|Index||3 reviews in total|
Dennis Potter's play 'Son of Man', first written for television and
later performed on the stage, sees Jesus Christ first and foremost as a
man, who has self-doubts, fears, and feelings like anyone else.
Colin Blakely was an inspired choice for the role, wild and unkempt following his days and nights in the wilderness when he comes across two fishermen, Peter and Andrew, and selects his first disciples.
Casting throughout this 90 minute play is extremely effective - Robert Hardy as Pilate, Edward Hardwicke as Judas, Brian Blessed as Peter, Bernard Hepton as Caiaphas, and so on. The sermons of Jesus are not high and remote from the people, but down at their level - a contrast to the declaiming of John the Baptist at the start of the play.
Low-budget values could have hampered this play, but the script and subject matter allow it to captivate from the start. In presenting the Messiah as more human than some versions of the story, it allows questions to be asked, and in turn, allows some of the other characters to express doubts about their perception of the Saviour amongst them.
The ending is exceptionally bleak though, and in some ways without hope. No resurrection is signposted or hinted at in 'Son of Man', and the story is more powerful for it.
Dennis Potter's stage play was filmed for the BBC in 1969 and its
release shocked many. Instead of the detached Christ of earlier (and
later) Jesus films, and the bland overly smiley Jesus of later films,
Colin Blakely plays Jesus as a passionate, down to earth preacher.
Potter's everyday English was groundbreaking then, but still seems much
more realistic than more recent attempts to do likewise. It gives
Blakely something to work with in making this Jesus come alive, whilst
retaining a dangerous edge that is almost universally absent in Jesus
films. (The one exception would be Last Temptation of Christ, but there
the "danger" is more from mental instability than radical adherence to
There's fine work elsewhere as well. Brian Blessed is a great choice as Peter, and Edward Hardwicke (as Judas), and Robert Hardy (as Pilate) are also excellent, but this belongs to Blakely, who's Sermon on the Mount is as powerful the tenth time as it was the first.
Who would have thought this carefully archived Son Of Man, brilliantly
written by Dennis Potter and searingly played by Irish actor Colin
Blakely, would make for the most compelling and moving portrayal of
Jesus yet committed to film?
In an astonishing turn of events the camera is made a witness. The Sermon on the Mount is not delivered from a height - Blakely's Jesus walks among his listeners, pleads with them, harangues them, shouts and screams his message. He's often a brute of a man, sweating and swearing, at times beating his brains like wood for examples and metaphors that he might make fit. Blakely's performance is a great teacher, a fine carpenter, and not a Messiah in sight. His final plight becomes harrowing because Son Of Man is such a physical play, like the man himself addresses the cross - 'You should have stayed a tree, and I should have stayed a carpenter.'
I was never more sure of an actor turned carpenter.
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