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Holy Bible goes Gladiator!
on 4 December 2014
How do you go about turning the Bible into an `epic miniseries'? How do you translate the greatest story ever told onto the small screen?
The producers must have known what a mammoth task they were undertaking. The result is a cross between a children's illustrated bible and Gladiator. We are reminded that the Bible is not pretty. Blood and butchery combine awkwardly with beautifully-filmed lush backdrops, and for good measure, there's a wooden script and some camp overacting. Nevertheless, one can but marvel at the achievement of the film-makers and the unending power of the original texts.
When selecting which parts of the Bible to use in 12 one-hour-long films, something had to give. Notable by their absence: the writing on the wall from the Old Testament, and from the life of Jesus: the presentation in the temple as a child and Jesus getting lost in the temple. The death of John the Baptist is mentioned though the circumstances behind it are somewhat glossed over.
Despite the stirring music and rolling landscapes, this is not a watered-down nor bedtime-reading version. Sacrifice, war, and man's inhumanity to man are common themes. Nevertheless, many questions are thrown up: was Jesus destined to die? Was it as the result of Judas' betrayal or John the Baptist's publicity that things ended the way they did?
Notable by their gigantic on-screen presence: Samson, in a particularly memorable performance, and Jesus himself: brown and Middle Eastern as a toddler, fair-skinned and somewhat clichéd as Christ himself, complete with an air of mystery, a foreign accent, and a mystical take on all things.
The stories included from the Old Testament include the majority of what Abraham and Moses did for the Jews, and a powerful re-enactment of the sacrifice of Isaac, the destruction of Sodom, and the parting of the Red Sea, all skilfully handled. Also on the disc are stories from the time of Joshua, Samuel, Jeremiah, Saul, King David, Samson and Delilah, Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel and the lions. The New Testament presents a particularly repulsive Herod ordering the slaughter of the innocents, and Pontius Pilate is shown in a fairly bad light, as a ruthless thug with little sympathy shown in his character, and every inch the pantomime villain.
Some of the in-your-face- violence means you need to be selective in which bits you show younger children though I doubt that many will feel that `The Bible' is too adult in its take on the world's most famous book (or collection of books). It is a colossal achievement, despite its unavoidable shortcomings, and a worthy five-star recipient. The Blu-Ray discs are rich in detail and colour.