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Regardt van den Bergh
Henry Ian Cusick is brilliant portraying Jesus of Nazareth
This film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Amazingly, it avoided all of the mistakes made in most other attempts to tell this story. The Bible's presentation of the story of Jesus is based primarily on four narratives--each stamped with its author's own personality and unique perspective.
Many previous films have sampled more than one of the Biblical narratives on the life of Christ. Also, they needlessly added scenes not found in the original sources. The authors of those screenplays in merely sampling from several sources, lost the unique focus of each respective author and diluted the overall effect of the story.
This film is based on John Goldsmith's screenplay which deftly avoids all the laughably silly cliches of previous film versions. Goldsmith's screenplay is based on only one man's perspective, that of Jesus' disciple John. Many stories with which the viewer is familiar, such as the nativity, are missing from John's gospel and therefore also from this wonderfully complex and yet lucid screenplay. Jesus' words are not here presented as pious platitudes, but occur within a context where Jesus responded to those around him.
The dialogue is solely based on the Good News Bible (also known as Today's English Version) Christopher Plummer very ably supplies the verse by verse narration from the same source. His delivery re-enforces the clarity of what is on the screen. Most of the other actors were not known to me--which I felt helped. (What part could one give to an actor who previously portrayed a drug dealer?)
Jesus is brilliantly portrayed by Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus the man with human emotions, Jesus the visionary resented by the religious establishment of his day. This Jesus did not refer to them for his authority. Cusick, convincingly portrays Jesus the carpenter as a handsome, masculine, very charismatic man. Cusick is very much equal to the task. I spoke very briefly with Cusick after the screening, thanking him for his portrayal of a part that is loaded with hazards--all of which he avoided. I hope we see a great deal more of this fine actor.
The music by Jeff Danna is wonderful--well beyond what I could have hoped for.
One friend of mine at the screening expressed his concern that this film in portraying Jesus' death at the hands of the Jewish establishment might make it vulnerable to accusations of Antisemitism. I reassured him that in its earliest days, Christianity was a sect within Judaism. Almost all the people portrayed in The Gospel of John were Jewish. It was not until the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 that the Christian sect became predominately Gentile.
Director Philip Saville has done an enviable job directing a project that was fraught with artistic traps.
I hope this film receives very wide distribution. Even Christian conservatives should be very happy with it.
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