Originally posted Oct 21, 2009
Jesus of Nazareth miniseries
Jesus of Nazareth (Italian: Gesù di Nazareth) is a 1977 British-Italian television miniseries co-written (with Anthony Burgess and Suso Cecchi d’Amico) and directed by Franco Zeffirelli which dramatizes the birth, life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus largely according the Christian Bible’s New Testament Gospels. It was filmed in Tunisia, Morocco, and Mexico and was produced by Lew Grade and Vincenzo Labella on a budget of an estimated US$12 million to $18 million.
The film stars Robert Powell as Jesus. The large cast of co-stars includes Anne Bancroft, Ernest Borgnine, James Farentino, Ian Holm, Olivia Hussey, James Earl Jones, Stacy Keach, James Mason, Ian McShane, Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasence, Christopher Plummer, Anthony Quinn, Fernando Rey, Ralph Richardson, Rod Steiger, Peter Ustinov, and Michael York.
The storyline of Jesus of Nazareth is a kind of cinematic Diatessaron, or “Gospel harmony”, blending the narratives of all four New Testament accounts. It takes a fairly naturalistic approach, de-emphasizing special effects when miracles are depicted and presenting Jesus as more or less evenly divine and human. The familiar Christian episodes are presented chronologically: the betrothal, and later marriage, of Mary and Joseph; the Annunciation; the Visitation; the circumcision of John the Baptist; the Nativity of Jesus; the visit of the Magi; the circumcision of Jesus; the Census of Quirinius; the flight into Egypt and Slaughter of the Innocents; the Finding in the Temple; the Baptism of Jesus; the woman caught in adultery; Jesus helping Peter catch the fish; the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32); a dialogue between Jesus and Barabbas (non-biblical); Matthew’s dinner party; the Sermon on the Mount; debating with Joseph of Arimathea; the curing of the blind man at the pool; the Raising of Lazarus (John 11:43); the Feeding of the Five Thousand; the Entry into Jerusalem; Jesus and the money changers; the Last Supper; the betrayal of Jesus by Judas; Peter denying Christ and repenting of it; the judgment of Jesus by Pilate (“Ecce Homo”); the Johannine Passion Narrative (John 18-19; including the Agony in the Garden); the Carrying of the Cross; the Crucifixion of Christ (Laurence Olivier’s Nicodemus recites the “Suffering Servant” passage [Isaiah’ 53:3-5] as he looks helplessly on the crucified Messiah); the discovery of the empty tomb; and an appearance of the Risen Christ to his Disciples. The film’s storyline concludes with the non-Biblical character Zerah and his colleagues gazing despairingly into the empty tomb. Zerah’s laments: “Now it begins. It all begins”.