Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
OK, if you are a biblical purist this musical is not for you. This Bible movie concentrates more on dreams and feelings than of an accurate and literate re-telling of the story. Nevertheless, set in a school and guided by a narrator, the story follows the biblical outline. The story in short (You can read the detailed story in the bible, Genesis 30, 22 and following):
Joseph is the youngest son of Jacob and has 11 brothers. He receives a beautiful coat from his father, something that causes increased jealousy in his brothers. His brothers fake his dead and sell him as a slave to Egypt, where Joseph quickly rises to become viceroy. As his family suffers under a famine, his brothers decide to go to Egypt and to beg there for food where they meet their brother. The whole family decides to settle in Egypt and they become the forefathers of the people that Moses later let into freedom (see movie review above).
This musical was written by the team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, but its origins go back to 1968 and to the story of “The Coat of many Colors" that was first performed as a 15-minute pop cantata at a school in London. Over time it developed into the 80 min musical we know and love today. There is very little speaking, but a lot of singing involved in the story. Historical correct costumes and habits are surely not a forte of the movie, but remember that this is meant to be an entertaining bible-story-based musical, not an accurate report. One thing what this bible movie does well is that everybody that has seen it only ones will remember the story of Joseph, his wonderful coat and his family ;-)
Suitable for: It is family friendly and suitable for all ages, the only disadvantage this musical might have is that you find yourself, and your whole family, humming the tunes for weeks on end.
Book of Ruth
Claimed to be the most accurate rendering of the biblical text, this modern movie (2010) certainly does the short old testament book justice. Following the story line of a woman that follows her mother-in-law to an unknown country and finds a new life, love and faith there the film is 'sugarfree' unlike so many older adaptions of the book of Ruth. Ruth, the foreigner became so the ancestor to famous historical figures as David, Solomon and Jesus.
Suitable for: All ages, but I guess that this film will more appeal to romantic girls and women than to tough boys and men ;-)
The star of Bethlehem
If you are like me and believe that
events described in the bible are passed an events that have actually
occurred then you will enjoy this film that tries to answer one
question: 'What was the Star of Bethlehem really?' The bible tells us
that some magi were guided by a star to the place Jesus was born.
Over the centuries many theories have been formulated about how this
could have been occurred. The answer given in this film might
surprise everybody that believes in a kind of 'carrot in lantern
form' that dangled in front of the magi, instead it takes a good look
on what people belived and acted upon in the time Jesus was born. If
you believe the findings in this video or not is completely up to,
always remember, God gave us a brain in order to use it! Suitable for: All ages, but might be a bit too technical for small children.
A very different, and unofficial, trailer...
Jesus Christ Superstar
hen this musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber was first performed, and especially when its film adaption was released in 1973, it caused quite a stir. True to the tradition of musicals it consists only of pictures and songs, no spoken word whatsoever is uttered in it. The movie was shot in Israel and other Middle East locations to give it that extra ambiance. The story is basically along the biblical story line as told in the gospel of St. John, but puts more weight in the relationship and interaction between Judas Iscariot and Jesus then in the others. The musicals starts with the preparations of Jesus and his disciples to go to Jerusalem for the Passah feast and ends with Jesus' dead on the cross. No mentioning of his resurrection is ever made, but it is also not excluded. The language is contemporary, something that has over the years, offended quite some traditional Christians whilst opening up the greatest story ever told to people on the fringe and outside church.
Suitable for: Released for the general audience, I still think the trial and crucifixion scenes require some parental supervision and guidance to make sure that children understand that, yes, the events took place two thousand years ago, but the actor they see now has never been harmed in any way. Suitable for: This musical makes a great 'kick-off' for discussions with people that normally don't go to church ;-) So much easier to invite somebody to the movies then to church!
Trailer, music only
The Gospel of John
Like the bible musical reviewed before, this bible movie is based on the gospel of St. John, hence the title ;-) It is a new testament based movie that tells the story of Jesus Christ as recorded by St. John the Evangelist. The real special thing about it is that this motion picture follows the gospel text precisely, on a word to word basis. Nothing has been added and nothing has been omitted. Another special feature of it is, that theological and history consultants were present during the production, making sure that historical accuracy and theological scholarship were observed. Watching this film immerses you directly into the culture and habits of the time of Jesus as it was – to our best knowledge. The movie is an as close recreation of the Israel Jesus lived in as it is humanly possible. Rated PG-13, it is a great bible film to see with the whole family, provided everybody is at least 13 or at least has the mental age of a 13 year old or above ;-) It is also a great movie to watch with interested friends that normally don't frequent Christian events like church. The aesthetically and literature quality of this bible movie is so high that it will engage even the most critical mind. The movie was filmed using unknown actors and narrators. Using only the two thousand year old words to illustrate the pictures without adding anything makes for a powerful performance, sometimes less is more. No matter if you believe that Jesus was the son of God and resurrected after his crucifixion or not, the power of this story will not leave you untouched.
Suitable for: 13 years + and makes a nice starting point for discussion about the historical Jesus.
The story is based on the figure of Barabbas (which translates to 'son of the father') as mentioned in the four gospels. Whilst the evangelists don't mention anything what happened to him after he is released, this film resources to traditions and legends to weave an engaging tale of what could have happened. The story starts when Pontius Pilate, following an old tradition, releases one of two prisoners, asking the crowd for their opinion, they select Barabbas to be released, instead of Jesus. Here ends the story in the New testament, Barabbas disappears from the biblical records, the film spins the tale further. Barrabas, a known revolutionary, returns to his friends and girlfriend, only to discover that his girlfriend has become a Christian meanwhile. She, Rachel, is shortly later stoned for the crime of teaching the gospel in the streets. Barrabas kills one of her murderers and gets condemned for this to work in the mines of Sicily. Later events, an earthquake included, lead him to rome where he is trained as a gladiator. In the roman catacombs he meets the apostle St. Peter who explains to him the story of Jesus Christ, shortly after Barrabas becomes a Christian and dies on the cross.
Suitable for: Pretty much all age groups, perhaps the very young excluded. Anthony Quinn makes for a rough Barabbas and the story is engaging, if also completely invented.
Another film that is based more on tradition and on creativity than on biblical evidence. An epic film about the events that followed the crucifixion. It is the story of the Roman officer that commanded the unit that crucified Jesus, he is played by no other than Richard Burton and circlers around one question: 'What happened to the Roman soldier who won Jesus' robe through a dice game under the cross?' and what happened to the robe? Marcellus (Richard Burton) is haunted by the events of the crucifixion and becomes more and more mad. Tiberius orders him to go back to Israel and to investigate this new sect called 'Christians'. Here he meets St. Peter and teh Christian that guards the robe. The encounter of the three leads to Marcellus conversion to Christianity and to his becoming a missionary on Peters site and traveling back to Rome. And obviously, in good old Hollywood tradition, there is also a love story intertwined in it.
It is a nice movie, but especially dyed in the wool protestants might have a problem with the miraculous nature of the robe. Suitable for: All ages and everybody that isn't too narrow minded, but enjoys a good movie.
An epic film that won a record of eleven Academy Awards (Oscars). Condemned for a crime he has not committed, the young, Jewish prince Ben Hur is send to the galleys, passing through Nazareth on his way to the ships with other prisoners he is given water by a carpenter called Jesus. Ben Hur arrives at his destiny as a galley slave and starts his sentence. Several years later he manages to escape during a battle and, because of saving an officers life, is granted freedom and adopted by the Roman officer he saved. He becomes a champion charioteer, but decides later to go back to his old home country where he finds both, his mother and his sister leaving in a leper village. Witnessing the crucifixion all three of them convert to Christianity and the women are healed. Famous for its chariot race, the film is well worth seeing and one of the better examples of how fiction and bible have been mixed with a good result. Suitable for: All ages.
Omar Sharif plays St. Peter in this modern adaption of the story of the apostle Peter. Not everything is enacted as the gospels tell the story, but the film keeps the overlaying intention of the story intact. It tells basically St. Peters story to faith and his journeys dedicated to spread the good news. Another apostle that plays quite a role in the movie is St. Paul, especially his conversion on the road to Damascus. The overtone of the film might be just a bit more 'Catholic' then some protestant Puritans might like, but basically stays faithful to the New Testament story line. Is it recommendable? Not if you are looking for an accurate 'study bible movie', but if you like a great movie and a great actor, then this one is for you. Suitable for: Rated as PG-13, that means parental guidance is suggested.
The Visual Bible's Matthew and Acts
As close to a study bible as any movie can get, the films of the 'Visual Bible' series are all following the same pattern: They take their text word-for-word from the NIV (New International Version) translation of the bible. Their goal is to put the whole bible onto 'celluloid' using only the text of scripture without any additions to tell the story. The Matthew edition has been filmed in North Africa as well as in South Africa, using thousands of actors and extras to breath live into the story. They show the chapter and verse in a corner of the screen, making it easy to follow along with your on bible. They are great movies to use with study groups or even in Sunday school as the pictures give a new, fresh angle to the two thousand years old text and really make the biblical figures come alive. This applies especially to Jesus who is shown as a happy person that loves and jokes with his friends as well as showing pain and suffering.
The book of Acts is as historical correct as the gospel film and pays great attention to the details in order to recreate the world of the first Christians. A very nice touch is using Luke as a narrator to the story. Suitable for: All ages, especially great for study groups. If you plan to show it to children, make sure to revise the scenes beforehand, especially the ones that depict the crucifixion.
Thank You for reading
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