Sunday, 3 March 2013

HISTORY'S 'THE BIBLE' SPEAKS TO HOLLYWOOD, NOT TO THE PEOPLE



This blog has not been that lively recently (the reason being too boring to discuss here).  However, after having watched History’s ‘The Bible’ I feel the need to write at least a little bit about it. 
NEW SERIES 'THE BIBLE': Even Jesus Christ, played by Portuguese actor Diogo Morado, thinks he's doing a modelling job
There is nothing better than great Bible and Christian-related shows during Lent.  Indeed, there is not a better time to reacquaint oneself with the faith that shaped the Western World.  And I’m all for Bible adaptations; sometimes they’re the best way to get to know the scriptures, particularly the Old Testament, which might appear daunting to some (seeing as how it is not so often expressed as some of the Jesus stories are). 
When I first heard of the History Channel’s adaptation, I felt strangely comfortable with the notion that Mark Burnett (the creator of the Apprentice and Survivor) and his wife Roma Downey were behind it.  I heard them talking on the O’Reilly Factor and thought them very ‘into’ the epic they were tackling.  And indeed, they most probably were. 
The first episode, which tells the stories of Adam and Eve, the Great Flood, Abraham, and Moses, most likely set out the standard for the rest of the series.  I cannot see a sudden change in the pace of the drama, which, I must say, is restlessly fast, and the sometimes over-the-top music – Sarah is telling Abraham that his only hope for a child lies with the handmaiden Hagar – a moment that is powerful enough when accompanied by the questioning silence of the desert, yet for a reason that is beyond me trailer-style music rages in the background.  Why?  Burnett said he wanted the show to be an ‘epic’, but it seemed that there were too many instances when the desire to make the story ‘epic’ overtook the story itself – the music, the simple script, the underdeveloped characters and lightning-fast scenes are all examples of this. 
Another criticism that I did pick up on was the appearance of the characters.  Despite the small fortune spent on props, backgrounds and makeup, in the end the cast themselves weren’t screaming Middle Easterners in the Ancient World.  Some say there should have been more Continental European actors, who tend to fit in better with dramas like this one.  Instead, the majority of the actors were British.  Yet, I don’t think the ethnicity of the characters matter that much.  If you watch ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ (1977) you find that the vast majority of the cast is British, and they still managed to perfectly blend into their surroundings.  The Romans look Roman.  The Jews look Jewish.  In this show, the actors all look like models ready for a photo shoot.  Where is the raw reality?   
To be fair to the show, however, I don’t think you can put the Bible (a massive, and yes epic, work) into 10 hours of television.  I have watched films of between 2- and 3-hour in length, which focus only on one particular story, such as Abraham.  When you try to condense something so big into a few hours of TV you run the risk of ridding it of its potency, its meaning and its power to entrance and engage with the audience.  
I was really hoping that this drama would encourage more people to turn to the Christian religion.  But, alas, the speed, lack of substance, and exaggerated sequences make this play fall short of achieving that aim.  What I will say is that at least Burnett and Downey have made a drama based on the Judeo-Christian story, which is obviously very important to them: I do think that, had they been given more hours to play around with, this would have been an amazing encounter with the Holy Bible.    



Edict: 'Jesus of Nazareth' was actually released in 1977, not 1971 (as I had originally put down) - sorry about that.  

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