A film depicting the life and times of Jesus Christ is if I may say, pronounced to draw comparisons with previously documented visual representations. Produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, the film is an adaptation of the 2013 television miniseries The Bible produced by the couple. A ten-hour narration cut to a three-hour feature film runs the risk of being factually ambiguous and incomplete. However, Son of God, directed by Christopher Spencer is well laid-out. The screenplay is backed with a voice-over and subsequent titling to let the viewer learn about the birth of Jesus, his time on Earth with his followers, the crucifixion and the resurrection.
Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ and even the 1973 film Jesus Christ Superstar have been some of cinema’s most-popular tributes. Son of God is the new entrant which is not only about the crucifixion of the messiah but His life before and after the mournful day.
The film opens with lines from the Gospel of John with visuals that beautifully show how God created Earth, sky, mankind, flora and fauna. Noah’s ark, the floods and Adam & Eve lend supporting charisma to the surrealistic montage in the beginning. This film will be received by two kinds of audience, one that know the Bible and other for whom the life of Jesus Christ is unfamiliar. It might be less appealing if you have already seen the History channel series, but for the rest, the film is certainly an experience worth investing in.
Virgin Mary is blessed to carry a child in her womb. Joseph and Mother Mary after travelling miles from Galilee reach Bethlehem where her child is born. Years later, Jesus returns to Galilee to spread the message of God and he seeks followers to do so. In his attempt to make his presence evident, he makes miraculous things happen to which the people of Galilee react and start believing in the arrival of the Son of God which has been hinted in the scriptures. Portions in the film make these acts look like naïve magic tricks more than letting the viewer reckon spiritual connection. Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado plays adult Jesus Christ whose appearance with make-up and perfectly chosen costumes work in his favor for 170-minutes.
Jesus over time builds a following and the Jewish leaders sense the popularity of the newly-arrived Prophet among the people of Israel. Caiaphas, the head of Jewish religious leaders charge him of blasphemy since he is forgiving sins which only God can do. The events are shown to unfold a week before the Passover to Jerusalem where thousands of Jews travel to visit the Holy temple. Jerusalem, that is dominated by the oppressive Romans is headed by Pontius Pilate. Caiaphas senses trouble due to the agitation among his people against the Romans which, according to him can further elevate due to the self-proclaimed ‘Son of God’. Since the Passover might be hindered if Pilate decides to shut the temple, Caiaphas announces, "Jesus must be stopped".
Throughout the film, Diogo has visions of him being betrayed by a disciple and tortured to death. During a meal with his disciples, Jesus declares it as ‘The Last Supper’ soon after which he is arrested by Caiaphas’s men and charged with blasphemy. Thereafter, the story moves to one of the most dreadful events in the history of Christianity, the crucifixion of the Son of God which is followed by the resurrection of the Christ that is discovered first by a close follower Mary Magdalene.
As the film moves to its conclusion, the apostles of Jesus are shown to split ways and travel places to spread the word of their Lord. The last gospel is being written by his follower John whom the men in power fail to kill.
Son of God is nevertheless often a patchwork due to a lack of continuum. The music complements the dramatics and helps the viewer feel various emotions throughout. The CGI used is not up to the mark and could have been worked upon. Christopher Spencer’s vision to retell the incidents that form the life of Jesus is compelling and evokes inquisitiveness to keep watching. Apart from Diogo who performs exceptionally well, the ensemble works to make the film look grand on the big screen.
Why you should watch this film?
I started off by rating 3.5 and later generously lent another half. That is a reason enough which should make you curious. Son of God is neither entirely a documentary, nor designed to be a work of fiction. The makers strike a balance between the two and offer to narrate the story of Jesus with a high emotional quotient and accurately listed events from history. Watch it for a rich cinematic experience and learning the happenings through the visual medium.
By Soham Bhattacharyya