JESUS OF NAZARETH
I've heard for a long time that this miniseries by Franco Zeffirelli tops all others. I'm a sucker for anything that comes fairly close to conveying the feeling of the Gospels, as witness my fondness for Godspell (yes, you heard me right). So when a dear friend found out I had never seen Zeffirelli's classic she bought it for me (so thoughtful and sweet!).
It has taken me quite a while to get the time to begin working my way through it but we're probably about halfway through now. The thing that truly amazes me is that this probably is the best Jesus movie I've ever seen, however, so far, this is just about the worst portrayal of Jesus ever. He is like an otherworldly statue floating through the scenes. Only occasionally will he seem to have the humanity that must have been there. When Robert Powell really lets loose and gives an actual full smile (instead a twitch of one side of his mouth) or gets down telling a good parable then he is believable. In fact, the way he did the "Get thee behind me, Satan" scene was truly insightful in how Jesus might have been addressing Satan and his own temptations rather than poor Peter (once again, as our deacon likes to say, a "duh"sciple). The rest of the time, though, we wonder how anyone could relate to him.
The beauty of this movie comes from all the fabulous portrayals of everyone else, from Herod and his wife, Michael York's wild-eyed John the Baptist, Peter's depth of feelings, Mary Magdalene's deep and passionate sorrow for her sins, and more. Adding a bit of back story to most of these helps to understand their motivations and in several instances has given me a different view of the gospels that has helped clarify the human logic behind things. And the fact that everything else is so well done makes me able to take the less than glorious portray of Jesus in his humanity ... to the point where so far I am willing to agree this might be the best Jesus movie to date.
Now, if only we could have had a Jesus with Jim Caviezel's portray combined with this movie ... what an unbelievable masterpiece that would have been!