Monday, October 1, 2012

Get Off the Beaten Path: "Jesus: Path of Faith" (1999)

This film goes to the Holy Land and retraces the life of Jesus Christ by visiting the actual places where the stories found in the New Testament take place. However...

...the narrator uses the term "traditional site" more often than not, and we can only assume the miracles mentioned took place at the location where a chapel sits or a sign points the way for pilgrimages.

The video box proudly proclaims that the documentary will visit forty fifty two minutes. You may be familiar with that television commercial where the two women are taken on a whirlwind tour of Rome in a car, and one woman's pictures do not turn out well because of the speed of the driver. I felt this way about the documentary.

The introduction jumps back and forth between Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Nazareth again, getting ahead of itself before finally settling down and telling a time linear story of Jesus' life. All the major sites are hit: Jordan River, Desert of Judea (with the best footage featuring monasteries that are literally hugging cliff walls), and St. Peter's house.

Through the different locations, the narrator tells us of Jesus' life and what occurred at each spot. The feeding of five thousand, the Tomb of Lazarus, and his eventual crucifixion are all highlighted, and the camera shows us the beautiful chapels that have been built on the "traditional sites" as well as floods of Christian pilgrims celebrating Jesus.

While the architecture and scenery are sights (or sites?) to behold, the film left me empty. A thorough knowledge of Christianity is not needed to follow the video. However, I thought each location could have driven a fifty two minute video of its own. Forty locations in fifty two minutes averages to just over one minutes per location. Lazarus' tomb is given a scant fifteen seconds! Also, the sweeping aerial shots are gorgeous until you see the shadow of the camera's helicopter creep in and out of frame. I am not that much of a purist, I know cameramen need to fly, but the intrusion of the modern technology on these holy sites interrupted the mood the film makers were trying to bring. It would be like a cell phone ringing during a funeral.

There is no director credited, as the film was assembled from many camera crews as opposed to being edited together by one central visionary.

I know I may never see these places in person, but I wish the producers had taken the extra step on such a worldwide subject. (* * *) out of five stars.