Series / Jesus of Nazareth
Jesus of Nazareth
Zerah: Now it begins. It all begins.
is an Anglo-Italian mini-series made in 1977 about the life of Jesus
. Directed by Franco Zeffirelli and produced by Sir Lew Grade, it stars Robert Powell in the titular role and has an exceptionally strong supporting cast making up the rest of 1st-century Judea. Zeffirelli made the project after he was asked directly by Pope Paul VI to make a film about the life of Jesus from his birth to the crucifixion and all the way to his resurrection. In order to make a more accurate film, various religious authorities were consulted besides the Vatican, including the Leo Baeck Rabbinical College in London and the Koranic School in Meknes, Morocco.Jesus of Nazareth
has been referred to as "the best mini-series of all time" and is shown on televisions at least once every year.
- Adaptation Expansion: The miniseries expands upon the Zealots, the main anti-Roman La Résistance organization of 1st-century Judea. One major subplot has them trying to co-opt John the Baptist (and later Jesus) to their cause and incite Jews to declare open revolt. Simon and Judas are both members who infiltrate Jesus's inner circle for that purpose, though the former fully commits. Barabbas is also an active member who interacted with Jesus a few times. The subplot culminates in a failed assassination attempt on Herod Antipas, for which Amos, leader of Simon and Judas's cell, and several of his comrades were immediately executed.
- Adipose Rex: Herod the Great, played by Peter Ustinov.
- Affably Evil: King Herod the Great, initially. His son Antipas seems to have traces of this, screaming at John the Baptist not to force him to have him executed.
- Always with You: Jesus directly responds to Peter's Please Don't Leave Me speech, assuring him that he will always be there for him and the rest of his fellow disciples until the end of time.
- Ascended Extra:
- The Roman centurion played by Ernest Borgnine, whose servant Jesus heals, also appears at the crucifixion.
- Both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (James Mason and Laurence Olivier, respectively) appear more often than they do in the Gospels.
- Badass Beard: Quite a few, though special mention has to go to John the Baptist's.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Mary (Olivia Hussey) does not appear to age until during Jesus' crucifixion.
- Bible Times: Of course, but with the additional bonus of multiple scenes which highlight life as it was back in 1st-century Judea, the result of extensive research.
- Blind Seer: Herod the Great has one in his palace.
- California Doubling: Morocco and Tunisia stand in for Israel. In particular, synagogue scenes were shot in Djerba Island in Tunisia, one of the last Arab Jewish enclaves in North Africa, while the town of Monastir, also in Tunisia, represents Jerusalem.
- Canon Foreigner: Ian Holm's Zerah does not feature in any of the Gospels but instead was made up for the series in order to give Judas motivation to betray Jesus.
- Composite Character: Both Roman centurions who appear in the Gospels (the one with the ill servant and the one who stands at the foot of the cross) are made into the same character.
- Death by Adaptation: There is a scene that shows Joseph dying despite the fact that this is not mentioned in the Gospels.
- Driven to Suicide: Judas hangs himself after he realizes he has led Jesus to his death.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: It is about Jesus Christ, so what did you expect?
- Finger Tenting: Zerah does this in the scene where he tells Judas how much the Sanhedrin knows about Jesus' ministry.
- Game Changer: Much of the miniseries focuses on the impact of Jesus's ministry in 1st-century Judea.
- The Ghost: Tiberius Caesar, who is mentioned many times throughout the mini-series, but is not actually seen.
- Ghost Extras: There were literally thousands in this mini-series.
- Gory Discretion Shot: When Jesus is flogged by the Romans.
- Grumpy Bear: Peter.
- Heel–Faith Turn: Unlike his fellow Zealots who wish to co-opt Jesus's message to their ends, Simon becomes convinced that he was never meant to incite a revolution with arms, but that of hearts.
- Heroic BSOD: After Jesus dies, Peter is briefly shown weeping in regret over unintentionally fulfilling Jesus's prophecy about him denying him thrice before daybreak.
- If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: Jesus warns Barrabas that if he responds to the Romans' violence with violence, they'd be no different.
- Kill 'em All
- Occult Blue Eyes: Perhaps the most notable thing about Powell's Jesus are his extremely clear blue eyes. He also never blinks. Barely blinks. He does blink once, and it's a "look away and you'll miss it" type thing. This technique was deliberate on the part of the director; he wanted to add an air of divinity to the character by calling attention to the actor's gorgeous eyes.
- Please Don't Leave Me: Peter's pleas to Jesus at the very end of the movie:
"Please, stay with us, Lord, for the night cometh, and the day is far spent."
- Punch Clock Villain: Pontius Pilate.
- Playing Gertrude: Hussey portrayed Mary all throughout the series (both as a young maiden and as an older woman). At the time of production, she was 26 compared to 33-year-old Powell (Jesus; curiously, this was also widely believed to be the age when he died). The makeup used to make her look older than him and Mary Magdalene (played by 46-year-old Anne Bancroft) was not entirely convincing.
- Reality Ensues: During the Annunciation scene Mary's mother is woken up when she knocks some pots over, and sees what appears to be Mary talking to herself, since we only hear her side of the conversation with (what we presume to be) Gabriel.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jesus does this to the scribes and Pharisees in the Temple when he has his Unstoppable Rage moment towards the end third part of the mini-series.
- Shown Their Work: To ensure the accuracy of the setting with regards to 1st-century Judea, the production team also consulted Jewish and Muslim scholars.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Zerah's reaction at the end upon discovering that Jesus's grave is empty (despite heavy Roman security), realizing that this could be the beginning of drastic changes in Judea.
- Token Good Teammate: Ernest Borgnine's centurion for the Romans and Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea for the Sanhedrin.
- Unstoppable Rage: Jesus rants at the Pharisees in the Temple and later destroys the moneychangers' tables on the Temple grounds.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Judas's portrayal in the miniseries — he sincerely believes that Jesus will lead an open revolt against the Romans (unlike Simon, a fellow Zealot-turned-disciple, who believes Jesus meant something else) and only betrays him to the Sanhedrin to force him to explain himself. It doesn't go very well.
- You Are Not Alone: Peter when he tells Jesus that he will stick by and protect him no matter what happens.
- Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The Zealots.