• 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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    Saturday, January 22, 2011

    A.D. (Anno Domini) - Episode 3

    Saul may have been converted at the end of the last episode, but word has been a little slow getting around the Christian community, and even those who have heard are understandably sceptical. Leading the charge for the doubters is, of course, Thomas, who continues to be rather short in the joy department. In the meantime fear of Saul has driven the church further afield. The opening scene in episode three finds Peter (pictured) in Samaria, exorcising a man and scolding Simon the magician. The idea then comes to Peter that going around in threes isn't as effective as it might be, and so whilst Peter returns to Jerusalem, Philip is sent off to Gaza encountering the Ethiopian offical en route. Things are slightly different from Acts - the Ethiopian's chariot (a carriage really) overtakes Philip on the way. The scene is quite effective though and it's quite an interesting depiction of members of the early church coining fulfilment interpretation off the cuff. The baptism scene - shot from below - is one of the best so far, and it's the first time the emotional theme in the soundtrack fits rather than cheapening the moment.

    Meanwhile Paul sees his companion on the road to Damascus killed by zealots and heads to Jerusalem to try and convince Peter and the others that he has been converted and to gain some instructions.

    There's plenty going on in the Roman side of things. Caligula is continuing to be as mad a March, April and May hare, and the Jewish brother (Caleb) and sister (Sarah) are starting to fall in love with Romans. Caleb is falling for a Roman gladiator which doesn't really ring true, but it does bring some much needed sexual tension. Sarah is smitten by a prominent centurion who conveniently finds himself with access to Caligula, Claudius, Priscilla, Aquila and later on Paul. His experience watching Caligula order his army to collect shells on a French beach rather than invading Britain drives him to plot his emperor's assassination and it's not long until he and others carry out their plan and crown Claudius.

    Peter then appears in Jaffa, and is called on to bring Tabitha back from the dead. There's a great scene of him and Thomas trying to remember what Jesus did in this kind of situation, and it's nice to see Thomas being the faith filled one rather than Peter. It all brings a nice angle to these events capturing the humanity of Peter which often seems absent in Acts. We also see him struggling with the fame that comes with his ministry.

    The film's low budget (big name actors aside) is occasionally apparent, and it's here that it's most notable. We first meet Cornellius at the start of the episode in a sea side villa that looks suspiciously like the one in Capri Tiberius had retired to. Similarly Peter's vision is not shown, only his experience of it. Cornellius is converted and is baptised in a dirty looking rock pool by the lusciously blue sea.

    Sarah's love (Julius Vallerius) is trying to buy her out of slavery and in so doing goes to Priscilla and Aquila for help (they have already helped him locate her). Aquila and Priscilla are two of the best characters in this production. Since not a lot is known about them from the New Testament, the scriptwriters have pretty much free reign in terms of how to use them and how to develop their characters, but there;s just enough in the pages of scripture to make their characters interesting. Not only is it through them that we see things such as the purge of the Jews from Rome, we also get to see them grow from a couple not really sure if they are Christians to people leading others to faith.

    Peter's experiences in Joppa lead to another meeting of the church in Jerusalem where they try to come to a consensus on admission into the church and the relationship between them and mainstream Judaism. In the background here is Caligula's attempt to install a statue of himself of the Jewish temple. But the very next scene shows Caligula's assassination and the episode ends with the statue, which was still outside the temple, being toppled and destroyed in celebration of the news. Watching it today I couldn't help but think of a similar statue meeting a similar fate not to far away in Iraq. The fact that it's purely coincidental (unless this series was big in Iraq) is a useful reminder not to read too much into similar looking images.

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    • At 4:39 am, July 24, 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      About Aquila and Priscilla, they are two of the 70 other disciples. Priscilla is believed to be the writer of Hebrews per some theologians.

      Tabitha in the Bible is an elderly widow, not a young girl. In that scene when Thomas puts his hand on her forehead it looks like the actress moved her eyelids.


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