“Son of God”
As a practicing believer, I think every
Christian should see this film. There.
I’ve said it. I’m a
shameless shill for this movie, because as a pulpit preacher with a limited
audience, I think this has the opportunity to reach so many more people than
we ministers ever could on Sunday mornings.
Now, as an ordained PCUSA clergyperson,
and a lifelong student of the Bible, I’m aware that the editorial decisions
here are legion. This movie does not
attempt to do something as literal as follow one Gospel all the way through.
They pick and choose Gospel narratives, and sometimes conflate, and
other times just make it up. But it’s
unabashedly from the point of view of a believer, and unreservedly
“preaches” Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.
So, it should be enthusiastically embraced by churches despite its
Yes, if they were going to tell it from
the perspective of the apostle John, looking back on events from his solitary
perch on the
, it seems like they missed an opportunity to tell the story strictly from his
point of view. But the makers of this
film choose not to do it that way. They
include a birth narrative (but not what preceded it).
They then fast-forward to the calling of Peter, which is re-fashioned a
bit, but still impressive in the re-telling. The
character of Jesus is played by the veteran Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado,
and thankfully, his portrayal successfully walks some very fine lines.
He’s not too pretty, he’s not too smarmy, he’s not too smiley,
he’s not too pompous----He seems both real and approachable but also
obviously charismatic, and, at times, impulsively emotional.
Morgado somehow appears to convey the compelling sense of personal
presence that the historical Jesus must have had, and yet, there is also
something enigmatic, even mysterious, about this unknown itinerant from
who “changes the world” (they have Jesus saying this to invite Peter,
which of course is not exactly Biblically accurate, but perhaps acceptable
It’s not completely fair to judge any
film adaptation of the life of Jesus on what they leave out----because they
can’t really include it all, anyway. However,
some omissions are glaring, like the temptation scene, for example.
It appears that they had an unforeseen difficulty here.
They in fact tried to film this sequence, but the person they chose as
the actor to play The Devil had, in the opinion of many viewers, an
unmistakable resemblance to the current President of the
. So they reluctantly cut those scenes
from the final version of the film.
And yes, as a critic, it’s difficult
not to focus on those things which are needlessly bothersome, like the hokey
shots of the scale model of Jerusalem, or the way-too-many shots of the
weeping face of Mary on the Via Dolorosa (OK, the actress who played that
part, Roma Downey, is the wife of the Producer, Mark Bennett, so we understand
that she would get her screen time). They
make up stuff about the cruelty of the Romans, but probably are accurate in
conveying the antipathy of the populace toward their foreign occupiers.
But they do some things right, also: like
the inspiring scene of the calling of Matthew, and the woman caught in
adultery, and the feeding of the multitude.
Is it suitable for children?
Well, the crucifixion scene is real (though the personal violence is
not quite as insufferably egregious as in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the
Christ”). But I would still want my
elementary-school-aged grandchildren to see it.
And everyone else in the family, too. For
the believer, this one is a “must see.”
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St.
Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,