Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Portrayal of Jesus

Jim Caviezel as Jesus Christ in The Passion of The Christ (2004)
     I always love a good well written, well directed and above all, well acted Bible movie. From The Prince of Egypt to The Nativity and most recently The Bible mini-series that premiered in March and took the whole world (including my usually skeptical family) by storm.

     While I was watching the ending of The Bible I came upon the realization that in the last several years there have been several wonderful portrayals of Jesus Christ in recent films, The Passion of The Christ, The Gospel of John, and The Bible, all of which I love, but are very different and give a varying perspective the personality and character of Jesus Christ.

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The Passion of The Christ (2004)

Played by Jim Caviezel

Jim Caviezel in The Passion of The Christ (2004)
Portrayal: Truly Passionate

     I'm just going to say it right now, I do not like this film. It was well done and wonderfully acted, but trying to get through this historical bloodbath can be difficult and hard to handle and if I'm a coward for saying so, then I'm not sorry. I remember vividly when this movie came out because of the controversy that is stirred throughout Hollywood (that didn't understand the story at all and painted it as anti-Semitic propaganda) and even through churches. 

     That being said, Mel Gibson's casting of Jim Caviezel (who is a rather extraordinary person to begin with) to take on the role of the crucified savior was nothing short of heaven sent. As a matter of fact the movie should have been dubbed "The Passion of Jim Caviezel's acting." Not only did he have to learn traditional Aramaic for the role, but was made to to take on the most crucial historical death in history, which he did in agonizing passion.

     The only downer in this part is that we only see Jesus in one part of his life, which would actually be his death. So it can be hard to compare Jim Caviezel's Jesus to other portrayal's when there wasn't much else of his life shown. Besides his death, we got glimpses of his life as a carpenter and then at the Last Supper, but that was it. Yet, if there was ever a time when Jesus needed to be portrayed at his most crucial, it would be his crucifixion.

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The Gospel of John (2003)

Played by Henry Ian Cusick

Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus Christ in The Gospel of John (2003)
Portrayal: Fiery, Fierce and Unafraid

     This movie came out a few months before The Passion of The Christ so sadly it was overlooked in lieu of Mel Gibson's controversial blockbuster. The movie is exactly what the title indicates, the entire Gospel of John quoted word for word from either the narrator (Christopher Plummer) or the actors themselves. It's an interesting concept when you combine the actual words with acting and therefore you get a better understanding of the words themselves.

     Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond Hume from LOST) played a remarkable charismatic Jesus. Most of the time Jesus is seen as an ordinary everyday man, who could easily get lost in the crowd...that is until he opens his mouth. He turns from ordinary to strangely extraordinary with his powerful words and miracles. Some people are amazed while others are left in complete disgust. Jesus gives no regard to what people may or may not think about him, he's opinionated and out spoken, and even his own disciples and family don't know what to make of him sometimes.

     This was about the most fiery portrayal of Jesus I have ever seen. Usually Jesus is played as quiet and soft spoken, but Henry Ian Cusick's Jesus was hardly that.  Not to say that there weren't times when Jesus was generous and kind, most of the film he is that way toward his followers, but his anger comes out toward the pharisees and sadducees who seek to undermine everything he tries to teach. There was a wonderful fierceness about him that I had never seen before and it was great to actually see a Jesus as a lion and not always as a lamb.

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The Bible (2013 mini-series)

Played by Diogo Morgado

Portrayal: God Incarnate

      By the time we got to Jesus Christ in The Bible mini-series, we had already been introduced and entertained by a great list  Old Testament characters, from Abraham to Daniel (and some not so well loved characters). Of course anyone who knows their Bible knows that the whole Old Testament is the prologue for Jesus' arrival, so as you can imagine, he really is the most anticipated character in the whole series!

     When Diogo Morgado (a well known Portuguese actor) walked on to the screen, you had the immediate feeling that this man wasn't just playing Jesus. Any well brought up Christian will tell you that Jesus was the Son of God and Son of Man, he was God in human form and that is what Diogo Morgado played, complete God incarnate. When you looked at him you could tell that this was no ordinary man, that this man was different, that there was so much more to him. Diogo's portrayal as God on earth was beautiful and rich, from the way he moved, to the way he talked, even the way he seemed to be saying so much without saying a word.

     Diogo's role as Jesus is truly what made The Bible such a successful piece of work. One element that I was glad they added was the incorporation of Jesus in the Old Testament (which is recorded several times in the Bible) and if you look and listen close enough you can very well realize that it is the same actor in both the Old and New Testament segments playing the same role. A brilliant move on the filmmakers part as a way of telling the audience that Jesus has been here since the beginning and that he will always be here till the very end.

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  1. I have not seen the "Passion of the Christ" since 2004 so I cannot put much input about Caviezel's portrayal.

    I need to watch The Gospel of John. From what you have said, it seems more accurate.

    As for Diogo Morgado'a portrayal, there were things that I did not like about his portrayal.
    Diogo was too soft spoken during parts where he needed to be angry, and he looked too much like a model. Overall though, the Bible miniseries did a good job of portraying the New Testament.

    Great post, very well done.


  2. I saw "The Passion of the Christ" several years ago and wept through the last half of it. Jim Caviezel did an excellent job portraying the Lord. I haven't seen the other two films, though I did hear "The Bible" was a very good adaptation.

    P.S. I tagged you over at my blog :)

  3. Nifty idea for a blog post! Thoughtful and intriguing. I now really want to see "The Gospel of John," thanks to you :-) I saw "The Passion of the Christ" in the theater and then once on DVD, and it's very powerful, but not something I can watch often. Very convicting and convincing.

  4. If you haven't seen Henry Ian Cusick in the "Gospel of John" . . . you've missed the best. He plays it with the grace, love and the power of Heaven that emanated from Jesus. And—it is word-for-word the Gospel of John, not some script with a fusion of stories. The music is haunting, the film powerful. I've given somewhere around 60 or much more of these DVDs out as gifts and witnesses of G-d's might and everlasting love.


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