• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    A.D. (Anno Domini) - Episode 1

    I've been trying to get a copy of the full version of 1985's AD for four or five years now and having finally got hold of it I'm going to share a few notes as I go. I'll post some details about the DVD a bit later, but for now I want to focus on episode 1 and in particular the parts concerning the trials and triumph of the early church.

    The series actually begins before the start of The Acts of the Apostles" with a story from Luke's first volume, the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24). Cleopas and his companion are quickly joined by Jesus as they hide behind a tree from some Romans. Jesus is rather annoying. He's quite smug and speaks in an Eddie Izzard-esque "Hello, we are the Romans" voice. The incident is shown at some length across several scenes and leading in to Doubting Thomas confession. Thomas's portrayal is even more extreme than it is in most such films. Not only is he a sceptic, but he's also very grumpy.

    Interestingly though there's no ascension scene. Thomas's confession is followed by Jesus' promise of Matt 28:20, and a final dose of bread and wine. The camera pans round the disciples who are sat in a circle but when it returns to Jesus' spot, he has disappeared. At first it appears that he has simply disappeared in a similar manner to his arrival. However he's never seen again, and the next scene involving the disciples is the day of Pentecost.

    Before then however we get a very nicely done introduction to Gamaliel and New Testament ers Judaism. Gamaliel is holding some kind of discussion with a number of men representing a good swathe of Jewish sects from the period. Present is Paul who is somewhat likeable if detached from the others, and Stephen who is yet to be converted but is still well on the way. A zealot contingent is also present. It's obvious from this episode alone that this production is at pains to provide a sold context for its story. Scenes like this and little details here and there do well at educating without being teachy.

    The portrayal of Pentecost isn't very satisfactory. There's a build up with a mysterious blowing wind (despite all being calm outside) and then some kind of orange lighting effect whilst the disciples dance around. The accompanying music is terrible too so it's all rather disappointing.

    This is followed by some kind of spontaneous procession into the temple (replete with people waving palm branches) and Peter delivers his sermon. He gets another chance to preach to a crowd in the final incident from the Bible in this first part. Peter and John appear in the temple and heal the man there. Peter gets to speak, as watched by some of the high priests and Paul who does definitely not approve.

    The final glance we see of characters from the Bible is Stephen (pictured) converting and being baptised in the river. In many ways this episode is as much about Stephen as it is about Peter or Paul. The majority of the programme follows a paranoid Tiberius at Capri and a bunch of zealots trying to free one of their number from Roman arrest. Stephen is not a zealot but is determined to free the man (Caleb) as the two were wrestling prior to Caleb's arrest. But having introduced us to Saul/Paul the porgramme has been set-up nicely to learn more about Paul and his conversion in part 2.

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