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.
There 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.
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: