has been made for (children of all ages).  The dialogue in this film is really well written; I do miss a lot of scripture, teaching especially, that should have been included.

The Mission (1986, Roland Joffe director)

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