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The Gospel of John (2003)


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#101 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 12 December 2003 - 09:20 PM

Christian wrote:
: I was surprised to see that the distributors were planning an early
: December video release, because Christmas would seem to be the best
: time to let the movie play theatrically.

Even though there is no nativity story in this gospel? smile.gif

SDG wrote:
: FWIW, I believe it's $20 million Canadian.

But given the diving American dollar, the gap between our currencies is a lot less than it used to be. smile.gif

#102 MattPage

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Posted 15 December 2003 - 03:44 AM

SDG,

Thanks for the review. I'm not sure I'll ever get to see this over here (as even if I wanted to spend $50 on the dvd/vhs they don't deliver to the UK) so it was nice to have a review from someone who's reviewing style I am familiar with. It seems funny that a film with so many British actors doesn't get a release over here, but hey.

Matt

PS (FWIW I grew up with the GNB and actually quite like the translation generally and the phrase "I am telling you the truth", but hey there you go)

#103 Overstreet

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Posted 22 December 2003 - 06:14 PM

Just caught up with The Gospel of John. I'll offer my initial comments, then go back and read the thread so I can respond to those posts.

It was an interesting experiment. Most of the film's power actually comes from the text itself, so it is difficult to rate the experience of watching the "movie."

The entire book of John is read aloud, and much of the style of the text works against the filmmakers in their efforts to make for a compelling viewing experience. After all, while there are some miracles in John's gospel, there is a whole lot more of Jesus walking around saying "I tell you the truth" and explaining who he is and why people should believe in him.

I was a bit put off by the deep-pore-cleansing Jesus they portrayed. Henry Ian Cusick does a good job with the dialogue, but he was too clean, too iconic, not rough and realistic enough for me. He was taller and more handsome (in the "movie star" sense) than the others, and really irritated me.

Similarly, one of the Pharisees was made into a sort of Pharisee Darth Vader, which sent the movie into the direction of a cliche "showdown."

But the cinematography was attractive, the soundtrack understated, and the film did not dwell unnecessarily on details extraneous to John's focus.

An admirably restrained effort. I'd be interested in seeing future efforts in this series.

#104 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 22 December 2003 - 07:54 PM

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:
: An admirably restrained effort. I'd be interested in seeing future efforts
: in this series.

Have you seen the adaptations of The Gospel of Matthew and Acts that were produced in the mid-'90s when the Visual Bible was under different management?

#105 Overstreet

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Posted 23 December 2003 - 11:19 AM

Nope. Should I? (I mean... I'm not a compulsive completist, but if they're rewarding, I'll try to track them down.)

#106 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 23 December 2003 - 03:34 PM

Well, I haven't seen them in a long time, so I might as well just quote the reviews I wrote six or seven years ago. First, my review of movies based on Acts:
* Acts (Visual International, 1996) 183 minutes / 4 cassettes
* A.D. (Gospel Films, 1985) 340 minutes / 3 cassettes
* Peter and Paul (MCA/Gateway, 1981) 194 minutes / 2 cassettes

There have been well over a hundred films about the life of Jesus, and a handful of high-profile movies, from The Sign of the Cross to Quo Vadis?, have detailed the persecution of Christians in Rome some 35 years later. But the dramatic transition Christianity made between those two points -- from a marginal Jewish sect to a thriving, if persecuted, community in the seat of Gentile power -- has received scant attention even from Christian filmmakers.

Into this void steps Acts, the second book to be adapted for The Visual Bible. (The first was Matthew.) Like the aborted Genesis Project of the 1970s, the minds behind this South African venture hope to film the entire Bible in the next two decades, using the New International Version as their script. Says the press kit in bold, coloured letters: "No scriptwriter's liberties. No interpretations. No dramatic license."

This, of course, is not quite true. All performances are, by definition, interpretations, and this is doubly true for films, which determine how we see the actors and their work. Every camera angle, every dissolve, every cut is an interpretation of some sort. And, in any case, Acts does take some licenses, most obviously in the prologue which introduces Luke (Dean Jones) and the shipbound patients to whom he tells his story.

But once that story begins, Acts stays true to its text indeed -- so true, in fact, that Luke interrupts with a "he said" or a "she asked" every time someone speaks! It's a risky approach, especially for a book of Greek history that, typically, alternates between pithy summaries and long speeches. Moreover, Acts bristles with references to a wider social and historical context that need explaining for a modern audience: it's one thing to know that Paul took a vow and shaved his head, but if we don't know what that means, what do we learn from seeing it acted out? On the other hand, for those who tend to miss such fleeting passages, seeing them visualized does work as a sort of memory aide.

In that sense, Acts is a nifty resource for Sunday schools and home Bible studies alike. But even so, I question its interpretive value. For a film that emphasizes joy and smiles -- sometimes ridiculously so, as when Luke chuckles over the "sharp dispute" concerning circumcision, which was a bitterly divisive issue in the early church -- it is strange to hear Peter's witty "we're not drunk!" retort (Acts 2:15) sound so flat. Director Reghardt Van den Bergh is so busy tucking giggles into the more serious scenes, he tends to miss the humour that is already there.

These shortcomings are remedied somewhat in A.D., a star-studded mini-series written by Vincenzo Labella and Anthony Burgess, the team behind Jesus of Nazareth. If Acts lacks a social context, A.D. has it in spades: the original twelve-hour show wove a rich tapestry from the Book of Acts, the scandalous affairs of the Caesars, and a fictitious storyline that explored aspects of first-century Jewish, Greek and Roman culture. A.D. does not simply show that Christianity spread, it aims to show why.

This synthesis works most brilliantly when Caligula orders a statue of himself placed in the Jerusalem temple. Not implausibly, A.D. plops this incident right in the middle of the church's first debates over Gentile membership -- Cornelius (Paul Freeman) even becomes one of the officials who must carry out Caligula's decree! This dilemma brings the foolishness of Roman idolatry into sharp relief even as it forces Jewish Christians to question what they mean when they say it is their hearts, and not a building of stone, that is the Lord's true temple.

Unfortunately, this episode also highlights the clumsy editing which cuts the video edition down to just under six hours: we see Romans plot Caligula's assassination, and we see Jews celebrate afterwards, but the deed itself is left out. So, too, are most of the Caesars' affairs, leaving us a decent church history that segues into an unconvincing soap opera of Roman soldiers, Jewish slaves, and gladiators in love. Even worse, the fictitious characters speak in tones so pretentious Charlton Heston would blush. "I'm not Rome!" cries one soldier, but the script betrays him: he, like the others, is not a character but a symbol, and a dull one at that.

Still, the earlier scenes, beginning with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, are among the best of any Bible adaptation, and they are all the more valuable for their unique subject matter. Thomas (Davyd Harries) makes a droll foil for some of the more earnest histrionics -- he resembles a relaxed David Niven -- and the verve with which Peter (Denis Quilley) performs healings and delivers his passionate speeches puts The Virtual Bible to shame.

A.D.'s religious scenes do have one major flaw: they tend to water down the gospel, particularly near the end, when the apostles talk a great deal about love but not very much about Jesus Christ. While A.D. makes great use of the relationship between Paul (Philip Sayer) and his tutor Gamaliel (John Houseman) to explore the tensions within early Judaism, Paul almost vanishes from the story once he becomes a Christian. And what we do see of him bears little resemblance to the fiery-tempered evangelist we find in the epistles.

For that, we must turn to Peter and Paul, a 1981 TV movie recently reissued on video, and the unusually thorough use it makes of Paul's letters. Some of Paul's speeches are taken word-for-word from his own writings, and this is the only film of the three to make any use whatsoever of the autobiographical information in Galatians.

That the film is a success is largely due to the wild, impassioned performance of Anthony Hopkins as Paul. It is not too difficult to see how his zeal could win converts around the empire and drive away former mentors such as Peter and Barnabas. Even in casual conversation, Hopkins captures something of Paul's easily distracted and tangent-prone nature. His is the classiest performance of them all.

The same can't be said for Robert Foxworth who, as Peter, seems to exist on a very short fuse. It's not entirely his fault: Peter and Paul ignores most of Peter's ministry and paints an extremely morbid picture of the church before Paul, which seems to consist of a few dozen people hiding in Jerusalem and bickering incessantly. Where are the thousands of converts? Where are the churches planted in Samaria, Joppa, even Ethiopia? To see Peter and Paul, you might think Peter did nothing but argue with James and, whenever he got tired of that, retreated to Galilee for a little fishing.

Peter and Paul is even less successful when it tries to deal with the larger social context -- it doesn't help that Raymond Burr, as Herod Agrippa, looks rather silly in his purple toga -- but such moments are few. Most of the actors are quite good, particularly John Rhys-Davies as Silas and The Pink Panther's Herbert Lom as Barnabas, and the careful attention this film pays to the New Testament as a whole makes it the cream of the crop.
To this, I added the following sidebar on movies based on Matthew:
* The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964) 135 minutes / 1 cassette
* The Gospel According to Matthew (Visual International, 1995) 250 minutes / 4 cassettes

No matter how accurate your interpretation of the Bible may be, it will always reflect your own biases and your own agenda. Nowhere is that more evident than in the adaptations of Matthew's gospel produced by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1964) and Reghardt van den Bergh (1995).

Both films rely entirely on the Bible for their scripts, but where Pasolini, a Marxist and an atheist, found prophetic hostility in Jesus' words, van den Bergh, directing the first installment of The Visual Bible, finds love, happiness and joy.

Too much joy, as it turns out. As performed by Bruce Marchiano, Jesus laughs at the slightest provocation -- several scenes of Jesus laughing it up with his merry men are tossed in without dialogue -- and he breaks into smiles at some pretty awkward moments. How long can a guy grin while prophesying the damnation of his enemies?

After four hours with Guy Smiley, you're ready for the biting, acerbic tone of Pasolini's neo-realism. And while Pasolini probably could have lightened up a bit, he's truer to the nature of the text in other ways as well.

Take the Sermon on the Mount, for example. Most scholars agree that that passage does not record a particular speech, but is a collection of Christ's sayings culled from a variety of sources. In fact, films that present the Sermon as a single lecture have demonstrated, quite unintentionally, how impractical such a monologue would be.

Pasolini solved this by filming each saying separately, rushing the camera into Jesus' face each time, then cutting the sayings together in a montage. It's the perfect cinematic equivalent to the gospel's narrative device.

Van den Bergh obviously faced the same problem when staging his own version of the Sermon, so he tries to keep things interesting by switching back and forth between Jesus and Matthew (Richard Kiley), who narrates the gospel some years later. (Kiley's authoritative voice easily outclasses Marchiano's flat, nasal whine.) Even so, the Sermon isn't entertaining enough, so van den Bergh juices it up even more, stopping just short of turning it into some kind of stand-up routine: Jesus dumps a jar of water on a disciple between aphorisms and finds ways to make the others chuckle too.

With all this levity, it comes as a surprise when, in the final hour, van den Bergh gets serious and presents the torture and crucifixion of Christ as the horrible acts they were -- few films have made it look as bloody or grisly as this. The passion of Passion Week gets an extra charge from Sue Grealy's rhythmic, percussive score. For a moment, van den Bergh succeeds in creating another time, another place, and we get a glimpse of how great a film this could have been.
Regarding the happy-happy stuff, I also just came across an e-mail that I sent a friend of mine back then, in which I also mentioned a scene in Acts in which, after the mob in Ephesus shouts "Great is Diana of the Ephesians" for two hours, a city official tells them to go home before the Romans send the troops in, and when the official finishes his speech, he shakes his head and chuckles as he waves the crowd away. Hello? At a near-riot?

In a nutshell, I have said that Pasolini made Jesus a proto-Marxist while van den Bergh made Jesus a proto-Promise Keeper, and I think that that's more or less the vibe that dominates these first two entries in the Visual Bible. But given how many times the company has changed hands since then, I wonder if the new bosses even regard those films as part of the series any more.

#107 SDG

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Posted 23 December 2003 - 07:57 PM

FWIW, The Gospel of John's Jesus is just a bit too smiley, himself. But he's perfectly capable of being confrontational and in-your-face, too. It's not a perfect performance, but it's a quite good one, and sounds much better than what you get in VB's Gospel of Matthew. Certainly I wouldn't say that John's Jesus is a "proto-Promise Keeper." smile.gif

#108 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 24 December 2003 - 02:06 AM

SDG wrote:
: FWIW, The Gospel of John's Jesus is just a bit too smiley, himself. But
: he's perfectly capable of being confrontational and in-your-face, too.

To be fair, Matthew's Jesus is capable of being confrontational too -- especially in chapter 23, the 'seven woes' chapter, though the anger of his Jesus is tempered somewhat by the grief of knowing what will happen to the people he is cursing/condemning. (In his autobiography, Bruce Marchiano basically says something to the effect that he felt especially Spirit-filled during this scene.) But I'd argue the fact that his Jesus gets weepy as well as giggly still fits the "proto-Promise Keeper" pattern. The Promise Keepers were nothing if not emotional.

It was ANOTHER scene of woes/cursing/condemning that I had in mind when I asked how long one could keep grinning etc. In his autobiography, which I did not read until some time later, Marchiano says he grinned at this point because an animal noise in the distance broke his concentration, and the director had time for only one take, and the animal noise was mixed out of the film's completed soundtrack. So maybe I should go easy on the film for that, now. Then again, maybe not.

#109 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 11 January 2004 - 06:05 AM

Finally saw The Gospel of John tonight. The film still has not come to Vancouver, but a Bible-study group of sorts that my father knows was having a screening of the DVD today, so I tagged along. Some general point-form comments follow (I haven't got the energy for a formal review).

-- First, packaging and technical specs. I remember being critical of the decision to release this as a three-DVD set, and while I still think it might have been cheaper for all concerned if they had fit the entire film on one disc, I see that they have placed each disc inside one of those newfangled narrower cases, like the ones the Futurama boxed sets use, and not inside the regular-sized cases that most other boxed sets use; so at least this boxed set doesn't take up all that much space on the shelf, which is good. I was disappointed to see that the DVD was in the fullscreen format, but only because I assume the theatrical version was projected in a wider aspect ratio; still, since IIRC virtually everyone involved in this production has more experience working in television than in film, who knows? I was also amused to see that the spot in the menu screen that is normally taken up by "Chapter Search" or some such option was here taken up by "Chapter & Verse".

-- Second, the gospel itself. Experiencing it all in one go was a somewhat frustrating experience for me, since on the one hand it has some of my historically-oriented, critical-thinking mind's favorite bits from the gospels (e.g. the numerically precise references to 38 years here, 153 fish there; the explicit references to the 'beloved disciple' who witnessed much of what happened; etc.), while on the other hand, it has many obvious signs of later editing (e.g. the editorial "we" at the end; the way it makes a big deal of Jesus baptizing in one passage, then goes back on itself several verses later and says, uh, no, actually he didn't baptize anyone; the re-positioning of the so-called 'cleansing' of the Temple to the beginning of Jesus' ministry rather than the end; etc.), plus I find the author's (or final redactor's) style of repeating himself and re-repeating himself ("Jesus said ABCDEFG, and the disciples asked each other what he meant by ABCDEFG, so finally Jesus said, Do you wonder what I mean by ABCDEFG?") somewhat off-putting. It's also interesting how the author (or redactor) assumes everyone already knows the story anyway -- as evidenced not just by the way he refers to the events of Passion Week many chapters before they happen, but also by the way he introduces Mary the sister of Lazarus by referring to the episode in which she washes Jesus' feet, which hasn't actually happened yet, at that point in the gospel.

-- Third, the Jesus of this gospel. I miss the Jesus of the Synoptic gospels, who tells parables and spreads interesting and clever and subversive sayings, and who seems a little more vulnerable than the Jesus of John's gospel. There is no scene of Jesus falling to the ground and sweating blood in Gethsemane here, there is no "why have you forsaken me?" here, etc.; instead, we get scene after scene of Jesus arguing with people over whether or not he's God, and you can only hear so many variations of "you're either with me or against me" before you begin to ask what exactly is supposed to be at stake in all this side-taking. The fact that this Jesus frequently speaks in deliberately obscure terms doesn't help matters; you can't exactly blame the other characters for taking him literally so often, since he sometimes makes his metaphorical statements in response to their literal questions. Anyway, there ARE hints in this gospel as to what's at stake -- references to the general resurrection and so forth -- but in this regard, I think the Synoptics may do a better job than John at focusing on the actual CONTENT of Jesus' mission and ministry.

-- Fourth, the narration. Christopher Plummer is very good, and I applaud the makers of this film for not being as anal about the word-for-word stuff as their Visual Bible predecessors; in other words, the actors in this film do NOT pause every now and then so that Plummer can say "he said" or "she said". There were some moments, though, where Plummer recited a character's line even though the character was Right There in front of us, on the screen (e.g. when the Virgin Mary approaches Jesus during the wedding at Cana), which seemed a little odd to me.

-- Fifth, the dramatic and cinematic development of the film. It was interesting to see how this film added visual and dramatic elements that are not part of the actual gospel. For example, we see Jesus rise from the water on his own, as though he has just baptized himself, even though John's gospel never explicitly states that Jesus was baptized. Also, there is an interesting flashback when Jesus tells Nathanael he saw him under a fig tree, and the film shows Nathanael wrapping his arm in, um, that leather strap that devout Jews wear when they say their prayers. I also loved the scene where Nicodemus visits Jesus, especially the way the film moves in for a close-up on Jesus' face as he looks at the stars and talks about coming down from Heaven. It was interesting to see how the film handled those passages where the soldiers move in to seize Jesus but he somehow gets away -- in one scene, it is because the people sitting around Jesus stand up as one to block the soldiers' path. And I liked how they broke up the big speech Jesus gives in chapters 13-17 by having different parts of it said in different settings; thankfully, there was nothing goofy in this film like the scene in the Visual Bible's Matthew where Jesus tried to keep people awake during the Sermon on the Mount by gratuitously dumping a jar of water on Peter's head.

-- Sixth, Mary Magdalene. She is standing there among the men in the synagogue, which I find implausible in such a gender-segregated culture, and she is there when some of Jesus' followers abandon him and he addresses the Twelve who remain, and she is there at the Last Supper too -- somehow this all seems very revisionist to me, but I don't think I have seen or heard anyone complain about this, so far. I think she might even be the more harlot-y woman that Jesus addresses before all these other scenes, which, if true, would be another element that this film incorporates from the Synoptic gospels (or, rather, from a traditional belief about Mary Magdalene that stems from a certain way of reading or misreading a certain passage in Luke's gospel); but I was sitting too far back and was unable to rewind and check this part after the movie was over. This is also the reason why I never got a chance to count the number of disciples who were with Jesus in the Upper Room or at Gethsemane, to clarify whether this film was trying to make Mary Magdalene one of the Twelve.

-- Seventh, Pontius Pilate. Not cynical enough. This film, alas, does play into the notion that Pilate was trying to do the good and righteous thing, and it was those gosh-darned Jews who coerced him into killing the Christ. Given that, as per Philo etc., Pilate had a history of snubbing the Jewish authorities whenever he could, and of backing down whenever there was the slightest threat of bad reports about him making their way back to Tiberius, I think the elements in this film that followed this pattern should have been played in a rather different manner.

-- Eighth, the "Jewish authorities", which if I'm not mistaken is the phrase that this Bible translation uses whenever the Greek says, simply, "the Jews." They really do come off badly in this film -- it had never really occured to me before just how careless and brutal their dogmatic devotion to the Sabbath comes across, in John's gospel. This is another one of those ways in which experiencing the entire gospel in one sitting really does bring certain things out. There are at least two miracles where Jesus heals someone on the Sabbath, and the "Jewish authorities" protest this; the protestations are bad and silly enough, but they also seem quite harmless; sure, these "authorities" can expel the one guy from the synagogue, but they cannot change the fact that he has been healed. However, after Jesus dies on the cross, we are told that the Romans break the legs of the thieves crucified on either side of him, and thus hasten the deaths of those thieves, because the "Jewish authorities" don't want those bodies to be still hanging there when the Passover Sabbath comes along! Yikes. I mean, as if being crucified wasn't bad enough... I was reminded of how some girls in Saudi Arabia burned to death inside their school two years ago because the religious police wouldn't let them come out without their head scarves; this episode in John's gospel really does make the "Jewish authorities" look as heartless as those religious police.

-- Ninth, the racial-cultural subtexts. I noticed that Malchus and his relative, both of whom are servants of the high priest, were played by black actors; I'm not really sure how likely this would have been, but it's an interesting detail (kind of up there with Sidney Poitier playing Simon of Cyrene in The Greatest Story Ever Told, perhaps). Also, I wasn't paying terribly close attention to the characters' accents, but I kept thinking how British most of the characters sounded, and when Judas finally opened his mouth, I remember thinking how non-British -- indeed, how American -- he sounded. (Actually, now that I check his bio, I see that the actor was born in Alberta, here in Canada.) I'm not sure whether this means anything, or what it would mean if it did, but still, I found it interesting that the traitor would have the one accent that stood out, and that the accent in question would come from this part of the world. (And of course, this film is wide open to the criticism that it makes peasant life in ancient Palestine overly pretty by casting such eloquent Brits, none of whom are exactly Cockney or working-class, as all the main characters.)

-- Finally, I have to say I think this film is about as good as it can be, given the word-for-word premise with which it works. I have my doubts about the worthiness of such films AS films, but as one who remembers things better when visuals are involved, I do appreciate the fact that such films can help people like me to remember the scriptures better; I look at these films not as art or entertainment, primarily, but as study aids. The production values on this film are also pretty good, overall. I look forward to getting a copy of my own, some day.

#110 MattPage

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 04:46 AM

Peter,

thanks for posting your various reviews. The Acts ones are good cos we're doing Paul in church at the moment, and as a result I'm closing in on a copy of the Visual bible Acts tomorrow on ebay. As for the others we don't have access to them over here sadly. AD does seem to keep coming up. I saw it as a boy and remember very vivdly the scene (for such a young age and at a time when bible films didn't interest me) of Paul & Luke in a boat or something. Peter and Paul I tried to get, but it only available in the US and the price was too high for at best a couple of clips.

Have you seen a church made film "Paul the Emissary" (no IMDB listing) or the BBC Documentary St Paul? I used the Damascus road clips in a preach last night tho' they are both pretty poor. Jesus appears as a heads and shoulders marble bust witha shimmering effect put on (which is frankly the worst special effect I've ever seen and totally unnecessary ) complete with A ten commmandments God style voice. In the BBC one Paul seems to slip and loose his footing and falls down a ridiculously way, writhe on the ground for a while, but the vision is quite good. Win some and loose some.

Appreciated the Matthew reviews also. I have to agree with the Comments about the smiling Jesus. He's just too much and too unneccessary. He cheesy Jesus if ever there was one. I find the VB Matthew painful to sit thru for more than 15 mins at a time, with the exception of the last hour which is actually good. As for the animal noise thing... don't let him off so easily - what's so funny about an animal noise?

I guess tho, as I've said before and as you say in summing up John when you stop thinking of it as a john film and start thinkin g of it as a visual bible it does what it says on the tin. I am hoping to be able to buy this over here at some stage, time will tell.

By the way I appreciate the discussion on John. You and I have discussed these films such a lot that of all the posters here I can most visualise it from your description cos I have a bit more insight to how your mind works. It sounds quite like I'd imagined it actually!

Matt

#111 MattPage

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 04:46 AM

Peter,

thanks for posting your various reviews. The Acts ones are good cos we're doing Paul in church at the moment, and as a result I'm closing in on a copy of the Visual bible Acts tomorrow on ebay. As for the others we don't have access to them over here sadly. AD does seem to keep coming up. I saw it as a boy and remember very vivdly the scene (for such a young age and at a time when bible films didn't interest me) of Paul & Luke in a boat or something. Peter and Paul I tried to get, but it only available in the US and the price was too high for at best a couple of clips.

Have you seen a church made film "Paul the Emissary" (no IMDB listing) or the BBC Documentary St Paul? I used the Damascus road clips in a preach last night tho' they are both pretty poor. Jesus appears as a heads and shoulders marble bust witha shimmering effect put on (which is frankly the worst special effect I've ever seen and totally unnecessary ) complete with A ten commmandments God style voice. In the BBC one Paul seems to slip and loose his footing and falls down a ridiculously way, writhe on the ground for a while, but the vision is quite good. Win some and loose some.

Appreciated the Matthew reviews also. I have to agree with the Comments about the smiling Jesus. He's just too much and too unneccessary. He cheesy Jesus if ever there was one. I find the VB Matthew painful to sit thru for more than 15 mins at a time, with the exception of the last hour which is actually good. As for the animal noise thing... don't let him off so easily - what's so funny about an animal noise?

I guess tho, as I've said before and as you say in summing up John when you stop thinking of it as a john film and start thinkin g of it as a visual bible it does what it says on the tin. I am hoping to be able to buy this over here at some stage, time will tell.

By the way I appreciate the discussion on John. You and I have discussed these films such a lot that of all the posters here I can most visualise it from your description cos I have a bit more insight to how your mind works. It sounds quite like I'd imagined it actually!

Matt

#112 SDG

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 10:34 AM

Peter,

Good comments -- I think some of this resonates with my own response to the film.

I'm not sure whether it's more than a vocabulary choice, but when you say that you look at the film not primarily as art or entertainment but as study aid, I would see it as equally a devotional aid, in fact perhaps a devotional aid first and a study aid second.

Pursuant to another discussion: IS The Gospel of John available on DVD? IMDb and Amazon don't list it.

#113 MattPage

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 12:07 PM

I believe they only seel through their own websitte and I believe they do have a DVD I can't remember what the webiste address is tho' - Something to do with Team John IIRC. If you can't find it let m eknow and I'll have a dig.

Matt

PS FWIW the IMDB bit links to Amazon so if its not on the latter it won't be on the former.

#114 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 11:05 PM

Oh, one other observation that occured to me, re: the details of the crucifixion. This film follows the habit of most films since the Genesis Project's Jesus (1979) of showing the nails going into Jesus' wrists, rather than the palms of his hands; however, it also shows his feet being nailed to the SIDES of the cross, which I think I have seen in books and magazines but never on film before. This film also follows the habit of most films since Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth (1977) of showing Jesus carrying the crossbeam instead of the full cross ... but instead of carrying the crossbeam across his shoulders, as most films have it, he carries the crossbeam over just one shoulder, which echoes the traditional posture or stance or whatever Jesus has in most passion plays. I also find I can't recall whether I have ever seen another film in which the Roman soldiers pierce Jesus' heart with a spear after he dies.

MattPage wrote:
: Have you seen a church made film "Paul the Emissary" . . .

Would you believe, I have had a copy for years and I still haven't watched it? I should probably do that soon. I believe it was produced by the same people who made the Revolutionary films about Jesus.

: . . . or the BBC Documentary St Paul?

Nope, don't know that one at all.

: By the way I appreciate the discussion on John. You and I have
: discussed these films such a lot that of all the posters here I can most
: visualise it from your description cos I have a bit more insight to how
: your mind works. It sounds quite like I'd imagined it actually!

Interesting! And yeah, it's good to know there's at least one other Bible-movie freak here. smile.gif

SDG wrote:
: Good comments -- I think some of this resonates with my own response
: to the film.

What do you make of Mary Magdalene's presence at the Last Supper etc.? For some reason I thought of your reaction in particular as I wrote those comments.

: I'm not sure whether it's more than a vocabulary choice, but when you
: say that you look at the film not primarily as art or entertainment but as
: study aid, I would see it as equally a devotional aid, in fact perhaps a
: devotional aid first and a study aid second.

Well, you can study it for devotional purposes or for other purposes, so I would make "study" the umbrella term, but I'm fine with either scheme.

: IS The Gospel of John available on DVD?

At the film's web site, yes.

#115 mike_h

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 11:18 PM

QUOTE
What do you make of Mary Magdalene's presence at the Last Supper etc.?
I remember thinking as I watched Last Temptation how glad I was to see women among the disciples in the Last Supper scene. As compared to all those White-Male-European disciples in the older "Biblical epic" Jesus movie model. (And the disciples actually sat on both sides of that darned table finally, if you can believe such a thing!) And I was likewise glad to see Mary Magdelene at the Supper and on into the Garden scenes in The Gospel of John. But I'm leaning toward thinking this visual enhancement, along with the titles provided at the top of the film (on how the Gospel emerged from polemical debates with the Jews, and it was the Romans who invented Crucifixion) represents a bit of a failure of nerve of the hard core "Sola Scriptura" attitude out of which the word-for-word approach emerges. Me, I'm grateful for the context. And not so sold on the objectivity of the Word-for-Word approach.

#116 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 12 January 2004 - 11:50 PM

Maybe it's just cuz I've been hanging with the Orthodox lately, but when you see how important it is for them that priests be male, and when you see how central the priest's role is in celebrating the Eucharist, you do begin to wonder what to make of a (post?-)modern film that puts a woman there at the very first Eucharist (skipping for now the fact that John never mentions the Eucharist took place then), i.e. at the one and only Eucharist that Jesus himself presided over, and in front of his apostles no less (which gets us into the whole apostolic succession thing...). In other words, this is not a "sola scriptura" objection on my part.

#117 MattPage

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 04:48 AM

QUOTE
Oh, one other observation that occured to me, re: the details of the crucifixion.  This film follows the habit of most films since the Genesis Project's Jesus (1979) of showing the nails going into Jesus' wrists, rather than the palms of his hands; however, it also shows his feet being nailed to the SIDES of the cross, which I think I have seen in books and magazines but never on film before.
That is interesting. Actually the BBC documentary "Son of God" (the first entry in the series that also made the documentary on St Paul below) also showed this. For some reason this is availabl in the states, but not over her (so its just as well that I taped it when it was on). Also don't they show a picture of that in Jesus of Montreal. Actually now I come to think of it I think some films show the two theives being so crucified, but Jesus in the traditional pose, but I can't for the life of me remember which one.


: This film also follows the habit of most films since Franco Zeffirelli's
: Jesus of Nazareth (1977) of showing Jesus carrying the
: crossbeam instead of the full cross ... but instead of carrying the
: crossbeam across his shoulders, as most films have it, he carries the
: crossbeam over just one shoulder, which echoes the traditional posture
: or stance or whatever Jesus has in most passion plays.

Can't imagine that was how it was done. Wouldn't it slip off rather too easily?


: I also find I can't recall whether I have ever seen another film in which
: the Roman soldiers pierce Jesus' heart with a spear after he dies.

Me neither - I might check this out sometime.


QUOTE
MattPage wrote:
: Have you seen a church made film \"Paul the Emissary\" . . .

Would you believe, I have had a copy for years and I still haven't watched it?  I should probably do that soon.  I believe it was produced by the same people who made the Revolutionary films about Jesus.
Ah well I've not seen those. This one is catually ok, but then I feared it would be awful. That said the damascus road scene is bad and Paul has piercing blue eyes as if he's Jesus or something :wink:

Matt

#118 MattPage

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 04:56 AM

: And the disciples actually sat on both sides of that darned table finally, if you can believe such a thing

Certainly seems more believable than that Y shaped thing they sat round in King of Kings. I mean that way they just looked cramped and no-one could see anyone.

Da Vinci does have a lot to answer for tho' (reminds me of the Last Supper scene from Mel Brooks' History of the World Part 1)


Matt

#119 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 24 January 2004 - 03:56 PM

The folks at Visual Bible finally sent a screener to our office, but they gave us the VHS set, rather than the DVD set -- arrrgh. But hey, at least the third VHS tape does appear to include all the bonus features that the third DVD has.

I'm about half-way through them so far, and I love the fact that the director is often seen smoking a cigar behind the camera, which is bound to rattle SOME of the Christians who would be likely to buy a "word for word" adaptation of this gospel. I also like the way the screenwriter recalls his relief when he discovered that Jesus says "Come now, let us leave" in John 14:31, which gave him an opportunity to break up that very, very, very long stretch of dialogue and monologue in chapters 13-17 by putting different portions of it in different settings.

I was kind of stunned, though, to see that the opening featurette on the Jesus of John's gospel included this quote from Alan F. Segal:
He was a very provocative and confrontational person in his society, a person whom a lot of people would have called a troublemaker, and of course that's exactly what we find attractive about him as a figure. He says how truthful he is several times in the gospel, and I think we shold take this to be one of his great virtues, and one of his greatest faults.
I mean, like, Whoa! did he just say what I thought he said? Did he just say that the Jesus of John's gospel has great "faults"? And they put this on a video that is being sold in extremely conservative Christian bookstores? Talk about chutzpah!

#120 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 27 January 2004 - 09:59 PM

Just one more note on the bonus features. There is another interesting interview blurb where director Philip Saville says:
Everyone has the power within them to be greater than the human experience, and that is something that only God puts into us. It's like a gift, and where does that gift come from? You can't learn a gift, can you? So these things can only be attributed to 'up there'.
Part of this quote plays over scenes from Jesus raising Lazarus, IIRC. Curious, no? I wouldn't want to make any assumptions about Saville's beliefs, but I think it's safe to say he's not exactly pitching his words to the evangelicals and fundamentalists who presumably comprise this film's core market. Statements like "everyone has the power within them to be greater than the human experience" aren't exactly evangelicalspeak, and indeed, one could say there is something theologically dicey going on if Saville (or the editors of this featurette) are implying that Jesus represents a sort of Everyman.