Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Beeb's Passion

I've just finished watching the final episode of The Passion on BBC One. It's been a great little series, the recreation of ancient Jerusalem felt particularly convincing (of course how would I know what ancient Jerusalem looked like!). The emphasis on the three way power struggle was a great angle on the story, particularly the Caiaphas character. I loved the tension between the protectors of the present order, Pilate representing the political and military might of Rome and Caiaphas representing the religious and cultural establishment of the Jewish homeland, both under threat by the stranger from Galilee who speaks of a new way and a new world. It reminded me again of the contagious revolutionary DNA Jesus carried.
But today is Easter Sunday, and ever since the first episode I've been feeling that this series would ultimately stand or fall by how well the resurrection was rendered. So what do I think? Well hey, a damn sight better than Jesus Christ Superstar which doesn't even include the resurrection, and I hesitate to say, even better than Mel Gibson's version with it's short but very sweet resurrection moment from inside the tomb looking out. Even so, it was still a tad underwhelming. The producer, Nigel Stafford-Clark, references Mark's gospel as his key source which may well be the problem, it's probably the least potent of the four resurrection accounts. If only he'd taken a broader creative approach the scenes could've been so much stronger, even simple touches like the location and the lighting would've helped as the dusty old hillside he used just had zero atmosphere. However, what saved it for me was the inclusion of the Emmaus road encounter (albeit with James and Matthew). I did find it genuinely moving to see their reaction as the guy they're eating with starts to break bread and then reveals his true face before their eyes.

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Anonymous said...

But didnt you think that a lot of bits where unbiblical?
Did Mary really put Jesus down like that?
Did the disciples really draw swords when jesus turned the tables?
etc etc

Matt Wilson said...

I think I'd use the word 'extra-biblical' rather than 'unbiblical' - i.e. some of the content whilst not to be found in scripture was largely consistent with what we might expect given what we know historically and culturally. 'Unbiblical' is a term generally reserved for use when something flies in the face of scripture.
Whenever someone attempts to render any aspect of the biblical story in another art form there will be issues of how accurately the text can be translated through that media. This attempt was clearly a dramatisation inspired by certain aspects of the life and message of Jesus with large chunks missing and other bits added in. As I said in my post it was the stuff left out that bothered me more than the extra stuff written in.
You might want to read 'Jesus Mean and Wild' by Mark Galli to step into a bigger revelation of the gritty reality of Jesus' life and ministry.

Ben said...

I agree. My niggles were to do with what was missed out.
There was nothing supernatural in the whole story apart from the ressurection - but you couldn't really edit that part out! There were no miracles, just teaching and they didn't show the holes in his hands and feet and he didn't ascend into heaven, he disappeared into a Jerusalem crowd to go and live his life elsewhere presumably, and no angels at the tomb. It was a very humanistic portrayal of Jesus and his message.
This story also missed some deep symbolic parts of the story such as Mary mistaking Jesus as the Gardener and Jesus saying "It is finished" and the crowds mocking him on the cross and the soldiers gambling for his clothes.
That said, I did enjoy watching the story being told in a new way.