The Lumo Project: John

With the popularity of so-called Biblical movies this year is so very refreshing to see a movie that actually issues the Bible as its source. The Lumo Project’s The Gospel of John is narrated with the exact text of the Gospel of John in the versions: NIV (David Harwood), KJV (Brian Cox) and in Spanish via the Reina-Valera 1960 Version (unknown). Visually all three narrations are over the same film.

The actors chosen are a revelation – they look like they should. This is not a European looking cast. Actors have missing teeth, come in all sizes and shades of brown. Even Jesus looks like he should, solving a problem that troubles so many Bible films.

It is also set in a very realistic Palestine. The settings from markets to outskirts are very respectful of the actual text.

johnThere are some well done connections to the other Gospels as well. John doesn’t have the first communion, for instance, but the filmmakers add it in during the last supper while Jesus is talking. The Lumo Project will ultimately show all four Gospels in the same way and based on this film will be doing some tying together of them to show the consistency without hiding the differences.

Not everything is perfect, however. As a teacher in my church I am sensitive of and cringe when I see condescension to tradition show up, like the wise men in the manger. There are some casting decisions like Jesus’ brothers looking older than him that I also wondered about. And when Jesus does miracles he acts like it drains him, which is in contrast to his diety. My thoughts are below about this and other situations.

The biggest gap was in how the crucifixion was depicted. Mel Gibson ruined every future movie that will try to demonstrate the anguish of Jesus and this movie pales in comparison. It also fails to show Jesus’ anguish. The actor who did such a good job elsewhere really disappoints on the cross. Very tame.

Theses are minor quibbles compared to the ridiculous films that have come out so far this year. 2014 is the year of the missed opportunity when it comes to showing off the actual Bible. Be it films that take Bible stories and reimagine them in their creator’s own unbiblical image (Noah), or just start and stay extra biblical (Heaven is For Real), or disappoint because of substandard writing (God’s Not Dead.) And dont forget Christian Bale as Moses. But this film is exactly what we needed. A strong retelling of the Gospel that treats its watchers as adults and doesn’t shy away from trusting the source material.

imageI’m very impressed and looking forward to the other films. When it comes out on Netflix give it a shot. Fans of the Bible will undoubtedly love it.

The Lumo Project presents The Gospel of John – coming soon to Netflix. I was given advance screening for review purposes by the production company and FlyBy Promotions. Live blog thoughts below:

admin December 5, 201412:44 am

First impression: this is a beautiful film.

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Jesus isn’t white! LOVE it!

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Interestingly this is narrated with none of the actors speaking. It’s all narrator. I think it works. It’s better than Jesus speaking with an English accent. Then again the narrate had an English accent.

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John looks suitably rugged. Love the donkey hair on his shirt.

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Ugh. Wise Men at Jesus’ birth. Bummer.

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Jesus’ baptism is sweet. Intense but holy.

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Jesus’ miracle of water into wine is interesting. May looks great. Just like an elderly woman in a tough world may look. Is jesus trying hard to do the miracle?

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Jesus’ first heard words in the film: yelling at the money changers. Love it! He looks intense and truly angry. Good stuff.

admin December 5, 201412:51 am

Interestingly this is narrated with none of the actors speaking. It’s all narrator. I think it works. It’s better than Jesus speaking with an English accent. Then again the narrator has an English accent.

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Conversation from Jesus: light had come into the world but men have loved the darkness because their deeds are evil. Jesus is providing communion while he talks.

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John again. I really like his clothes and demeanor. Fits. He is taken and arrested. Ominously a knife pulls back his hair and cuts his cheek.

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Best news: my 8 year old hasn’t moved. He is engrossed. Not so much my 5 year old. But there are moments.

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The Samaritan woman looks dubious when Jesus talks to her. Right tone. Are you greater than Jacob? She mocks.

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When the Messiah comes… I am he. Powerful. It’s the words mixed with the expressive portrayals.

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Silly: not sure what kind of weed they are harvesting.

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Water fight and playing with kids. Natural.

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The official looks authentic but when his servants are excited and tell him his child is well he doesn’t express excitement.

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30 minutes in: the man at the pool. I love that Jesus comes up to him and tells him to get up and walk and then leaves. Like so many of God’s promises is up to us to believe.

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Calling God his own father making himself equal with God. How do you explain that away?

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Funeral. Jesus raises him from the dead. A celebration. Other montages of healing and miracles. All while Jesus speaks to the Jews. A great way to fill in the conversation time.

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If you don’t believe what Moses wrote… then Jesus drops the mic and walks off.

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Feeding the 5000. The bread is flat bread.

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Jesus walks on water. John doesn’t have Peter walking on it.

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Another conversation. The film has Jesus walking through an open market having the conversation. Keeps it interesting.

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45 minutes in: I am the bread of life. Contrasted to his words the people seek physically after bread. Jesus is bummed for lack of faith.

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Jesus is speaking to his disciples. Some of them are women! Yes!

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Simon Peter is an old gray haired dude with a massive beard. Rugged. Nothing glossy about this film except the setting. This is firmly planted in reality.

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Jesus’ brothers look older than him. Oops.

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Don’t judge by mere appearances. Instead judge correctly.

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Fascinating depictions of the Jews turning on Jesus. Great acting. Very engaging.

admin December 5, 20141:36 am

The woman caught in adultery. Writing in the ground is reminiscent of Mel Gibson’s scene from Passion of the Christ. I think I like it better when he is already sitting rather than him waffling down to dirt to write.

admin December 5, 20144:12 pm

My grandmother said: that’s a horrible looking Jesus. This confirms that he looks more like the real one.

admin December 5, 20144:13 pm

If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you’ll know the truth and the truth will set you free. Favorite verse!

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In this long debate you can see how and why the Jews are becoming angry. The spirit of the debate is clearly portrayed in this version.

admin December 5, 20144:16 pm

I don’t speak Aramaic or Hebrew but I hope the language spoken by the actors, that you can’t clearly make out, is legit.

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I Am. Boom. And now a reason to kill Jesus: he just claimed to be God.

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The miracles of Jesus make it seem like Jesus has to work to make them happen. Like casting a spell takes energy out of him. He even falls back after he heals the eyes of the blind man just now. His disciples have to catch him. What?! This is the same God that holds all the universe together with the power of his simple determination that it should be so. His God hood just is. He doesn’t have to work at having that power.

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One flock. Other sheep. Reminds me how people guess ignorantly who these “other” sheep are. But Jesus makes it clear: there will be a combining of these other sheep under a single shepherd. So whoever follows Jesus the shepherd and who are not Jews are the “other”. Not North American Indians or followers of other religions.

admin December 5, 20144:28 pm

The Jewish leaders and the crowd is not markedly angry in pretty much every scene now. I like the tone change which is easy to miss sometimes when reading.

admin December 5, 20144:32 pm

When Jesus goes to Lazarus he meets Martha on the way and she is hot. An example of how we can express ourselves honestly with God.

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Then Mary confronts Jesus with tears. But again there is a complaint: Jesus let him die. Then Jesus also cries.

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How could someone turn against Jesus after witnessing him raise someone from the dead? Ah, the depravity of man is so strong that we can ignore even these kinds of miracles. Explaining them away. Did God really say? The snake in us all asks.

admin December 5, 20144:42 pm

1:30 in and it’s time for Jesus’ final act.

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Every time I see Jesus I’m struck by how much I love this depiction. Then I remember that Christian Bale is going to be Moses in the upcoming movie. Ugh.

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Jesus is depicted as much more passionate and expressive than white bread Jesus that we usually see. He just hit his hand on the table when talking to the disciples. Pay attention!

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Washing their feet. Their feet are very dirty. Gritty. Realistic.

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Peter looks upset at the idea of Jesus serving him. I really like the casting of these guys.

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You will believe I Am who I Am.

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Interesting depiction of the conversation between Peter and John then John and Jesus then Jesus and Judas. Do what you’re gonna do.

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Women at the table show once again that not all the disciples were men. The women aren’t in scenes where the disciples are traveling. But every time they are together in a town the women are there. Sitting at the table as equals.

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Anyone who has seen me has seen the father.

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Amazing depiction of Pentecost! Powerfully placed behind the words of Jesus prior to communion. Visually tying that event to the words about doing greater things.

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Communion is provided as a backdrop to the words of Jesus leading up to the Garden. Tying the Gospels together.

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You are not my servants. You are my friends. This is what God is looking for from all of us. Follow Jesus and know him. It’s not enough to serve him. We should know him.

admin December 5, 20145:07 pm

While Jesus is talking about going away solders are searching for him. Tension is up.

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2 hours in and Jesus is about to get arrested.

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Sometimes the narrator can get a little soft. With the accent and formal writing of the NIV quiet times can get a little sleepy. Jesus’ prayer is one such time.

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Resolute. That’s what Jesus looks like.

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Wide angle shot of Jerusalem at night. That’s a first and it looks cool. Too wick to find landmarks though.

admin December 5, 20145:16 pm

Peter pulls a knife. We say sword but a long knife makes more sense and answers questions about why a disciple would have a sword. It makes sense that a fisherman would have a long knife.

admin December 5, 20145:18 pm

I’d have liked to see Jesus get slapped when John says he did. Instead there is no violence shown.

admin December 5, 20145:20 pm

Pilot looks suitably Italian.

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The flogging is also visually tame. The crown of thorns is clearly some kind of cloth. Blood on hands and head but Jesus is fully clothed and doesn’t look as beaten. I guess nothing will ever live up to measuring rod that is the Passion of the Christ.

admin December 5, 20145:24 pm

In fact Jesus doesn’t even look hurt right now. He’s been flogged and had the crown on his head but now Jesus is speaking to Pilot and there isn’t a crown or blood. Just a single cut on his cheek.

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Pilot washes his hands tying this past back to the other Gospels.

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Jesus is carrying his beam and had the crown again. But he’s fully clothed and the abuse is rather tame.

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The nail is gruesome.

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Now he is looking suitably beaten. Clothes off. Bloody. On the cross.

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Jesus is stretched out on the cross though. Looks like it’s easy to breath.

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I like that Jesus is scrawny and normal sized. Real.

admin December 5, 20145:27 pm

He looks like a Catholic crucifix.

admin December 5, 20145:29 pm

He never really looks defeated. Until the end Jesus doesn’t really look hurt. His expressions and body language don’t convey it.

admin December 5, 20145:31 pm

When Jesus dies it is anticlimactic. Even his cries to God don’t seem anguished. This is a real weak spot in this otherwise really well done film.

admin December 5, 20145:32 pm

2:25 in and Jesus is in the tomb. Mary notices the stone is gone.

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Powerful moment when Mary sees Jesus.

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The wounds on his hands aren’t well done.

admin December 5, 20145:41 pm

100 meters from shore looks about 15 feet in the film. I don’t know meters but that math can’t be right. (It’s actually over 300 feet.)

admin December 5, 20145:45 pm

2:37 the end. John doesn’t end with the ascension. But the film has Jesus holding his hands out on a hill. Maybe a hint.

One thought on “The Lumo Project: John”

  1. This was simply a beautiful film. I love picturing Yeshua this way…when the actor smiles, that is how I like to imagine the Messiah smiling, beautiful and warm.

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