We watched on Christmas Eve, the first hour of a 2003 dramatic adaptation of the Gospel of John, which follows the text word for word. This Canadian-British dramatisation, mostly filmed in Spain, was contemporary with Mel Gibson's overly violent version of the life of Christ. What a difference....
This is a perfect present for Christmas for anyone, including a child, sadly only discovered too late for this year's round of presents. It can be bought on Amazon. There is also an adaptation of "Acts" in the similar series, though I cannot yet vouch for that, yet.
The performance of the lead actor, Henry Ian Cusick, playing Jesus should have won an Oscar because he is the best Jesus on film, to date. An RSC classical actor of Scottish-Peruvian ancestry, he delivers a very complex and difficult script convincingly. It must have been difficult for him - the words of Jesus are not normal human utterances and the emphases are theological.
The text is word-for-word based on John's talkative, mysterious but still winsome Jesus, making the whole text come alive, dramatically. I do not believe the speeches were inserted in the Gospel later as it is clear from these re-enactments that the reactions from the crowds are true to life. Cusick's Jesus is a handsome, loving, all knowing man who smiles and heals charismatically (in the sense of "attractively"). His miracles stun people, miracles of mass feeding, turning water into wine and opening the eyes of the man born blind who subsequently joins the disciples.
This actor has the right blend of brown skinned gentleness and charm, but also utterly terrifies, by apparently walking on water and commanding Lazarus to "Come out!". I found myself letting out yells of astonishment at the sight of any man walking on water and hiding my eyes, hoping that they would not show Lazarus actually emerging from the stinking tomb. Oh, the horror of that moment, something which I am told Mel Gibson showed. But this version is so real, that the sight would have merited an AA rating. Tastefully this film did not - so that it is suitable for children.
I found myself thinking I was "there", even wondering what I would have made of this preacher Jesus, myself. It was totally clear that if one did not have the wisdom, heart and patience to interpret most of his words as metaphorical, one could easily have thought he was mentally unstable, as clearly many of his hearers did. When Jesus tells the people that they must "eat my flesh and drink my blood", you could see why many turned back. As he pointed out, denying the quality of his teaching and the plain miracles was another thing.
Here is a review from a Jewish angle, which not only approves the film but says that the Wedding at Cana was utterly Jewish.
My view is that this is dramatic version of the Gospel of John that the centuries have been waiting for.
It would be good to promote it to everyone you know!