Jesus on Film, part 2 – Which Ones Have Lasted?

Holy Movies

Following on from our post about what cinematic version of Jesus’ life would be good to watch during Lent – as Holy Week offers a great opportunity to catch up on ones you haven’t seen – we want to talk about a few of the other representations, which have not really stood the test of time.

By way of contrast with the ones we will look at, it is interesting to see how close Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004) and Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth (1977) come to conveying some sense of the man of sorrows we heard about in the Gospel read yesterday on Passion Sunday.

Offering a “different” Jesus

There are however some films that purport to offer insight into the life of Christ but misunderstand him. The great American director Martin Scorsese tried his hand with The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) a film that showed Christ as someone burdened with a mission that he does not fully understand and when on the cross has temptations better not mentioned here.

The sometimes annoyingly catchy musical Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) showed Jesus as a soft-focus hippy and is, as the USCCB film website puts it, simply “naive”. There are other films about the life of Christ which follow this approach, such as Jesus of Montreal (1990) by Denys Arcand, which updates the passion to modern-day Quebec: interesting though it is, it could be troubling for some.

Which versions have real staying power?

What is striking to see is how the films that stay closer to the gospel texts ring truer and remain fresher than the films that try to offer “new” insight into the life of Christ and, seen today, feel dated and irrelevant.

These thoughts support what Pope Benedict writes in his books on Jesus of Nazareth, that it is really the Jesus of the Gospels who is the most interesting and convincing.

We would love to hear your thoughts on these or any other films which touch on this subject – leave your comments below.

Of related interest:

Do840 Jesus of Nazareth – Holy Week –
WHO IS JESUS? Many modern scholars have tried to reinterpret him as a myth, a political revolutionary, a prophet whose teaching was distorted by his followers. In short, anything other than the traditional Christian understanding of him as the Messiah, the Son of God.
B737 Light of The World – Never has a Pope, in a book-length interview, dealt so directly with such wide-ranging and controversial issues as Pope Benedict XVI does in Light of the World.
3782 Jesus of Nazareth Volume 1 – A luminous work by the Pope, now available in paperback, which presents in a fresh and inspiring way the person of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man.
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