For many years, hopeless sinners all over the world have been receiving free copies of "The Jesus Video." I must have done something really awful, because I got two of them.
The first of the complimentary videos was mailed to my mom's house in Orlando when I just happened to be visiting for Christmas. It came in a loud, colorful box with enthusiastic blurbs from such spiritual authorities as Larry King and David Copperfield: "The miracles of the Bible are beyond anything a magician or an illusionist can perform." Thanks a bunch, David. How's Claudia?
The Second Coming, if you will, arrived at my apartment here in Austin a couple months later. Same video—this time in a black box adorned by several shots from the movie and enthusiastic blurbs from Time Magazine and Billy Graham. It pointed out that "No other film has been seen by more than one billion people, translated into 425 languages and shown in more than 225 countries."
I wondered where the Christians, who are so incredibly busy spending their precious last dimes feeding the poor and housing the homeless and funding cancer research and protecting the environment and fighting nuclear-arms proliferation and developing inner-city schools, got the money to distribute these videos all across the world. I mean, it's tough enough to buy a movie for under 20 bucks these days.
I found part of the answer on the plastic wrap of both cassettes, which read: "Assembled in Mexico."
According to the narrator's introduction, this movie (entitled, simply, Jesus) provides "the absolute truth about everything." Impressive for an 83-minute video made around the time the Bee Gees were en vogue.
Jesus, which claims to be a documentary, opens with a passage from the book of John (3:16, of course) but is based entirely on the Gospel of Luke. It tries to follow the Word as closely as possible.
Warner Brothers released this movie, and on the Austin box, Time Magazine (run by the same pockets as Warner Bros) praised its "meticulous attention to authenticity..."
The fact that the corporation elected itself an authority on events of 2000 years ago is comical enough, but what's even more funny is the material to which they are attributing verisimilitude.
If this movie is in fact the "authentic" documentary that it congratulates itself for being, then it turns out Jesus and his disciples were white. Not only that, but Jesus had a striking British accent.
Jesus also was very GQ for his era. He wore brighter colors than his contemporaries and was much better groomed. And remarkably enough, he had a gleaming light shining down on his forehead and following him around wherever he proselytized.
The Holy Land of Jesus' time was shockingly similar to those figment Disney worlds where all the good people are beautiful and all the ugly people are damned.
The ungroomed, dirty people of Jesus' time had obviously seen plenty of Disney movies, because they were, it seems, desperate for a savior. And despite the fact that the Jesus of this film doesn't say much of force or interest and fails to provide any emotional presence, they all seem pretty convinced he's their man.
However, Fresh Face Jesus doesn't seem so positive that he's the son of God. After all, he keeps talking to God. Which means he's either crazy, or, well, not God...
I did a little research on the people who put together this heavenly mise en scene—
The Director of the most popular film in the history of the world is named John Krish. His previous film was titled, fittingly enough: The Man Who Had Power Over Women.
The Producer, John Heyman, was somewhat of a lightweight at the time. His previous film had also covered a powerful man. It was called Hitler: The Last Ten Days. Heyman went on to make A Passage to India and D.A.R.Y.L. Not too shabby.
Yet, neither can be blamed for the embarassingly bland portrayal of Jesus that is distributed all across this planet, because they didn't really make it. The original version was actually 117 minutes long. The version "over one billion people" got is only 83 minutes. A lot of material (I'm guessing the parts that might stimulate thoughts) was obviously chopped...
There is one precious shot in the film, and that is: one of the furious anti-Jesus conspirators walks into a room, and two small flames in the background make it look as though he has firey Devil horns. I hit rewind for that. A couple of times.
Oddly enough, everyone in the movie speaks English, yet when Jesus is being crucified, the sign they nail above his head is written in another language. What's up with that?
Essentially, the Jesus movie consists of nothing more than a pretty-boy Shakespearean with a prominent forehead wandering aimlessly around Israel and muttering half-heartedly about eternity while a bunch of people with disheveled hair act as if they are in awe of his prowess.
It's boring and thoughtless. It's a mockery and an insult to the depth of Jesus Christ. I'm tired of talking about it. The distributors have a website in which they brag about the effectiveness of their propaganda in the Bible belt. But really their only good page—the only "authentic" page—is this one.