Monday, January 4, 2010

The Jesus Film and how to celebrate Christmas


Jewish date:  18 Ṭeveth 5770 (Parashath Shemoth).

Today’s holiday:  Feast of Elizabeth Ann Seton (Roman Catholicism).

Topic 1:  I watched Jesus (otherwise known as The Jesus Film) yesterday.  As it so happens, I wrote a review of it a few years back.  As my views of this film have not changed substantially, and the site where it was originally posted has disappeared (not to mention that it is a slow religious news season), I reproduce it for you here:

Jesus (1979 film)Image via Wikipedia
Movie Review: Jesus (1979)
November 2, 2002

Jesus (1979)
Written by: Barnet Bain, based on the
Gospel According to Luke
Directed by: Peter Sukes
Genre: Documentary (?), Propaganda (Religious)

I am an observant Jew, and as such I am no fan of Christianity.  But being religious myself, I can understand that Christians might feel so strongly about their religion that they would want to do whatever they can to enlighten others and convert them.  Distributing a videotape is a rather unique method of proselytizing, one with great promise in an age when many people do not read books.  Unfortunately for the Christians who made the Jesus video, they botched it so badly that the project will undoubtedly backfire.

There is an unwritten rule of religion that one is absolutely not supposed to change scripture.  The makers of this video tried hard not to violate this rule, sticking as close as possible to the Gospel According to Luke. But one cannot simply shoot straight from a narrative and expect everything to come out alright.  The New Testament is not crystal clear as to who various people are and what is happening in their heads, and to portray them credibly requires serious interpretation—interpretation that the scriptwriter failed to do and, to make matters worse, the actors failed to deliver.  Everything anyone says in the video is done in a calm tone and with little in the way of facial expression.  It does not matter if one is happy or sad, talking to one person or a crowd; the voice is the same. Even when he is being nailed onto the cross, when most humans would be screaming in agony, Jesus barely winces.  We learn nothing of why the Pharisees hate Jesus or why Judas Iscariot betrayed him.  To be blunt, the actors cannot act; they merely parrot the Gospels as two-dimensional characters who could be replaced with cardboard cutouts without anyone noticing.  With such a pathetic performance and pathetic writing, the video is painful to watch. Because of the lack of effort to try to credibly show what Jesus's message was, nonbelievers are given no solid reason to accept it, and, in fact, offended, may be less likely than ever to consider converting to Christianity.

Topic 2:  I am not the only one getting in on the religious criticism act.  “Inspirational Films” on BizarroBlog makes a valid point on Christmas movies.  (This also doubles as today’s religious humor.)


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