Monday, March 3, 2014

Son of God

Making Scriptures Come Alive
Even If the Story Is Changed
By Jan McClure

Movie Review of
Son of God

Director: Christopher Spencer
Cast: Diogo Morgado, Roma Downey, Sebastian Knapp, Darwin Shaw,
Amber Rose Revah, Greg Hicks, Adrian Schiller


According to Variety.com, Son of God was the second largest revenue-producing film for the weekend, bringing in $26.5 million.

This film has the huge task of condensing the Gospel into 138 minutes, an almost impossible task -- and how do you fit it all in and how do you decide what is the most important? It seems that the solution was to add what the filmmakers felt were important words from Jesus and place them in the film where it seemed appropriate. Overall the story was correct but sometimes Jesus' words were out of sequence.

The movie begins with the Apostle John telling the story; therefore I thought the movie would be from the Book of John. However, this was not the case.

The film begins with Jesus' birth and then jumps to Jesus calling Peter as his first disciple without his brother Andrew. I was disappointed that this is what it uses for the start of the public ministry of Jesus. It was an opportunity to show the role of Mary at the wedding at Cana (as a former Protestant I never really “heard” the importance of this event).

The movie is done in an epic style with much action and drama. There were scenes that brought images to my mind that I hadn’t really thought about before. For example, the stoning of the adulterer really struck me as I realized how frightened she must have been. (Unfortunately, the film left out Jesus writing something in the sand.)

Watching Jesus carry his cross and seeing Mary hold her son after his death were very intense for me. There were many moments when I felt the Holy Spirit was working. A picture really is worth a thousand words. How instrumental art has been in helping us to understand our faith! It also reminded me that the Catholic Church reaches out to us in the different ways we learn. Some of us are auditory learners, some visual, some tactile. Our faith provides all these, and perhaps this movie will reach those who are not being reached in more traditional ways.

I had a wonderful “vision” at Mass the next morning while receiving the Eucharist, which was inspired by the movie. The end of the movie took some liberty in changing what happened on the road to Emmaus. In the Bible, the disciples saw Jesus after breaking the bread with him in Emmaus. In the film however, Peter rushed to the Upper Poom to celebrate the Eucharist because he realized that Jesus would appear in the "Breaking of the Bread".

This was a powerful moment for me, and when I received the Eucharist at Mass the next day, that film image appeared and was almost overwhelming as I received Jesus.

After watching the film, my friend and I kept discussing what was not in the right order, or what line was added to a particular scene, as well as what was left out. The choices of the scriptures used and the order in which they were displayed says more about the directors than it does about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus was often misquoted. There is a disturbing emphasis on being politically correct at the expense of historical truth. They compromised some theological truths for the sake of entertainment. It is a typical example of Hollywood Christianity in which some very important teachings of Christ are ignored.

So, for those that are very familiar with the Bible, this can be made into a fun exercise. I found myself wanting to reread scripture passages, and I realized I wasn’t sure about some of the sequences. This showed me that no matter how many times I think I have read a passage, I need to read it each time with care.

If you see the film, be sure to stay for the credits. They showed parts that were not included in the movie. According to the Miami Herald newspaper, Roma Downey (who played Mary) and her husband Mark Burnett (they are Catholic) co-produced the History Channel’s The Bible series and shot footage for this new movie at the same time, even though they were not sure they would be able to get distribution for a major film. After The Bible series, I saw an interview with them, in which they commented on what a difficult but rewarding task it had been to complete.

You might be interested in reading our review of The Bible series.

The music at the end touched my heart. The song Mary Did You Know was sung by CeeLo Green of The Voice and can be watched on YouTube. The theater we attended was full, and at the end the audience clapped. Although this movie has its flaws, it touched hearts and maybe is even planting some seeds for conversion.



Questions for youth groups, families, and other small group discussions (and we hope you will post a comment below!):
  1. How do you learn the best? Through a film, through reading or listening, music or by participating?
  2. What are ways that Scriptures can come alive for you?
  3. How did this movie change you?

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