Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"The Gospel of John" (2014)

This movie snuck up on me. Only available on Netflix, I thought it was the 2003 film based on “The Living Bible” translation. (One I have yet to see as well.) Watching it I quickly realized that this is a new experiment.

Past “Visual Bible” films have attempted to stick precisely to the Biblical texts through voice-over narration and using the dialogue exactly as it appears in whatever translation they are following.

This movie uses a documentary technique where scenes are acted out (in Aramaic, Greek or Hebrew where appropriate) and the entire text of the NIV is read in voic over. In that sense it is more like the “Bible on Tape,” but with visuals. There is still interpretation going on, but perhaps less that versions that more directly dramatize the action.

Ultimately, this movie fails as a film. It is not really that same art-form. As a resource, something to supplement Scripture or introduce people to the Biblical texts it is great. Especially taken in small segments. But audiences will probably have a hard time sitting through the two and a half hour running time.

While we are at it, this is a problem for all cinematic retellings of Scripture, isn’t it? The better realized dramatic efforts distort the text, or run the risk of interpreting a lot of things that are not spelled out. And efforts like this one fail to be an engaging, visual story. There is something special about the written word. I think special revelation is ultimately only communicated through the text, written or read. At least this project has that, just clouded with visuals.

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