Jump to content

Paul the Apostle


Recommended Posts

First, links to the threads in which we discussed earlier Bible Collection videos like Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Jesus and The Apocalypse. Plus a link to my review of Genesis: Creation & The Flood, Solomon, Jeremiah and Esther. (Other films not linked or reviewed here include Moses, Samson & Delilah and David.)

Paul the Apostle comes out on DVD in a month or so, but since it was initially broadcast on TV some four years ago (under the titles St. Paul or Paul of Tarsus, according to the IMDB), I'm sure there's no moratorium for me to break by reviewing it or commenting on it so early. Curiously, this is the last of the Bible Collection films to be released on video -- for some reason The Apocalypse, which takes place later and was produced later, came out on video first.

For some years now, I have said that the best movies based on Acts are the 1980s mini-series A.D. Anno Domini (for the first 12 chapters or so of Acts, i.e. the early church's experiences before the travels of Paul) and Peter and Paul (for the remaining chapters of Acts, i.e. the travels of Paul); I especially like Anthony Hopkins' interpretation of the character in the latter film. Suffice to say that nothing in Paul the Apostle challenges or changes my opinion.

I will concede that it IS good to see yet another film that incorporates SOME of the autobiographical material from Paul's epistles that does not appear in Acts, by showing how Paul (Johannes Brandrup) got into a sharp dispute with Peter (Ennio Fantastichini) and Barnabas (G.W. Bailey) in Antioch after the men from James arrived, but this scene, like many others in the film, lacks any sort of real drama -- Paul just out of the blue says, "Now I have a complaint to make," and when he makes it everyone looks kind of befuddled, and then Peter says, "Let's discuss this in Jerusalem," and then that settles that and everybody goes back to their previous conversations, and the next thing we know the film cuts back to a couple of apostles sitting around a table in Jerusalem. Paul, when he makes his complaint, talks about how Peter and Barnabas have been avoiding the Gentiles since James's men arrived, but do we SEE this happen? No, not really. Similarly, we never SEE Peter go to the house of Cornelius, or escape from prison, etc.; instead, we just hear characters talk about it afterwards. Likewise, the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost -- a wind rushes in through the curtains, a menorah spontaneously lights up, and then John says, almost as a detached observer, "The Holy Spirit has been given to us." But do we ever see anybody speak in tongues or rush out into the streets? No. Bor-ing. (Incidentally, the only other film I know of that incorporates the Antioch episode, which Paul describes in his letter to the Galatians, is Peter and Paul -- but there, it takes place AFTER the Council of Jerusalem.)

Paul has two key relationships in this film. One is with Barnabas, who appears to be Paul's only travelling companion -- no Mark, no Silas, no Timothy, etc. When we first see him, Barnabas is a merchant who is rescued from some thieves by a knife-wielding Paul (who, in turn, is first seen wrestling with a priest-in-training in an "arena" -- did the Jews, especially such proudly Jewish Jews, have such Hellenistic venues in Jerusalem?). Later, Barnabas and his wife are among the first Christians to be baptized after Pentecost, and Barnabas insinuates his way into nearly every episode from Acts that transpires afterwards -- he is one of the Christians arrested and slapped around by Paul, he goes to Damascus to "warn" the Christians that Paul is coming, he helps lower Paul out of the city in a basket, etc., etc. Interestingly, the film utterly revises the reason for the break-up between Paul and Barnabas -- in Galatians, Paul pins the blame on those men from James, and in Acts, we are told that Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance and Paul did not (FWIW, Peter and Paul brilliantly combines these two elements), but in Paul the Apostle, they split up because ambitious Paul wants to take the gospel to Rome while Barnabas wants to stay in Antioch (whether out of fear of or out of resentment for "the very people that killed [Jesus]" is not entirely clear to me). Paul then travels more or less on his own -- and since, by this point, there is only half-an-hour left in this three-hour movie, his travels are reduced to montages.

Ah yes, the STRUCTURE of the film. It is odd. This is a three-hour film divided into two parts of about 90 minutes each. Part one ends with Paul escaping from Damascus -- that takes us to the middle of Acts 9. Part two, as I said in the previous paragraph, gets as far as the Council of Jerusalem and the break-up of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15) by the 60-minute mark. But it does end, just half an hour later, with Paul arriving at Rome (Acts 28) -- so basically, the second half of the Book of Acts has to be compressed into that final half-hour, while the first half is stretched out and padded out to a good two-and-a-half hours. And with what do they fill all that time?

This is where Paul's second key relationship comes in. That priest-in-training with whom Paul wrestles in the opening scene is a Sadducee named Reuben (Thomas Lockyer; he played Judas in Jesus), and he and Paul rib each other constantly about the differences between Sadducees and Pharisees. When Paul converts, his teacher Gamaliel (Franco Nero) frequently comes to his defense and espouses the idea that Pharisees represent tolerance and the freedom of every man to interpret the Torah for himself, etc., while the Sadducees appear to be the more fundamentalist hardliner types who accept the Pentateuch and nothing else; on one occasion Gamaliel tells Reuben, "I don't believe that Jesus is the Messiah. But what I know for sure is you're wrong. Yours is not the true faith of Israel." In other words -- keeping in mind that the Pharisees evolved into modern rabbinic Judaism while the other first-century movements pretty much died out -- when we read in Acts that "the Jews" persecuted Paul, we are to see this as a reference to all those Jewish sects that died out, and not to the one that is still with us today. But just in case that isn't enough to exculpate the Jewish characters, Reuben is ALSO under the thumb of a Roman general who expects him to stamp out the nascent Christian movement. In other words, when Reuben and the other Jews stone Stephen to death, we are somehow supposed to think that this was done with Roman approval -- which seems highly unlikely, to me. My understanding has always been that the Romans didn't really care what the Jews believed, so long as they kept things orderly, and indeed, according to Josephus, impromptu stoning of Christians was sufficient cause to REMOVE priests from office, not to help them advance their careers.

The fictitious scenes with Reuben are made even MORE distracting by the fact that Reuben has a giggly girlfriend, Dinah (Barbora Bobulova), who flirts with Paul in the opening scenes and becomes a Christian shortly before she and Reuben are married (and I do believe we even get a bit of wedding-night nudity, courtesy of her, though it's in one of those dark moonlit silhouette shots where you can't see too much).

So a lot of time is spent on these characters -- the sex! the violence! the intrigue! the melodrama! -- when it COULD have spent dramatizing the biblical story. This is disappointing, as the film is directed by Roger Young, who was responsible for some of the best films in the Bible Collection (including Joseph, Moses and Jesus); FWIW, this film was also written by Gareth Jones, who did not write any of the other films in this series but DID write Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace (2000).

Let's see, what else is there to say ... Oh, right, these characters don't seem to age at all, even though the story spans over 30 years; Gamaliel is still kicking around in the late AD 50s, apparently, and Mary the mother of Jesus also makes an appearance a decade or three after the last reported sighting of her in Acts. The priests are also seen negotiating with a "Herod" early on, at some point before the martyrdom of Stephen (in the AD 30s), and since this same "Herod" also kills James the son of Zebedee HIMSELF (um, don't kings normally get executioners to do their dirty work?), I assume he is supposed to be Herod Agrippa I -- but I do not believe the real Agrippa I reigned quite so early (he was imprisoned in Italy by Tiberius, if I'm not mistaken, and was not set free until Caligula became emperor in AD 37, and I don't think he assumed the throne in Jerusalem until AD 41); at the time of Stephen's martyrdom, I think Jerusalem was still led by a Roman procurator. (BTW, there is a somewhat prolonged scene in which Herod kills the soldiers who were on duty when Peter escaped from prison -- there is definitely a biblical basis for this, but this part of the film eats up far too much screen time, and is indicative of the overall imbalance that characterizes this film: not enough life-of-Paul stuff, too much cheesy sex-and-violence stuff.)

There are lots of other little oddities, too, like how Reuben disrupts one praying man after another while searching for Paul in the Temple courtyard, and how Paul escapes by hiding IN THE TEMPLE ITSELF (i.e. in the place where only the priests are allowed to go; you might think someone would notice this one non-priest scampering towards that centre door, but no). Some of the debates among the Jews reflect a somewhat highly developed Trinitarian theology on the part of Christians such as Stephen, who I don't think would have entirely wrapped their minds around the subject yet at that early date. When the pagans in Lystra crown Paul and Barnabas as "gods", Paul shouts "Barnabas, stop this!", but Barnabas laughs and says, "Can't I be Zeus for just a moment longer?" -- I am not opposed to the idea that there is a certain humour to the description of this scene in Acts, but I rather doubt that Barnabas would have laughed like that while it was actually taking place (and indeed, Acts 14:14 says he and Paul tore their clothes when this happened). Interestingly, James the Just is described by Barnabas as one who was "very close to our Lord" but not as the "brother" of Jesus, per se; he himself then goes on to say "I watched him grow up..." One character also makes "the sign of the fish" in the sand at a point in the days BEFORE Pentecost, which also seems absurdly anachronistic to me. Interesting to see the cripple healed by Peter and John dancing, tauntingly, in front of the Sanhedrin, though -- couldn't help but be reminded of the way Michael Palin's "ex-leper" hops about in Life of Brian. Also interesting to see him be killed by Paul during the early persecution -- couldn't help but be reminded of the way Lazarus gets bumped off so soon after being raised from the dead in The Last Temptation of Christ.

Okay, that's enough, I think. Over to you, MattPage -- or anyone else who shares an unhealthily intense interest in filmed depictions and interpretations of biblical stories!

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm still working out what I want to say in my review. Although it should be noted that I've never been much of a fan of biblical films -- the book is always better.

There are some things I liked, especially the way the film was not anti-Semitic. The early Christians are cleary Jews and there is a great deal of disagreement within the Jewish leadership of how to deal with the church. Pharisees are treated very fairly, rather than as many people see them - as the arch-enemy of Jesus.

What I disliked the most was the whole storyline with Reuben and Dinah. Why is there a need to create a fictional drama for Paul's life? Isn't there enough already? Consider some of the things left out to make room for the fictional storyline: Paul's plans of where to go on 2nd Journey thwarted (God preventing him) and then the dream to go to Macedonia; his semi-adoption of Timothy; his disputes with the Galatians; getting run out of town after town through Greece.

Interesting to pick up bits of biblical quotes (Peter quoting 1 Peter, for example). Nice to have to pull up the trivia from the brain. But nearly always the quotes from Pauline and other writings are not in their context. I was especially displeased with the use of 1 Cor 13, which was broken into three parts, and is never set in a setting that Paul used it (i.e., in the midst of a controversy.)

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

Link to post
Share on other sites

so basically, the second half of the Book of Acts has to be compressed into that final half-hour, while the first half is stretched out and padded out to a good two-and-a-half hours.

Oddly enough, most biographies of Paul read like this as well, much to do about the years up until the first missionary journey, a bunch about the Jerusalem council, and then a hopscotch of narratives until he ends up in Rome. The film brings with it the old-school need to know all about what factors into the character "Paul" and his conversion without nearly as much time scrutinizing him in action later in his life.

on one occasion Gamaliel tells Reuben, "I don't believe that Jesus is the Messiah. But what I know for sure is you're wrong. Yours is not the true faith of Israel."
Edited by (M)Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Link to post
Share on other sites

Darrel Manson wrote:

: There are some things I liked, especially the way the film was not anti-Semitic.

: The early Christians are cleary Jews and there is a great deal of disagreement

: within the Jewish leadership of how to deal with the church. Pharisees are treated

: very fairly, rather than as many people see them - as the arch-enemy of Jesus.

Actually, I think the Pharisees are treated MORE than fairly -- they are let way, way off the hook, despite the fact that (as (M)Leary notes) Paul cites his own Pharisaism as one of the reasons for his persecution of the Christians. The New Testament is pretty clear that Jesus and the early Christians were able to appeal to Pharisee sympathies whenever they got into arguments with the Sadducees, but it also records a number of altercations with the Pharisees themselves, does it not? Yet to see this film, you would think that no Pharisee ever, ever did a bad thing -- unless, as in Saul/Paul's case, he fell under the sway of a Sadducee (who, in turn, was being manipulated by a pagan Roman). I do not mind the fact that Gamaliel is portrayed as the tolerant, broad-minded Pharisee that he was, but I do think it is odd, and misleading, for the film to pretend that ALL Pharisees were like him.

Still, despite my reservations about the botching of the Pentecost scene, I did like the fact that the menorah was made so central to it -- both in the way the camera passes through it at the beginning of the scene, and in the way the flames light up when the Spirit comes.

: I was especially displeased with the use of 1 Cor 13, which was broken into three

: parts, and is never set in a setting that Paul used it (i.e., in the midst of a

: controversy.)

Every life-of-Paul film that I have seen (except for the Visual Bible's word-for-word Acts, of course) cites this chapter, and none of them do it in context -- and I can understand why. Has any film EVER addressed the early-church phenomenon of "speaking in tongues", which is the topic under discussion in I Corinthians 12 & 14 (i.e. the chapters which provide the context for I Corinthians 13)?

(M)Leary wrote:

: : . . . so basically, the second half of the Book of Acts has to be compressed into

: : that final half-hour, while the first half is stretched out and padded out to a

: : good two-and-a-half hours.

:

: Oddly enough, most biographies of Paul read like this as well, much to do about

: the years up until the first missionary journey, a bunch about the Jerusalem

: council, and then a hopscotch of narratives until he ends up in Rome.

Huh. Of course, what makes this even stranger is the fact that Paul does not even appear in Acts until chapter 8 -- so a film that stretches out the first half of Acts (i.e. the first 14 chapters) so that it takes up 5/6 of the running time is also stretching out a huge section of Acts that has NOTHING to do with Paul in the first place (though of course we can imagine what he was up to while Peter and the others were doing their thing).

: I hate to say it, but after a few of these scenes with the Jews I found myself

: wondering who signed off on this script.

One thing that is completely missing from this film, and which A.D. Anno Domini does a particularly good job of exploring, is the fact that one of the key divisions within Judaism -- certainly from ACTS' point of view -- was not between Sadducee and Pharisee but between Palestinian Jew and Hellenistic Jew, or perhaps between Aramaic Jew and Greek Jew. Stephen, Philip and the others, all of whom had Greek names, were appointed the first deacons because they were GREEK Jews and they recognized that the Palestinian Jews running the church were neglecting their Hellenistic counterparts (Acts 6:1ff). Indeed, it may be Stephen's very Hellenism, and the marginalization that went with it, that made it easier for the Sanhedrin to go after HIM first. But that is speculation. (It is also interesting that John 12:20ff reports that some "Greeks" went to Jerusalem to worship at the Passover and approached the apostle Philip -- again, note the Greek name -- and asked him to introduce them to Jesus. Was "Philip" just a Hellenistic name assumed by an otherwise Palestinian Jew? Or is it an indication that Jesus was already reaching out to Hellenistic Jews within his ministry?)

: In terms of the way it portrays relationships between these different Jews, the film

: could have been a lot cleaner and more informative. At times it is simply incorrect.

Details?

: At this point, Jesus' remaining followers still branded as political rabble-rousers

: and abnoxious temple goers, it doesn't seem like the stoning of Stephen would

: have been such a big deal. I don't know of much material evidence to corroborate

: this either way though.

Well, the Sanhedrin evidently felt it couldn't just stone JESUS, at least. In HIS case, they had to go through "proper channels". And given how the Roman procurator slapped the Sanhedrin's wrist after it passed judgment on James the Just in AD 62, I am inclined to think the Romans would not have looked too kindly on THIS unauthorized execution either.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites

: Okay, that's enough, I think. Over to you, MattPage -- or anyone else who

: shares an unhealthily intense interest in filmed depictions and interpretations of

: biblical stories!

Well I've not had the chance to see this yet as its not being released here for the foreseeable future (in fact they've only released Jesus and Joseph here so far. I've seen a few (thru' various sources) - Moses, Jeremiah, Esther and the apocalypse (with Joseph to be seen soon). So I'm nosmile.gif with envy. (a sin I know)

: For some years now, I have said that the best movies based on Acts are the

: 1980s mini-series A.D. Anno Domini (for the first 12 chapters or so of Acts, i.e.

: the early church's experiences before the travels of Paul)

I saw this when I was a kid and remember one scene very vividly (in other words this is where it all started going wrong)

: and Peter and Paul I especially like Anthony Hopkins' interpretation of the

: character in the latter film.

I've not seen this but really want to

: Suffice to say that nothing in Paul the Apostle challenges or changes my opinion.

That's a real shame - that's the main reason I watch 'em!

I will concede that it IS good to see yet another film that incorporates SOME of the autobiographical material from Paul's epistles that does not appear in Acts, by showing how Paul (Johannes Brandrup) got into a sharp dispute with Peter (Ennio Fantastichini) and Barnabas (G.W. Bailey) in Antioch after the men from James arrived, but this scene, like many others in the film, lacks any sort of real drama -- Paul just out of the blue says, "Now I have a complaint to make," and when he makes it everyone looks kind of befuddled, and then Peter says, "Let's discuss this in Jerusalem," and then that settles that and everybody goes back to their previous conversations, and the next thing we know the film cuts back to a couple of apostles sitting around a table in Jerusalem. Paul, when he makes his complaint, talks about how Peter and Barnabas have been avoiding the Gentiles since James's men arrived, but do we SEE this happen? No, not really. Similarly, we never SEE Peter go to the house of Cornelius, or escape from prison, etc.; instead, we just hear characters talk about it afterwards. Likewise, the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost -- a wind rushes in through the curtains, a menorah spontaneously lights up, and then John says, almost as a detached observer, "The Holy Spirit has been given to us." But do we ever see anybody speak in tongues or rush out into the streets? No. Bor-ing.

Really? Does make you wonder what they did for three hours!

Incidentally one of the strengths of the Bible collection in general is its ability to incorporate other sources into the one narrative (even if the authorship of the supplementary material is debatable). So in The Apocalypse we get bits from John's first epistle, IIRC there's a quote from Lamentations in Jeremiah, there's the odd scene in Jesus from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas & I think Moses does this at some point as well.

: (Incidentally, the only other film I know of that incorporates the Antioch episode,

: which Paul describes in his letter to the Galatians, is Peter and Paul -- but there,

: it takes place AFTER the Council of Jerusalem.)

Yeah there's a lot of debate about the timing of the argument. The more conservative view tends to be that it was before the council of Jerusalem, I think I tried to work it out once in view of the various passages and timings and decided that I thought it was after the council (but to be honest I can't remember OTTOMH)

Ah yes, the STRUCTURE of the film. It is odd. This is a three-hour film divided into two parts of about 90 minutes each. Part one ends with Paul escaping from Damascus -- that takes us to the middle of Acts 9. Part two, as I said in the previous paragraph, gets as far as the Council of Jerusalem and the break-up of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15) by the 60-minute mark. But it does end, just half an hour later, with Paul arriving at Rome (Acts 28) -- so basically, the second half of the Book of Acts has to be compressed into that final half-hour, while the first half is stretched out and padded out to a good two-and-a-half hours. And with what do they fill all that time?

This doesn't surprise me actually - the Jesus film did the same. It spends so long on the early fictionl scenes with Jesus, Joseph and Mary of Bethany, and then hardly has time for the crucifixion scene, which lasts for 3 minutes IIRC. That said I find the end of Acts its least interesting part, and once you take the long speeches out there's not much left. What I would like to see is a film that makes more of Paul's first missionary journey. It seems that here he is pretty grondbreaking, but ACts seems to skip by much of it pretty quickly.

: This is where Paul's second key relationship comes in. That priest-in-training with

: whom Paul wrestles in the opening scene is a Sadducee named Reuben (Thomas

: Lockyer; he played Judas in Jesus),

Again this is classic Lux Vide typecasting actors. Something I didn't mention in my review of The Apocalypse is that the character who plays John in Jesus plays a very similarly devoted disciple in The Apocalypse as well. (This is made more interesting because firstly he is playing a disciple to someone he played in an earlier film, but secondly because it seems to me that The Apocalypse tries to cast John as a Jesus figure for much of the time. IMHO it actualy invests John with more of a sense of the divine than it did the earlier Jesus - I should really have said that in the Apocalypse thread I suppose!)

and he and Paul rib each other constantly about the differences between Sadducees and Pharisees. When Paul converts, his teacher Gamaliel (Franco Nero) frequently comes to his defense and espouses the idea that Pharisees represent tolerance and the freedom of every man to interpret the Torah for himself, etc., while the Sadducees appear to be the more fundamentalist hardliner types who accept the Pentateuch and nothing else;

Whilst its become more accepted that there were first century Judaisms rather than just one 1C Judaism, there's not as much realisation that there were Pharisaisms rather than just one sort. There were IIRC the Shammaites and the Hillelites. Of these two the Shammaites were the hardline zealots who were pro a violent revolution, and the Hillelites (whish is the group Gamaliel was from) were more live and let live. In fact Gamaliel's reported response in Acts 5

is pretty typical - almost definitive. Interestingly although Paul claims to have studied under Gamliel (Acts 22) he doesn't seem to have taken much notice of him - his politics and theology pre-conversion i very much Shammaite.

Not that expect many films will pull out these distinctions.

: Let's see, what else is there to say ... Oh, right, these characters don't seem to

: age at all, even though the story spans over 30 years;

Yeah that was the same with Acts as well as other Paul films I've seen. Its a shame because in reading Acts the way its written really makes you feel it all happened so quickly (which I think is why a lot of churches have this feeling of failure that nothing is happening overnight), so its a shame that Paul doesn't show how long it took Paul and how he spent his life doing it (then again, mybe the way its written fooled the producers also.

: One character also makes "the sign of the fish" in the sand at a point in the days

: BEFORE Pentecost, which also seems absurdly anachronistic to me.

Not at all! They'd seen Jesus do it at the stoning of adulteress scene a few weeks before so that's where they got it from wink.gif (anyone who's not seen Jesus won't get that)

Matt

Link to post
Share on other sites

: In terms of the way it portrays relationships between these different Jews, the film

: could have been a lot cleaner and more informative. At times it is simply incorrect.

Details?

Examples:

Pentecost is odd in the film, Acts 2 seems to link the immediate filling and preaching in one setting, the film breaks it up.

During the stoning of Stephen Paul seems reticent, wincing from his Hillel brand of Jewish tolerance. But Acts 8:1 goes out of its way to say "And Saul approved of their killing him."

The whole relationship rabbit trail is a mess of assumptions about Pharisee and Saducee relationships and their relation to women.

They do seem to get Gamaliel down pat, though I can't remember how they portrayed him in Peter and Paul.

Before I would go off on legions of detail in the film, I would like to know a bit more what reason it was made in the first place. It plays so fast and loose with narrative scheming in the earlier bits, a tall and sculpted Paul wrestling in the dust goes against the grain of what little information we have about Paul physically. (Not to mention the very very faint possibilty that any Pharisee would engage in such a Hellenistic sport.)

Edited by (M)Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Link to post
Share on other sites

MattPage wrote:

: : For some years now, I have said that the best movies based on Acts are the

: : 1980s mini-series A.D. Anno Domini (for the first 12 chapters or so of Acts, i.e.

: : the early church's experiences before the travels of Paul) . . .

:

: I saw this when I was a kid and remember one scene very vividly (in other words

: this is where it all started going wrong) . . .

Really? Which scene?

: Incidentally one of the strengths of the Bible collection in general is its ability to

: incorporate other sources into the one narrative . . .

Agreed -- I also like the way Esther incorporates material from Ezra and uses the character to show how some Jews, like Mordechai, were willing to accommodate non-Jews (by having pagan names and marrying pagan people), while Ezra was much more of a hardliner (they don't show him breaking up any mixed marriages, as he does in the Bible, but you know he WOULD!).

Thing is, there's a huge difference between incorporating different elements from the Bible (or even from later apocryphal tradition, a la that Infancy Gospel of Thomas bit in Jesus), as many of the films do from Moses to Jesus (I think the Genesis movies stayed pretty much within the bounds of that one book), and inventing a fat load of fictitious hooey, as Paul and Apocalypse do.

: : (Incidentally, the only other film I know of that incorporates the Antioch

: : episode, which Paul describes in his letter to the Galatians, is Peter and Paul --

: : but there, it takes place AFTER the Council of Jerusalem.)

:

: Yeah there's a lot of debate about the timing of the argument.

For sure. FWIW, I think having Antioch take place AFTER the Council certainly made expedient dramatic sense, whatever its historical merits might be -- Paul and Acts give different reasons for the break-up between Paul and Barnabas, and putting these two reasons together makes for a more dramatic scene; plus I believe the first reference to Silas in the Bible is in Acts 15:32, which describes how Silas was one of two men who went to Antioch from Jerusalem along with the letter from James. Then again, the very next verse does say that Silas and the other man went back to Jerusalem, whereas Peter and Paul has Silas pretty much say, "Well, Paul, I've delivered that letter from James, so my mission is accomplished -- I can come with you on your journeys in Barnabas' place, if you like." In other words, in that film, Silas is one of those "men from James" whose arrival prompted Peter and Barnabas to distance themselves from Paul and the Gentiles, yet Silas himself does nothing to agitate Paul himself -- he may deliver the letter from James, but he has nothing invested in its contents.

Incidentally, that scene where Silas takes the place of Barnabas is the point where Part One of Peter and Paul comes to an end -- and since the film pretty much begins with the martyrdom of Stephen, that means Part One covers Acts 7-15, whereas Part Two covers Acts 16-28 and beyond (it ends with the martyrdoms of both of its title characters). So proportionally, it does develop the early chapters a little more, but it's still very, very different from Paul the Apostle -- it still devotes LOTS of time to Paul's travels and the various friendships he made along the way.

: . . . it seems to me that The Apocalypse tries to cast John as a Jesus figure for

: much of the time. IMHO it actualy invests John with more of a sense of the divine

: than it did the earlier Jesus . . .

Interesting point!

: Whilst its become more accepted that there were first century Judaisms rather

: than just one 1C Judaism, there's not as much realisation that there were

: Pharisaisms rather than just one sort.

Good point!

(M)Leary wrote:

: Pentecost is odd in the film, Acts 2 seems to link the immediate filling and

: preaching in one setting, the film breaks it up.

Right, I noted that above -- how does this get the relationships between different kinds of Jews wrong, though?

: During the stoning of Stephen Paul seems reticent, wincing from his Hillel brand of

: Jewish tolerance. But Acts 8:1 goes out of its way to say "And Saul approved of

: their killing him."

[ nod ]

: The whole relationship rabbit trail is a mess of assumptions about Pharisee and

: Saducee relationships and their relation to women.

Oh, yes, more about gender relations in that era, please!

: They do seem to get Gamaliel down pat, though I can't remember how they

: portrayed him in Peter and Paul.

Nor do I -- I think he was a very minor character in that one -- though I do recall they gave the character, as played by John Houseman, a prominent place in A.D. Anno Domini; in that show, he leads a school or discussion group which (perhaps improbably) includes Pharisees and Zealots and Hellenistic Jews, so in their discussions we get a sense of the range of Judaisms at that time. The film also depicts Saul and Stephen as friends, of a sort, who meet in that group -- but Saul's zeal for the Law is so strong that, when Stephen becomes an outspoken Christian, Saul has him executed anyway; and all the while, Gamaliel bemoans the fact that Saul has learned nothing from their lessons together. Interestingly, we never see Gamaliel after Saul is sent to Damascus -- we never learn what his response to Paul's conversion might have been.

: Before I would go off on legions of detail in the film, I would like to know a bit

: more what reason it was made in the first place.

Good question. The film was produced in 2000 near the end of a series of made-for-TV Bible movies that began six or seven years earlier (and that first film, directed by Ermanno Olmi, was more of a quasi-documentary art film -- it certainly bears little formal or stylistic relation to these later, more pedestrian dramas). I don't know what "reason" there was to produce the series at all, beyond the fact that the Bible has lots of good stories and there might be a market for films based on those stories, and it would not surprise me if these last films were produced because, well, we've got to fill out this bit of the chronology, too.

: Not to mention the very very faint possibilty that any Pharisee would engage in

: such a Hellenistic sport.

Paul was certainly familiar with pagan culture, hence he quotes pagan poets etc. in his epistles. No doubt this was one of the things that drove him even deeper into his quest for his Jewish heritage at one point -- he had "identity" issues. It would not surprise me TOO much if he were personally familiar with pagan athletics, too. What puzzles me is why such an arena exists in JERUSALEM!

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, two of them. There are the two major schools on the books, the Hillel and the Shammai. There is a great talmud passage that talks about "seven different kinds of Pharisees" in the half-jest Talmud way, I was able to find a paraphrase of it online (isn't Google great?):

1) The

Edited by (M)Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Link to post
Share on other sites

(M)Leary wrote:

: From what we know of him physically though . . .

Just wondering, but what are you thinking of here? If I had to guess, I would say you're thinking of that passage in one of the epistles where he basically mocks the way that he imagines his readers are mocking him ("Oh, sure, that Paul, he writes like he's so tough, but he's so underwhelming in person..."). I'd say the Paul of this film seems imposing enough in person, in contrast to that.

: . . . and the general Pharisee approbation of anything remotely Hellenistic, I find

: that little narrative liberty in the wrestling scene to be overboard.

Agreed.

: (Not to mention the fact that Paul, in his zeal for the law maybe wouldn't have

: been quite so friendly to the Saducees.)

Interesting that the film should have him criticize his SADDUCEE friend for being a "slave" to the Torah.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites
(M)Leary wrote:

: From what we know of him physically though . . .

Just wondering, but what are you thinking of here?

I am thinking of the church tradition that he wasn't exactly the most handsome fellow. Much of this probably comes though from The Acts of Paul and Thecla, which may not be the most trustworthy document.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

Link to post
Share on other sites

MattPage wrote:

: : For some years now, I have said that the best movies based on Acts are the

: : 1980s mini-series A.D. Anno Domini (for the first 12 chapters or so of Acts, i.e.

: : the early church's experiences before the travels of Paul) . . .

:

: I saw this when I was a kid and remember one scene very vividly (in other words

: this is where it all started going wrong) . . .

Really? Which scene?

It had Luke on a boat in the process of collating material to write Acts - that's a bit hazy and sounds awfully VB ( I guess they nicked that boat thing). But I guess that was the first time I connected Acts with Luke (and probably gave any real thought to authorship)

: Incidentally one of the strengths of the Bible collection in general is its ability to

: incorporate other sources into the one narrative . . .

Agreed -- I also like the way Esther incorporates material from Ezra and uses the character to show how some Jews, like Mordechai, were willing to accommodate non-Jews (by having pagan names and marrying pagan people), while Ezra was much more of a hardliner (they don't show him breaking up any mixed marriages, as he does in the Bible, but you know he WOULD!).

Thing is, there's a huge difference between incorporating different elements from the Bible (or even from later apocryphal tradition, a la that Infancy Gospel of Thomas bit in Jesus), as many of the films do from Moses to Jesus (I think the Genesis movies stayed pretty much within the bounds of that one book), and inventing a fat load of fictitious hooey, as Paul and Apocalypse do.

Ah yeah - it was Esther. I may have been wrong on Jeremiah then.

But there definitely is a difference in combining sources and bringing in "fictitious hooey". Yeah and they often do both. They usually introduce some sort of love angle. Goodness knows why.

: . . . it seems to me that The Apocalypse tries to cast John as a Jesus figure for

: much of the time. IMHO it actualy invests John with more of a sense of the divine

: than it did the earlier Jesus . . .

Interesting point!

This really stood out for me actually as well as the script they just shoot him via a number of classic "divine" techniqies. I'd be interested to read this with a copy of your Jesus POV shots article in one hand.

Matt

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...

WEELLLL...

I guess nudity doesn't go over well in Christian bookstores.

Goodtimes has asked bookstores to destroy all copies of PAUL, THE APOSTLE and has credited all accounts for items shipped. An edited version will be released at a future date.

Story here.

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Tim Willson wrote:

: I guess nudity doesn't go over well in Christian bookstores.

Not even when the characters are MARRIED!? smile.gif

Tim, you've just got to -- GOT TO -- get me a DVD of this rare edition before they're ALL DESTROYED!

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, this film is still scheduled for release on Tuesday -- it will be available where-ever videos are sold. It is just the "Christian market" that is being invited to destroy their videos. It's actually unbelievable -- no need to return them or provide proof of destruction... just a credit on account, and an invitation to destroy; I've never heard of a similar situation.

Anyway, those who shop in Wal-mart for their Christian goodies will likely get the unadulterated version (so to speak).

(BTW, I can also forsee a case where people may watch the edited version, then buy an unedited copy for themselves without realizing that there is a difference. So Goodtimes' headache may be just beginning...)

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Tim, I haven't watched it yet. What is the context of the nudity in the film? What's going on?

OH, wait, never mind:

The fictitious scenes with Reuben are made even MORE distracting by the fact that Reuben has a giggly girlfriend, Dinah (Barbora Bobulova), who flirts with Paul in the opening scenes and becomes a Christian shortly before she and Reuben are married (and I do believe we even get a bit of wedding-night nudity, courtesy of her, though it's in one of those dark moonlit silhouette shots where you can't see too much).

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, is it coming out NEXT Tuesday? For some reason I thought it came out two days ago.

Anyway, I still want a review DVD. smile.gif

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Tim Willson wrote:

: I guess nudity doesn't go over well in Christian bookstores.

Not even when the characters are MARRIED!?  smile.gif

As for nudity -- well, there is a bit of it out there, like in Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace (bare male behind), or missionary films like Through Gates of Splendor.

But, no, all that talk recently about "the Bible is R-rated" and "we're just showing things as they really happened" might be okay for the violence in The Passion of the Christ, but it doesn't extend to nudity.

I mean, the upcoming feature about Nate Saint and Jim Elliot (End of the Spear) even covers up the Waodani women.

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Jeff, it's possible people might also be objecting to the shot early on in the film in which Saul and Reuben wash up after their wrestling match -- we get a shot from behind in which, if memory serves, their loinclothes don't cover much -- they might be wearing the ancient equivalent of thongs, for all I know. But I'd have to see the shot again before I could say for sure. Uh, not that I want to.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Oh, is it coming out NEXT Tuesday? For some reason I thought it came out two days ago.

Yeah the release is July 20th, though there may be street date violations with this one.

Anyway, I still want a review DVD.  smile.gif

Well, there could be quite a few extra copies lying around shortly! I'll get you what I can.

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Tim, I haven't watched it yet. What is the context of the nudity in the film? What's going on?

OH, wait, never mind:

The fictitious scenes with Reuben are made even MORE distracting by the fact that Reuben has a giggly girlfriend, Dinah (Barbora Bobulova), who flirts with Paul in the opening scenes and becomes a Christian shortly before she and Reuben are married (and I do believe we even get a bit of wedding-night nudity, courtesy of her, though it's in one of those dark moonlit silhouette shots where you can't see too much).

Yes, as you quoted... the main scene in question shows a new bridegroom talking with his bride, then slips off her robe. She is silhouetted in profile briefly.

There is the bathhouse scene (male behinds) and a scene of suggestive dance in which a scantily-clad man dances with a woman whose behind is rather clear beneath a short transluscent outfit.

I think it's the honeymoon scene that likely caused the uproar.

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is unbelievable. They are actually paying money to people to destroy the film. Outrageous, besides boy they must have a stack of money to waste. I suppose they call this using it to glory God, but it just seems a bit sick to me "millions of people dying of starvation round the world but we'd rather spend money destroying a film cos of a silhouette".

Matt

Link to post
Share on other sites

Since I have to write a review of this soon, I figured I would FINALLY get the TBN video Paul: The Emissary out of the way this weekend. Which I did. And since I don't think it merits a thread of its own, I'll just post my comments in this one.

Those who have seen TBN's earlier Jesus: The Revolutionary videos (there are at least three of them) will know pretty much what to expect here -- some British actors, most of them pretty hammy, playing Jews and Romans and whatnot like they were in the most expensive church skit ever. And the acting IS pretty bad here -- many of the supporting characters have the ponderous pomposity of The Matrix's Morpheus, and this, sadly, includes even whoever-it-is that provides the voice of Jesus; it certainly doesn't help that the characters are given such exchanges to recite as: "They should be stoned for this sacrilege!" "Excellent idea!" However, I thought the actor playing Paul himself was okay, relatively speaking, at least compared to his castmates.

The video begins with the stoning of Stephen and ends with Paul's own martyrdom, and pretty much everything in between is taken from the Book of Acts (in other words, there is no attempt to synthesize Acts 9-15 and Galatians 1-2 HERE, as there is in Paul the Apostle and in Peter and Paul), though some of Paul's dialogue does come from the Epistles. Interestingly, the video seems to rush through the early sections of Paul's life so that it can get to his big testimonies before Mars Hill and Herod Agrippa II, etc.; while the video is only 50-ish minutes long, this is one of those rare films that probably devotes more of its attention to the later chapters of Acts, rather than the earlier ones.

That said, the script has a strange tendency to leap over events that would normally be given scenes of their own. In one sequence, we see Paul preaching, and then we cut to a shot of a man leading Barnabas outside, where the camera comes to rest on the sight of Paul, bruised and battered and lying on the ground, still alive, after an unsuccessful stoning; the actual abuse of Paul is nowhere depicted at all. I think there's a similar moment like this later on, too, where we see Paul on Malta after the shipwreck, and then we jump ahead and Paul is in Rome, telling someone about the things that happened a couple years ago when he arrived in that city, "before the fire." Odd writing/editing, methinks.

There is an unfortunate tendency in this video to throw in needless visual and audio effects whenever a miracle happens. Paul's eyes are healed by CGI, and when this happens, we hear a tinkly sound effect that reminded me of how the old Walt Disney books-on-tape used to do a Tinkerbell sound every time you were supposed to turn the page; this sound effect occurs on at least one other occasion, too, when a lame man is healed. And then there is the CGI demon that comes out of the fortune-teller in Philippi.

Other tiny details. I liked the fact that Paul and Silas sang in Hebrew in Philippi. I thought it was a bit goofy how the jailer's entire family runs into the prison mere moments after the earthquake. The actor playing Porcius Festus gets his lines completely wrong, I think, when he says "your education has made you insane" (or words to that effect) as though he were ALARMED and ANGRY with Paul, and NOT as I suspect the historical Festus really said them -- as though he thought Paul's ideas were somewhat risible, and he was laughing Paul off. Wasn't quite sure what to make of the one character who says, "The Jews are coming!" -- I can buy that Luke (or whoever wrote Acts) would have used the phrase "the Jews" in his writing, but not that the actual characters themselves would have spoken that way to or about each other. Thought it was kinda odd how the end credits begin with what sounds like a gospel choir doing Handel's 'Hallelujah' chorus (the finish to the chorus is especially gospel-choir-ish). Did like David Miner's music, though -- I think I've seen his name on a number of these straight-to-video deals.

And that's that. MattPage, have you seen this video yet?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah I saw it about 6 months ago, although I haven't seen The Revolutionary ohmy.gif .

Recollections are pretty much as you say. I was pleasantly relieved when I saw it. We did Paul at the start of the year, and I wanted to use some clips so I invested in this as Peter & Paul was only available at Amazon (b4 I heard of Crown), (and then it was really expensive at Amazon) and I missed getting hold of the out-of print Visual Bible Acts. I did expect it to be awful though, and was quite relieved tat some sections were at least useable (if only to get people thinking about their interpretation / visualisation of a passage)

Because of that the two clips I used really stand out in my memory. I myself diud the talk on Paul's conversion so I showed this for effect, compared it to another I had from the BBC documentary on Paul which had a few acted scenes (including one where James is played by an acotr that is also in In the Beginning 2000). I have to admit the clip from the BBC one was better than in Paul the Emissary, which was pretty awful IIRC. Paul's on a (historically unlikely) horse, and the vision he has of Jesus uses a terrible effect that looks a bit like a glowing stone bust of Jesus seen at the bottom of a fastish flowing river. There were laughs from the congregation which was not unexpected.

The second clip is the Mars Hill bit. This was quite close to Acts and offered little interpretation and so worked well in a "visual bible" kind of way. The main comedy angle on this came from there being a bit too much beard stroking from the members of the aeropagus (great spelling I know). But it a very Gen X crowd , so they appreciate it when a slightly cheesy biblical clip is milked for its comedy potential.

Otherwise I found Paul's blue eyes a bit distracting. I mean it so widely accpeted these days that even Jeus didn't have blue eyes that you would have though they'd either get an actor with brown eyes, or at least get him to wear tinted contacts.

I think I also felt the pace of the filmfelt roughly equivalent to the pacing of Acts, so certain scenes such as the riot scene weren't drawn out, and other less dramatic scenes became a bit tedious.

So there you go. I found the few clips from the BBC doc much more engaging, and whilst they also had their weaknesses gave probbaly a more realistic Paul.

Matt

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...

FWIW, my much-belated review. It's a shorter, pithier one than usual.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...