EDITOR’S NOTE: Easter, of course, has a little something to do with Jesus. Since we’re a visual people, NRO’s Elizabeth Fisher asked some familiar moviegoers what their favorite Jesus flicks are.
Of those grand, faith-affirming films, one of the grandest is certainly The Robe. Through the story of the callous, spoiled soldier who wins the wager for Christ’s crucifixion garment, it contrasts the brutality of the Roman culture against the humble strength of an emerging faith. And it illustrates why the victory that Christianity would win against the greatest empire the world had ever known came not through battles, or coercion, or even argument, but through changing men’s hearts…one by one.
As we enter an Easter season in which state-sanctioned killing is endorsed by our courts, it serves as a much-needed reminder that grave injustice has always been the lot of man. But mercy, joy, and redemption can also be our portion…at least for those of us still naïve enough to believe in them.
Which leaves us with good old Zeffirelli and his stately, crowd-pleasing picture that doesn’t try to do anything fancy, just lay out the facts as we know them from the Gospel. The problem is that the life of Christ is so well known that it’s difficult to make it compelling art. Jesus of Nazareth is a well-appointed, respectful pageant, not the vital, riveting work of art that Mel Gibson’s film is. But believe me, after you’ve sat through Andrew Lloyd Webber’s dull bombast, and the nauseatingly precious hippies warbling “Day By Day,” you have a whole new appreciation for the virtue of cinematic squareness.