The Gospel of John

Posted on November 13, 2003 at 5:47 am

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Wine
Violence/ Scariness: Graphic depiction of crucifixion
Diversity Issues: Traditional western portrayal of characters
Date Released to Theaters: 2003

“The Gospel of John” is a reverent, moving, and dignified depiction of the life of Christ as described in the New Testament. It is a literal re-telling, actually a recitation of the Gospel, word for word, a “faithful representation,” in its own terms. The entire text, as translated by the Good News Bible, is read aloud as it is enacted.

The production design is superb, reflecting careful research and a dedication to historical authenticity. The movie was filmed in a desert area in Spain that has changed very little since ancient times. The miracles are portrayed simply and without any flashy special effects. The narration is well handled by Canadian actor Christopher Plummer. But the heart of the movie is, as it should be, the character of Jesus, exceptionally well-played by British stage actor Henry Ian Cusick. He has the presence to convey Jesus as portrayed in the Gospel of John, loving but sometimes troubled. Cusick’s eyes convey a warmth, wisdom, and sadness that add a great deal to the story. Steven Russell is also very fine as Pontius Pilate.

Parents should know that the movie has vivid depictions of the crucifixion, including bloody wounds. Jesus is whipped, beaten, and stabbed. The legs of the men crucified with him are broken. The movie opens with a brief statement designed to ward off any concerns about anti-Semitism, but some viewers may believe that the portrayal of the “Jewish authorities” is biased.

Families who see this movie should talk about the lessons Jesus tried to teach his followers and how this Gospel differs from the others.

Families who appreciate this movie will also enjoy the Visual Bible series. They might like to compare this to other movies about Jesus, like King of Kings or Ben Hur. They might also like to compare this to a lovely Italian movie, The Gospel According to Matthew.

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