• 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, July 26, 2018

    A.D. (2015) - Part 9

    This is part 9 of a series of posts covering A.D. episode by episode & are initial impressions not a review. You can read them all here
    Earlier in the year I was blogging the individual episodes of the NBC series A.D. - The Bible Continues (2015) or A.D. - Kingdom and Empire as it was known over here. For some reason, at the time I skipped over episode 9, so I've been meaning to return to fill in the gap ever since.

    The episode starts with Saul escaping from Damascus via a basket over the city walls. The city is in turmoil after Saul has preached at the synagogue. He returns, with Barnabas, to the believers in Jerusalem, who are understandably not that keen to welcome him with open arms. Simon the Zealot is particularly sceptical about the validity of Saul's conversion, but Peter and John are a little more accepting and Peter gives him the kind of one to one meeting that the biblical Paul seemed to find it difficult to realise.

    Meanwhile Gaius has become Caesar and the filmmakers are determined to make sure everyone knows he is a bit loopy. He gets one of his uncle's formerly loyal servants to kill himself to prove his loyalty, and when he announces his plan to erect a statue of his likeness to be placed in the temple, no-one bats an eyelid, even though they fear the worst. Even Gaius' best friend has his misgivings such that Pilate is able to encourage him to get Gaius out of the city. Before he leaves it's strongly implied that he forces himself upon one of the servants - Tabitha - who is comforted by Mary Magdalene. In a later scene we're also introduced to Joanna and her husband Chuza. Joanna is surprisingly upfront about her funding the church, despite her husband's notion that she is insane. And it's her forthright discussion with her husband - for which she credits Jesus giving her permission - that first leads Tabitha to ask "Who is this Jesus?". This seems somewhat out of keeping with Peter and Paul's advice to be submissive to husbands as a form of witness, but it does emphasise Jesus' radical (for his time) views regarding women.

    Meanwhile Caiaphas' wife has heard about Saul's conversion and is appalled by it, so she sets out to find a way to get him killed. Herod's wife on the other hand also sees an opportunity, thinking that Gaius' rise to power will mean that Antipas will be put it charge of the region instead. Caiaphas' men close in on Saul and arrest him. Meanwhile Simon goes seeking Zealots and ends up in a red pill/blue pill scenario (he chooses the red, obviously) whilst Paul kneels in Caiaphas' jail to recite the Lord's prayer.

    I can kind of see why I skipped this one in my earlier reviews. It's not a stand out episode, and there are few striking visuals, set-piece moments, dramatic turns, or portrayals of iconic moments in the story. Instead it's more of a solid piece of ground work for the final three episodes, setting the various plot devices in motion that will run through the rest of the series. I chose the image at the top because Barnabas' role is at its most interesting here. He's still learning to trust Paul here, and he's struggling to know quite how to control this maverick that Jesus has dumped on them to confuse all the disciples cosy ideas about what it means to be his followers. The crucial difference between him and the other is that, despite his misgivings he is convinced Saul's conversion is genuine. As a result, he spends most of the episode trying to broker agreement going between, Paul and the various disciples. A minor role in some way, but in other ways the kind of grappling with a faith that doesn't work out the way you thought it would, to which many will be able to relate.

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