The Gospel of John
Imagine sitting and listening to someone reading the New Testament -- for three hours! That's exactly what you'll find in the movie The Gospel of John, which takes its script directly from the Good News Bible. But if you're afraid you might fall asleep, let me assure you that even a yawn is unlikely.
The daunting task of creating an interesting film while adhering solely to holy writ is accomplished through the efforts of an incredibly talented cast. The narrator, Christopher Plummer, who is perhaps best known for his role as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, brings the text to life using only the purr of his voice and some subtle intonations. The other actors, though not household names, re-enact the passages with reverence and sensitivity.
Depicting an historical figure, whose scant thirty-three years on earth left an impact on the following two thousand, is a tall order. Satisfying everyone is impossible, but Henry Ian Cusick does a remarkable job, presenting a portrait of strength softened by the occasional wry smile. Although his rendition of Jesus may not lead to an epiphany, it is certainly commanding enough to engage the viewer.
Considering the project's strict constraints (nothing is added or subtracted from John's account), other characters give amazing performances too. Nancy Palk, who plays the Samaritan woman at the well, particularly impressed me. Her face is like a living canvass on which she paints every expression from skepticism to convert. Another actor, whose name I cannot find, has only a few seconds on screen, in which time he conveys all the emotions of a grieving parent. Also notable is Stephen Russell, as he captures the political dilemma faced by Pontius Pilate, simply by moving his eyes and eyebrows.
Industry veteran Philip Saville directs this top quality Canada/United Kingdom production. Carefully shooting the closing chapters of Christ's life, he develops empathy by implying the violence of the scourging and crucifixion, without using graphic depictions. Parents should be aware however, that the audience does see Jesus' bloodied, half-naked body as well as his nailed wrists.
The Gospel of John is trickling its way into movie houses on a limited release schedule, at the same time as Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is making a big splash in North American newspapers and theaters. Lacking the backing of the Hollywood hoopla, one may be tempted to question in a similar fashion as Nathanael in John 1:46, ?Can any good thing come out of [a place as obscure as] Nazareth?? My answer is the same as given him--?Come and see!?