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Films celebrating Jesus’ life

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–Good Friday and Easter, along with Christmas, are the most significant days of the year for Christians.

With that in mind, I thought I might mention a few movies on DVD that portray the significance of Jesus coming to Earth and His sacrifice for the whole world. You may have heard of most of these. All are worthy of an extra viewing.

— “The Passion of the Christ.” It’s justly rated R for the depiction of the graphic brutality Jesus underwent, and therefore hard to view at times, but director Mel Gibson intended to shock, unnerve and show Christ’s ordeal to the viewer. The filmmaker’s purpose is to detail the final 12 hours of Christ’s life, when mankind was allowed to destroy His human life in order that we might have an eternal one.

— “The Robe.” Based on the Lloyd C. Douglas novel, the film tells the story of a Roman centurion winning Christ’s robe in a dice game. Soon the centurion’s life, and that of his slave, is changed as they discover Jesus to be the Savior of the world. We see Jesus through the use of long shots and camera angles that focus the attention not on an actor portraying Christ, but on the people who came into His presence. This method was effectively used in “Ben Hur” as well, giving both productions a great dignity. Richard Burton was nominated for an Oscar, but Victor Mature steals the picture with a moving performance as the converted slave, Demetrius. The depiction of the early church and the life-changing power of our Lord make this film worth viewing. Unrated, The Robe contains some battle sequences. However, governed by the then Motion Picture Code, the studio presented the adult subject matter with taste and discretion, two words seldom applied to today’s movie-making procedure. A special edition DVD of The Robe recently was released. It contains several special bonus features, including a “making of” featurette and a most interesting commentary track.

— “Jesus of Nazareth” (1977). Franco Zeffirelli’s six-hour TV production is considered by many to be the best film about the Christ. Acclaimed for its thorough biblical and historical research, it’s a compelling spiritual experience with several outstanding performances. Robert Powell heads the all-star cast. My favorite scene features Ernest Borgnine as a Roman soldier who asks Jesus to heal his servant. It is a seminal moment, one that reveals the need for and the power of faith. It is unrated.

— “King of Kings.” Orson Welles’ narration lends authority to this 1961 production, as does the great Miklos Rozsa score. Although we must endure Jeffrey Hunter looking a little too GQ, it is an earnest account, one that depicts Jesus’ life. Beautifully filmed and containing the Sermon on the Mount, this epic was filmed in widescreen. It is unrated.

— “The Miracle Maker”. This is a telling of Christ’s story that little kids will enjoy. It is a full-length feature film first aired on ABC in 2000 and is now on DVD. With the use of claymation and its graphically striking two-dimensional animation, the story presents the life of Jesus through the eyes of a sick little girl who encounters the Christ through different stages of His ministry. It is rated G.
Phil Boatwright reviews films for previewonline.org and is a regular columnist for Baptist Press.

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  • Phil Boatwright