National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

Weekly Video/DVD Picks

BY Steven D. Greydanus

February 29-March 6, 2004 Issue | Posted 2/29/04 at 12:00 PM


The Gospel of John (2003)

This presentation defies ordinary film criticism and indeed ordinary movie viewing.

Dialogue and narration have been taken verbatim from the Good News translation of the fourth Gospel. Dramatically, this approach comes with certain trade-offs.

As an artistic meditation on Scripture, it represents a unique opportunity to experience God's word in a new way.

Strengths include production values, acting and Christopher Plummer's engaging narration. With an advisory committee of scholars representing Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths — and bringing expertise in Scripture studies, theology and archaeology — the filmmakers strove for accuracy in every detail.

Ian Cusick's Jesus is both warmly human and also authoritative, surprising, even polemical. Cusick has the presence and confidence of a popular teacher, easily transitioning from addressing a large crowd to focusing on a single individual.

The film's most pervasive weakness is the translation that provides the basis for the screenplay, the Good News Bible, which is neither precise nor graceful. Still, the gist of John's narrative and presentation of Jesus’ teaching remain intact.

Well mounted and honorably executed, The Gospel of John is one of the most religiously significant films in years.

Now back in theaters in many areas, The Gospel of John is also available on DVD and VHS at as well as at and eBay.

Content advisory: Passion narrative violence.