Son of God, which opened this weekend, is one more in a line of Jesus Christ movies that Hollywood puts out regularly. Mini Anthikad-Chhibber looks at some of the famous ones
The story of Jesus Christ is a powerful one of faith, rebellion, love, sin and redemption. Historically, it marks the birth of a religion at a time when it looked like the sun would never set on the Roman Empire. There have been quite a few representations of Jesus Christ in the movies, including Shakespearean director Franco Zeffirelli’s 1977 all-star mini-series, with Peter Ustinov as Herod, Laurence Olivier as Nicodemus and Anthony Quinn as Caiaphas. Here is a look at four rather different interpretations of Jesus’ life and work.Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
Based on Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera and Broadway production, the Norman Jewison directed Jesus Christ Superstar is one of the most popular of the lot. The film, with Ted Neeley as Jesus and Carl Anderson as Judas Iscariot, tells the story of the last week of Jesus’ life. The movie is told from Judas’ perspective, portraying him as an idealist unhappy with the direction of Christ’s ministry. The original recording had Deep Purple’s Ian Gillian playing Jesus but Gillian turned down the film offer, saying he preferred to tour. While the lyrics are not the last word in subtle, the music is spectacular, which explains the enduring popularity of the work. The 2012 Arena Tour featuring SMS, social media and former Spice Girl Melanie C as Mary Magdalene is proof that Jesus Christ Superstar rocks.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
In true Monty Python style, Life of Brian is hilarious. From the start, when the wise men go to Brian’s stable by mistake—he is born next door to Jesus—to the beatitudes, where the listeners are quite upset with the special privileges accorded to cheese-makers and Greeks, Life of Brian is a hoot. A super-clever religious parody, the film, directed by Terry Jones, features the Pythons in various roles. Graham Chapman plays the hapless Brian as well as the second Magi. John Cleese is Reg, the leader of People’s Front of Judea, and the first Magi, apart from other random roles; while Michael Palin plays the ex-leprosy patient and Pontius Pilate with the unfortunate speech impairment. Life of Brian
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Directed by Martin Scorsese, this intensely personal portrayal of Jesus is based on Nikos Kazantzakis’s novel, The Last Temptation of Christ (1953). Starring Willem Dafoe as a very human Christ, besieged by doubts, fears and temptations, the deeply moving film also stars Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene, Harvey Keitel as Judas and David Bowie as Pontius Pilate. The film addresses many themes common in Scorsese’s works, including guilt, sin, redemption and doppelgangers. Music, an integral part of Scorsese’s movies, is outstanding in The Last Temptation of Christ. Composed by Peter Gabriel, the soundtrack features artistes from around the globe, including L. Shankar and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson’s ultra-violent recreation of the last twelve hours of Christ’s life on earth is difficult to watch for its graphic torture scenes. Jim Caviezel plays Jesus and Monica Bellucci plays Mary Magdalene. The movie seems to miss the point of the Prince of Peace, by lovingly lingering on torn flesh and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. That the film is in Aramaic seems like a needless affectation.