Everyone should see this film.
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Everyone should see this film.
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.
`The Gospel of John' purports to be a faithful retelling of the fourth gospel. It employs every single word of the text, as rendered by the Good News Bible translation. The film combines dialogue with narration by veteran actor Christopher Plummer. The result is an understandably wordy script. One of my friends used the term `verbose'.
Was it wise or foolish to adopt this approach? That depends on your point of view. It means that the actor playing Jesus must deliver lengthy speeches, especially Jesus' farewell after the Last Supper. This runs the risk of being a deadly bore in cinematic terms. I must confess, I kept nodding off during this segment of the film. To his credit, the director tries to compensate by cutting away to a montage of black-and-white flashback images suggested by Jesus' words. This gives the audience a much-needed visual breather.
On the other hand, and this is a good thing, using the integral text of John's gospel obliges us truly to listen -- to hear the Word. I lost track of how often Jesus said, `I am telling you the truth.' Some might find this annoyingly repetitive. But it certainly hammers home the theme of John's gospel. As if in counterpoint to Pilate's cynical barb, `What is truth?' we have Jesus' ringing declaration, `I am the Truth!' (This is often obscured by older translations, such as `Amen, amen, I say to you'.)
I found `The Gospel of John' highly instructive, not just for what it says, but what is does not say. I realized, for the first time, why John recounts events absent from Matthew, Mark and Luke, while ignoring those familiar to us from their accounts. It struck me that the author of the fourth gospel assumes we are already conversant with all this material. For instance, John does not describe the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, yet abounds in references to bread and wine. Again, John does not tell us what became of John the Baptist (he was beheaded by Herod) or Judas the traitor (he hanged himself). John takes it for granted that we know.
I also realized how often Jesus says, `I am who I am' (three times) and finally, `Before Abraham was, I am.' Jesus applies to Himself the phrase used by Yahweh in the Old Testament as His name. In other words, in John's gospel, Jesus clearly equates Himself with God (`The Father and I are one').
As represented in this film, Jesus is thoroughly human in that He suffers and dies. Yet He also radiates the power of divinity -- not so much in the form of miracles, as in a sense of righteousness, a certainty about His mission. Even Jesus' outrage at the commercialization of Temple worship seems more like the fulmination of an exasperated Old Testament God. We do not see Jesus tempted by Satan or agonizing in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knows exactly who He is and what He is doing, even though His followers may not.
The real `stars' of the film are Jesus' opponents, `the Jewish authorities' (Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes) and their hapless instrument, Pontius Pilate. The apostles, on the other hand, are curiously lifeless in this film rendering of John's gospel. Even Judas is given little in the way of motivation. John's explanation is that he was a thief who pilfered the apostles' common purse and sold His master out of simple greed. This explanation may have been enough for the evangelist, but it is far from satisfying in literary or cinematic terms.
The film portrays Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a woman of mature years. Her visual representation comes as something of a shock, compared to Olivia Hussey's incarnation of the Virgin in `Jesus of Nazareth'. I was reminded of Michelangelo's Pietà. Someone pointed out to the sculptor that the mother looked strangely younger than the son. Michelangelo replied that, since the Virgin had been pure and sinless, he could not imagine her aging and decaying. Jesus' mother in `The Gospel of John' thus runs counter to a certain iconographic tradition.
The other women in this film, as in John's gospel, get short shrift. We barely get any sense of Mary Magdalen, or Mary and Martha of Bethany. The most fully developed female character is the Samaritan at the well, played by an actress whose face and voice deliver exactly the right note of hard-bitten cynicism. One only wishes she were not so wild-eyed once she realizes she is speaking to the promised Messiah.
The same excessive theatricality is found in John the Baptist, Nathanael (whom Jesus saw beneath the fig tree before meeting him) and doubting Thomas (whose exclamation, `My Lord and my God!' rings hollow).
A film such as `The Gospel of John' cannot be judged entirely according to the usual canons of cinematic art. In other words, we cannot judge `The Gospel of John' simply on the basis of artistic merit or entertainment value. Ultimately, we must ask: Is the film theologically sound? Does it succeed in conveying the gospel message? How do we, the audience, respond to that message and especially the messenger, Jesus Himself?
In the final analysis -- and this is a question all filmgoers must answer for themselves -- would we heed the Jesus of `The Gospel of John' when He invites us to `Follow me'?
As others have said, this movie is a faithful adaptation of the gospel of John. I thought that having every single word of the book either spoken by characters or narrated was a necessary and intelligent decision to make. To hear the Word allows you to consider the actors & director's interpretation of certain events & verses, and also to simply consider the Word for yourself in a comprehensive manner. After all, how often does one ever read straight through the book of John?
Watching this movie really helps the Christian understand Jesus' incredibly difficult situation. I'm not talking about the crucifiction, but the fact that Jesus as the Son of God is incarnated into a man and has to tell men who he really is. To put it more clearly, imagine if God incarnate stood before you as an average looking human being and said "I am the Son of God." Unless you saw a miracle it you would not be willing to suspend disbelief. I empathized with Jesus when he emphatically said, "I am telling you the truth!" so many times throughout the movie.
In conclusion, this movie is really worth your time to watch. Although it is very long and you may lose focus at times during the middle portion I would still highly recommend it. It isn't perfect but overall it's a fantastic piece of work.
In some of the older portrayals, Jesus comes off as wooden, isolated and somehow above everyone else. Not here! Jesus smiles at others' limited understandings, but with compassion, as if he wants to teach them something by his very presence.
The best special effect had to be the walking on the water. Beautiful photography throughout - Filmed in and near Malaga in Spain, it does Jerusalem and Israel proud!
Please consider inviting your friends to see this film. It has so much to offer and it gets the point across - Jesus is the Savior of the world!
Henry Ian Cusick is absolutely amazing in his role of Jesus Christ. His only competition would be Robert Powell of "Jesus of Nazareth", but Cusick's performance was unlike any I'd seen before (and I've seen "Jesus" the miniseries with Jeremy Sisto, "Jesus" with Brian Deacon, "Matthew" with Bruce Marchiano, "The Greatest Story Ever Told" with Max Von Sydow, "King of Kings" with Jeff Hunter, "The King of Kings" with H.B. Warner, "Jesus of Nazareth" with Robert Powell, and both versions of "Jesus Christ Superstar"). His potrayal of Christ is absolutely effortless, which is even more impressive considering the fact that he's speaking word for word from the book of John. Not only does he do wonders with the script, but his overall interpretation of Jesus is unique and, for me, very inspiring. Cusick's Christ knows his mission and carries it out with determination, and, most of all, authority; but this doesn't hold back his human side either, and he is very believable as a loving, caring Christ (the single tear running down his face during the raising of Lazarus was so touching and convincing that it made ME cry). Some may believe that his attitude toward the Pharisees was harsh, and I'll admit that I was a bit taken back when he raised his voice more than once throughout the movie-- but as it progresses, his emotions seem appropriate for someone desperately trying to teach a message of salvation that no one seems to want to accept.
The special effects were very well-done. The scene where Jesus is walking on the water is finally convincing...
The only problem I had with the movie was that it seemed to shy away from the crucifixion. I was a bit disappointed at the way the movie zipped through one of the most crucial parts of the Gospel, especially with Cusick's passionate performance throughout the first couple of hours of the movie. The end result is about two hours and thirty minutes of beautiful cinematography and brilliant acting, and a really "blah" finale. The directors really missed the chance to make an impression by failing to utilize the most dramatic part of Christ's life. Cusick could have worked wonders with it.
As for the rest of the cast, each member was perfect. Even the minor roles were believable-- the Pharisees and the people on the street gave very in-depth, and occassionally passionate, performances.
"The Gospel of John" was one of the best potrayals of Christ I have ever seen. I highly recommend it, and just a heads up--the "Special Features" addition to the DVD set is a great bonus!
For sure, He is not the charismatic figure of `The Greatest Story Ever Told' or `King of Kings,' but Saville makes the miracles pervasive enough to coax anyone, even an atheist or Jew, to pause and ponder the possibility.
Because so many are awaiting Mel Gibson's controversial life of Christ with its alleged hard line about the responsibility of the Jews for Christ's death, Saville's version may be interesting by comparison. Because both films show Jews responsible for Christ's death, there should be no wasted time debating responsibility when discussing the difference in the films. The ruling Romans, Pilate in particular, share the decision to crucify Him as well (The film's preamble asserts that crucifixion was a Roman practice).
The adaptation by John Goldsmith from the American Bible Society's `Good News Bible' is faithful to that 1996 colloquial Bible. The actors' Shakespearean delivery echoes many of the previous filmed versions that substitute gravitas for good acting. But a skeptic has to be enchanted by the simple message and the selfishness of the Pharisees and Romans, even though they are unwittingly fulfilling `God's purpose.'
Played by Henry Ian Cusick, Christ has no extraordinary physical features and no exceptional oratorical skill beyond his few poignant homilies and epigrammatic philosophy. Don't look for the grand pronouncements of the Sermon on the Mount; in fact, his repetitious `I speak the truth' has the opposite effect of creating disbelief in listeners wary when anyone has to declaim this more than once.
Yet, His presence changes things: The agnostic or the Jew must take note of the `teacher's' humanity--he also happens to raise people from the dead and change water into wine. It's in those miracles, emphasized by the film, that the mystery of Christ as the Son of God demands the attention of even the most unmovable agnostic or atheist.
Christopher Plummer's narration, intoned with a bit too much respect, gets laughable as he describes all too obvious actions when they are happening at the same time on the screen (`Christ stood up.'). This is not Pasolini's witty, sensual `Gospel According to St. Matthew.' It is a faithful rendering of the fourth gospel in understandable idioms with a feisty Christ different from the usual pacifist with backlighting.
After all, we do base our calendar on the year of the Lord, so somewhere we must come to terms with the arguably most influential religious figure in history. `The Gospel of John' is a place to start.
It seemed like I was reading the Gospel of John while watching the film. Though the movie was quite long (the gospel account has 21 chapters!),I was never bored.
Although I disagree with the previous viewer's comments concerning the matter of the full Cross, I, nevertheless, share in their great deal of enthusiasm for the film.
First, and most importantly, a film that presents...the knowledge through which a viewer can come to eternal life...is invaluable!!! Of course, other films have been made about the life of Jesus Christ, yet only one that I know of followed the words of Christ (i.e., "The Jesus Film"), and it was based on The Gospel of Mark, not The Gospel of John. Why is this significant? It is noteworthy that The Gospel of John is the only Book of the Bible that has, as its stated purpose, sharing with the reader what he, or she, must do to become saved; therefore, needless to say, this film, from an evangelistic standpoint, is of immense value.
Second, this film has a lot for which to be commended insofar as it uses, for its script, the words of Scripture itself. As I have written elsewhere, people can speculate all they want. They can say that Jesus must have done this or that, etc. but, in the end, it is merely that--speculation. (I could say, for example, that The Apostle Paul must have been a fine orator since he was such a fine writer...but be speaking contra to the apparent truth of the Scriptures ("Now I, Paul . . . who in presence am lowly among you . . . . 'For his letters,' they say, 'are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible' ", NKJV).
Third, Mr. Cusick did a fine job of portraying a "balanced" Jesus: His anger, His cynicism, His compassion, His warmth. I believe he was aided, of course, by a fine script.
I cannot recommend this film highly enough...if for no other reason than that you, the viewer, might come to a knowledge of the Truth...and, in coming to the knowledge of the Truth that you, too, might trust in Jesus, God the Son, as the Messiah!
"The Gospel of John" absolutely succeeds in converting the Good News Bible's vernacular translation (33 pages) to the visual format. Every single word is included, mostly as voice-over narration by Christopher Plummer. It is certainly the "purest," most literal translation of Jesus's story ever made, which, depending on the viewer's religiosity, is either good or bad news. For those who have thought of the written words of John as somewhat mysterious and austere (or, for that matter, have ever thought about John before at all,) this film helps to bring it all into perspective, in a three-hour, uninterrupted presentation, with naturalistic acting in a reasonable recreation of first-century Palestine. However, non-Christians are probably not going to be attracted to a version that gets overly wordy in the third act, as Jesus tries to get everything across to his disciples in the hours before his arrest in a four-chapter stream-of-consciousness sermon full of metaphors and riddles. From a cinematic perspective, the movie's rising action has come to a crashing halt; from a spiritual perspective, the reason for this rising action is all being explained. John jumps around in chronology, never accounting for gaps in the narrative (and, for that matter, never explaining what Jesus was up to before he arrived at John the Baptist's campaign in the Jordan River). The evangelist sometimes offers commentary and alludes to future events, which from a story standpoint is distracting (what we would call in movie terms, "a spoiler.") Whatever their reaction to its message, I think members of both camps-- evangelical and traditionalist-- could agree that John does not make for a good movie script. Luckily, the fellow they found for Jesus, Henry Ian Cusick, both looks and acts the part of a timeless, charismatic Messiah. Although slight of build and a bit fair-skinned, he does have the requisite flowing brown curls and beard, kind brown eyes, a large Jewish nose, and crooked teeth-- all that we would expect, from a contemporary standpoint, of the historical Jesus (Cusick is not Israeli, however, but hails from the London stage). He speaks with a generic, accentless voice, neither American nor British. What captivated me most about Cusick's portrayal was his warm smile; I never would have imagined John's Jesus as almost laughing with joy as he teaches about light and truth and the kingdom of heaven, but he makes it seem the only natural delivery for such revolutionary rhetoric. The movie does not, however, attempt to explore Jesus's personality any further, nor does it really get away from the familiar conceptions of peripheral characters, especially the stubborn, elitist Jewish temple priests, the cautious and "just" Pontius Pilate, and the enthusiastic but clueless disciple Simon Peter. There is no attempt to romanticize Mary Magdalene into a reformed prostitute or Jesus's love interest (she shows up at Jesus's crucifixion and then at his tomb as an undistinguished female follower) nor excuse Judas as a disillusioned intimate or predestined villain (John writes in no uncertain terms that "Satan entered into him.") Smaller speaking parts and extras are of a variety of ethnicities but not to a distracting degree. In general, the varied cast of American, British, and Canadian actors are naturalistic, sincere, and believable (given, of course, the juxtaposition of twentieth-century text to first-century Palestine). Production values on this film are significantly higher than one might expect on such a project, while perhaps not up to par with a studio version. The locations look as dry and dusty as the '60s sword-and-sandal epics were colorful, which lends the authenticity that contemporary audiences will appreciate. Costuming Jesus only in white robes was the only noticeably traditional reference, with the other figures clothed primarily in simple grey, brown, and dark blue garments. The music lacks unity, running the gamut from evocative Middle Eastern flutes in the scenes of the shore to a melodramatic orchestral build to the arrest. The cinematography and the staging are completely artless. Special-effects were mostly avoided by presenting the miracles as occurring subtly and naturally, and not with a flash of lightning or a puff of smoke. The matte paintings of the Jerusalem cityscape were rather obvious and the walking-on-the-water was borderline amateurish, but for the most part the budget constraints of the production actually worked in its favor. The crucifixion was realistic-looking without being overly gory; the most chilling moment in the film is actually not Jesus's death but the means by which the men hung next to him are eventually put out of their misery. In sum, this film is far more believable than Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" because it is a faithful transfer of the Gospel's literal message that does not need to elaborate on the Bible to make its evangelical agenda clear. There can be no objective critique of it, but for me personally, it was an honest testament of faith that served as a powerful reminder of why I am a Christian.
Hearing about a non-controversial "Life of Jesus" movie, being released in the theaters was a very exciting thing for me. I have always been fascinated by Biblical films, and finding one that didn't have protests or threats of being banned was a pleasant surprise for this modern age. I am truly looking forward to the Mel Gibson film, "The Passion of the Christ", but have grown tired of all the "he said/she said" crap that has become associated with it.
So, when my local cineplex announced that "The Gospel of John" was coming, I was at one of the first showings this past Friday.....and I am VERY glad I went!
Yes, the film is VERY literal to the Biblical Gospel that many feel the apostle John penned. Since there is really no proof that John actually IS the "Beloved Disciple" mentioned in the book, you must take this film with a slight gain of salt at the very beginning. With that in mind, the film makers have produced a very beautiful retelling of the Life of Jesus Christ.
Because it sticks very strictly to the Book of John, and ONLY that Gospel, there are indeed a few important episodes in Jesus' miraculous life missing. For example, while the scene of Jesus announcing Judas as his betrayer is there, the "Last Supper" itself is missing....as it isn't mentioned in this particular book of the Bible. Same with Jesus appearing before Herod as part of his "trial".....not in the Book of John, so not in the movie.
Henry Ian Cusick makes a very believable Jesus Christ. Some of the reviews have accused him of being too harsh and "never having been moved by the Holy Spirit". Please.... Cusick is gives a very moving performance as the Son of God. He does a very fine job of using the EXACT words the author of the Gospel of John "scripted" for him. While being very limited to a script that must be said verbatim, Cusick is divine, AS WELL AS human. This Jesus smiles, and actually looks happy with his followers and teaching his Father's message, unlike the Jesus of Robert Powell, which seems to be the majority favorite. Jeremy Sisto is still gives my favorite performance as Jesus, but Henry Ian Cusick is a VERY CLOSE second.
My few complaints with the movie are more like questions. Why would you cast an actress in her 60's to play the Mother of Jesus. If Mary was 14 or 15 when Jesus was born, and he died for our sins at age 33, then she should be in her late 40's at the time of his death. Not so in this case. Diana Berriman is a fine actress, but just too old for the role.
Also, since the Bible NO WHERE states that Mary Magdalene is a repentant whore, why would you dress her like one in the first of her too few scenes on screen? When first seen, Lynsey Baxter is dressed a bright orange tunic, with a ton of make-up and long dangly ear rings. Why??? Mary Magdalene was NOT a prostitute, and since this film attempts to be a LITERAL filming of the 4th Gospel, then why would they depict Mary in this fashion???
My final complaint with the film, is simply with the Gospel itself. Of all the Gospels telling of Jesus time on Earth, John is the one that doesn't "mesh" with the others. But that is by no means the fault of the film makers.
I highly recommend seeing "The Gospel of John", especially before the long awaited and highly controversial, Catholic dominated Mel Gibson film is released in February.
The accents are not authentic: So. I found myself noticing things from the scripture that made the story so much more complete that I couldn't care less that all of the actors weren't Hebrew.
Christopher Plummer's narration is soothing and well-read without drawing attention away from the story. Other viewers have commented that he stated the obvious, but he is reading the Gospel from the Good News version and nothing is omitted.
The soundtrack blended into the story perfectly.
My favorite parts are where Jesus is talking to His Father. How wonderful it must have been for the disciples to actually witness.
In summary, the film comes together like a choir with each part lending to the greatness of the end product. The message of Jesus' humanity AND deity at the same time (hypostatic union) are perfectly juxtaposed into one film that bears witness to the message of His Love.
I purchased several copies immediately.
I am telling all my friends to see it. It's also (FINALLY) available on DVD or VHS through their web site. I love giving movies for gifts and this will be a nice choice for people this year.
This film presents a rare opportunity to immerse yourself within The Greatest Story Ever Told and to allow you heart to be drawn nearer to God and his one and only Son. Don't miss it!
I saw it two days ago, and I'll see it again tomorrow. When it comes out on DVD, this one will definitely go into the collection.
For three hours we were riveted to our seats. We did not buy popcorn, drinks or snacks because we felt the movie deserved our undivided attention. When the movie was over, we wept at how wonderful the portrayal of Jesus was and how wonderful the entire movie was. We wished we could just stay and pray because this movie does draw one closer to the Lord and the perfect time to acknowledge that is immediately after the movie. But, after the credits rolled, rock music came on the speakers and we ventured out into the "real" world.
The experience is worthwhile..
I've read there are fears the movie may be seen as anti-Semitic -- like the charges being leveled at Mel Gibson's "The Passion" (how can anyone really know since it hasn't been released yet?). One could claim the "Gospel of John" is anti-Semitic only if you believe the gospel account itself is anti-Semitic. I don't think it is, but Jewish viewers may feel differently. The movie is faithful to the gospel, so the charge stands or falls based on how one reads the gospel.
In any event, I think this is a movie that can be enjoyed by believers and non-believers alike.
Great acting, nice cinematography.
It's also gotten some nice reviews in a bunch of presses.
It's only in select cities, so you need to search on the site for your city's release date. Or there's a dvd/tape you can order.
The Bible says that God's word is living and active and this film moved me as I watched what Jesus Christ went through on my behalf (and yours too!)
I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did. God bless you.