The story of Jesus' life as recounted by His disciple John, this three-hour epic feature film draws its audience into antiquity by way of meticulous recreation, including an original musical score complete with instrumental sounds of the time.

(2003) Film Review by David Bruce

OPENS SEPT 26, 2003

This page was created on September 3, 2003
This page was last updated on October 28, 2004

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About this Film
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Directed by Philip Saville
Screenplay by John Goldsmith

Principal Cast:
Christopher Plummer as the narrator
Jesus ... Henry Ian Cusick,
Simon Peter ... Daniel Kash,
Leading Pharisee ... Richard Lintern
Pontius Pilot ... Steven Russell
John the Baptist ... Scott Handy
John ... Stuart Bunce
Andrew ... Tristan Gemmill
Phillip ... Andrew Pifko
Nathanael ... Elliot Levey
Nichodemus ... Diego Matamoros
Judas Iscariot ... Alan Van Sprang
Blind Man ... Stuart Fox
Lame Man ... David Meyer
Samaritan Woman ... Nanct Palk
Mother of Jesus ... Diana Berriman
Young Levite ... Nicolas Van Burek
Elderly Levite ... William Pappas
Caiaphas ... Cedric Smith

Produced by
Chris Chrisafis .... producer
Garth H. Drabinsky .... producer
Martin Katz .... executive producer
Joel B. Michaels .... executive producer
Jeff Sackman .... producer

Original Music by Jeff Danna
Cinematography by Miroslaw Baszak
Film Editing by Michel Arcand and Ron Wisman Jr.
Production Design by Don Taylor
Sound by David Lee

Rated ?
Run Time: 180 minutes

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A momentous undertaking involving a creative constituency of award-winning artists and esteemed academic and theological consultants from around the world, Visual Bible's THE GOSPEL OF JOHN is an ambitious motion picture that has been adapted for the screen on a word for word basis from the American Bible Society's Good News Bible.

The story of Jesus' life as recounted by His disciple John, this three-hour epic feature film draws its audience into antiquity by way of meticulous recreation, including an original musical score complete with instrumental sounds of the time. This ambitious motion picture follows the Gospel precisely, neither adding to the story from other Gospels, nor omitting complex passages.

Narrated by renowned Canadian actor Christopher Plummer with a distinguished cast from Canada and the United Kingdom selected primarily from Canada's prestigious Stratford Festival and Soulpepper Theatre Company, as well as Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre , it features British actor Henry Ian Cusick in the seminal role of Jesus Christ.

John is the best-loved but least understood of the gospels, presenting a uniquely human portrait of Jesus. Intimate and reflective, THE GOSPEL OF JOHN provides audiences with an unparalleled opportunity to understand the tumultuous period in history at the time of Jesus Christ.

The Film:
The Gospel of John is a three-hour epic feature on the story of Jesus’ life as recounted by His disciple John. It is the first major theatrical picture of an entire book of the Bible adapted on a word for word basis.

The Gospel of John has been adapted for the screen on a word for word basis from the American Bible Society’s Good News Bible. John is the best loved of the Four Gospels, presenting a uniquely human portrait of Jesus. The film is both intimate and reflective and provides audiences an unparalleled opportunity to understand the tumultuous period in history at the time of Jesus Christ. This ambitious motion picture follows the Gospel precisely, neither adding to the story from other Gospels, nor omitting complex passages.

The Production:
Unique in its approach and unwavering in its commitment to meticulously represent the Biblical time of Christ, every aspect of the film’s production; from costume design to ancient architecture and historic music was painstakingly researched.

The Gospel of John was produced under the auspices of the Canada/U.K. Production Treaty.

The Team:
A momentous undertaking involving a creative constituency of Academy®, Emmy®, and Tony® award-winning artists and esteemed academic and theological consultants from around the world who bring to life with integrity, and accuracy, one of the best-loved books of the best-selling book of all time, the Bible.

The Gospel of John features approximately 75 principal actors from the Canadian and British stage and nearly 2500 extras For more complete biographical information, please see the Cast Bios.

Henry Ian Cusick is a classically-trained stage actor with the world-renowned Royal Shakespeare Co. whose theatrical credits include principal roles in Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard II, and Anthony and Cleopatra.

Christopher Plummer is a multiple Tony® and Emmy® Award-winning veteran of the stage and screen with roles in more than 80 motion pictures including A Beautiful Mind, Ararat, The Insider, The Sound of Music and Dolores Claiborne.

Stuart Bunce is equally comfortable in the various mediums of film, television, and the stage, with roles in productions including the BBC’s Scarlet Pimpernel, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s King Lear, and the recent remake of Spartacus.

Daniel Kash’s theatrical talents have garnered international acclaim and honors such as the Grand Prix de la Competition Festival Cinema Tout Ecran, the Golden Gate Award, and two Gemini Award nominations for Best Actor. His theatrical credits include A Streetcar Named Desire, Joan of Arc and Macbeth.

Leading Pharisee:
Richard Lintern, has played opposite Sophia Loren in the mini-series entitled Moma Lucia. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Lintern’s theatrical credits include The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, and The Duchess of Malfi.

Stephen Russell is a veteran of more than 20 seasons at the Stratford Festival Theater, with title roles in Richard II, and Henry IV. Russell’s film and television performances include appearances in Timothy Findley’s The Wars, Sweating Bullets and A Family of Cops, starring Charles Bronson.

The Gospel of John features an award-winning creative team with film and stage credits including Chicago, Emma, Star Wars, Tomorrow Never Dies, Ragtime, and Fosse.

Garth Drabinsky, co-producer of six movies including The Silent Partner and The Changeling, both Canadian Film Award winners for Best Picture, and Tribute, an Academy Award®-nominee. A recipient of 19 Tony® Awards, Drabinsky’s Broadway productions include Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Fosse, Showboat, Barrymore, and the internationally acclaimed Ragtime.

Exec. Producer:
Sandy Pearl, an Emmy® Award-winning film and TV producer, who has been the creative force behind the development and production of numerous films, television and theatrical projects including Creating Ragtime, a PBS/Great Performances documentary.

Exec. Producer:
Joel Michaels, a six-time Academy Award®-nominee and Emmy® Award-winning film producer with big screen hits including Terminator 3 starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Universal Soldiers starring Jean Claude Van Damme.

Philip Saville, a film and TV director with multiple prestigious awards including The Peabody Prize, 2 ACE Awards, multiple BAFTA awards. His directorial credits include Metroland, Those Glory, Glory Days, Hamlet, and Oedipus.

John Goldsmith, an internationally known Emmy®-nominated screenwriter, whose credits include Victoria and Albert, Catherine the Great, and Danny Champion of the World.

The Musical Score:
The Gospel of John features an original musical score recorded by the world-renowned Philharmonia Orchestra at Air Lyndhurst Studios in London. Written by acclaimed film and television composer, Jeff Danna (The Kid Stays in the Picture, The Grey Zone, and A Wrinkle in Time).

Using ancient instruments to achieve authentic sounds of the period, The Gospel of John is conducted by celebrated Maestro Nicholas Dodd (Changing Lanes, Girl Interrupted, and The World is Not Enough) and recorded with the world-renowned Philharmonia Orchestra at Air Lyndhurst Studios in London, England.

The Biblical Translation:
First published in 1966, the American Bible Society’s Good News Bible was written in easily understood language. Since then, some 138 million copies of the Good News Translation Bible and Good News Translation New Testament have been printed in more than 150 different languages.

The Film Company:
The Gospel of John is a production of Visual Bible International, Inc. a publicly traded faith-based media company. The company has secured exclusive, worldwide rights for select translations of both the Old and New Testaments on a word for word basis. This Toronto-based company is committed to creating films with exceptional production values that maintain the integrity of the Biblical works.

REVIEW by David Bruce
Host of


Note: To avoid confusion, in this review the term "The Gospel of John" refers to the film, and "John's Gospel" refers to the biblical book.

I saw this important film in Toronto, Canada, where it was produced. To sit and watch the entire Book of John unfold made for a unique and amazing movie going experience. In some ways it was like hearing John's Gospel for the first time, again!

I was struck by the feel of authenticity. Great historical care was given to the props, costumes and settings. The screen writer did an excellent job of placing the Gospel conversation within corresponding cinematic backgrounds that really enhanced the message. The acting and production values were first rate. The producers were wise in assembling a first rate group of scholars as advisors.

While I watched the film, I kept wondering how the film would come across to someone who was not as familiar with John's Gospel as I was. My question was to be answered following the film.

In attendance was the famous Canadian film critic, Brian Johnson, who writes for MacLean's Magazine (the Canadian equivalent of Time Magazine). I found him to be delightful soul. He did not strike me as a particularly religious person, nor did he demonstrate much familiarity with the Bible. Therefore, he was a real godsend. I was very interested to find out how the film and its message stuck him. That opportunity came later that day during the taping of a network CBC-TV show, A Test of Faith. We were both guests on the show.

As we talked, he noted that the narrative kept telling us who Jesus was. Johnson stated, "I got the point." His main criticism was that the Gospel's writer kept making the point, over and over again. "I got the point already! The writer was redundant."

Johnson helped me to understand, as it never had been before, that the main concern of the gospel writer was to identify who Jesus was. As the gospel itself notes, "But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life." --John 20:31 (NLT).

Bottom line: The purpose of John's Gospel came through loud and clear in the film.

There was another guest on that CBC-TV show: Dr. Adele Reinhartz, the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, and Professor in the Department of Religion and Culture, Wilfrid Laurier University, Toronto. She is a renowned Jewish scholar who has written two important books on John's Gospel. She is part of the board of advisors for the film.

I wanted to know from her how John's Gospel came across to her as a Jew. I suppose I should state that the film took great care to center on Jesus' teaching to "Love one another." The introduction in the film made it clear that Jesus was, in fact, Jewish. The film was very inclusive, even to the extent of visually making Mary Magdalene part of the core disciples of Jesus. In one scene, Jesus takes a stand against the violence done to an African slave (John 18:10-11). Clearly, the film's intent, in a visual manner, was to connect all people in very loving and affirming ways.

Even though the film clearly is not anti semitic, in any way, what about the Gospel itself? Is John's Gospel anti-Jewish? I asked Dr. Reihartz about this matter. And to my surprise she said had written a book on the subject entitled, Befriending the Beloved Disciple: A Jewish reading of the Gospel of John (New York: Continuum, 2001).

What was her answer? She basically stated that the outcome to the question is found in the basic presumptions that the reader brings to the text. If one wants to find anti semitism, they will. If the reader comes with other grids, and she identifies three other grids (presumptions) in her book, the outcome will be different. She was honored as a finalist in the 2002 National Jewish Book Award in Jewish-Christian Relations, and winner of the 2003 Frank W. Beare Prize, 2003, Canadian Society of Biblical Studies. A very impressive achievement.

What a wonderful thing! This film furnished me the opportunity to enter into meaningful conversation and friendship with a delight secular reviewer and an honored Jewish scholar. What a joy! The film gave us the common ground for the 3 of us to enter a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other and our differences. I believe God smiled. As Jesus said, "My commandment is this: Love one another, just as I love you." Herein is the reason way this film is important.


By David Bruce

The Wedding at Cana.

Here the film gives a picture of Jesus entering into the everyday celebrations of everyday folk. Jesus even supplies the best wine.

Mother of Jesus and Jesus at Wedding in Cana.

I was impressed by an older Mary, which would have been correct. If she gave birth to Jesus at, say 16, then she would have been 46 when Jesus began his public career at age 30.

The wedding at Cana.

This is an important scene to begin the film with. It establishes what is important to Jesus. And by contrast, what is not.
Important: Loving people.
Not important: Intolerant religious systems.

Wonderful attention to detail.

Throughout this film great care is given to historic custom, dress, tradition, detail and setting. Note the background in this photo.

The Disciples from Left to Right:
John, Philip, Simon Peter, Andrew, and Nathanael.

An emotional Jesus.

Jesus becomes upset with a system that exploits his fellow Jews and excludes gentiles.

Jesus and his Disciples in the Temple. Left to Right: Simon Peter, Andrew, Philip, Nathanael, and John.

Against exploitation and segregation.

Jesus in the Temple driving out the animals and overturning the tables of the moneychangers.

"My commandment is this: Love one another, just as I love you."

This central point of Jesus' message. The inclusive nature of this commandment of love is seen throughout the film.

Jesus and the Pharisee Nicodemus.

Jesus is depicted as giving this Jewish scholar great respect and dignity. Here Jesus makes it clear that the kingdom of God is open to anyone Jew and Gentile.

In the scenes following this one, Jesus talks with an adulterous women in public (not a PC thing for a Jewish man to do), spends time with culturally-different Samaritans, heals a Gentile's son, and heals a Jewish lame man. All are in contrast to the alienating institutional system of segregation (i.e. the Temple where Gentiles, women and the lame were excluded), and in concert with Jesus' own command to "Love one another."


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No other uses are permitted without the prior written consent of owner. Use of the material in violation of the foregoing may result in civil and/or criminal penalties. Credits and dates are subject to change. For more information, please visit their official site.

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