Jesus of Nazareth is a 1977 British-Italian television miniseries directed by Franco Zeffirelli and co-written by Zeffirelli, Anthony Burgess, and Suso Cecchi d’Amico which dramatises the birth, life, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
The storyline of Jesus of Nazareth is a kind of cinematic Diatessaron, or “Gospel harmony”, blending the narratives of all four New Testament accounts.
It takes a fairly naturalistic approach, de-emphasising special effects when miracles are depicted and presenting Jesus as more or less evenly divine and human.
The familiar Christian episodes are presented chronologically: the betrothal, and later marriage, of Mary and Joseph; the Annunciation; the Visitation; the circumcision of John the Baptist; the Nativity of Jesus; the visit of the Magi; the circumcision of Jesus; the Census of Quirinius; the flight into Egypt and Slaughter of the Innocents; the Finding in the Temple; the Baptism of Jesus; the woman caught in adultery; Jesus helping Peter catch the fish; the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32); a dialogue between Jesus and Barabbas (non-biblical); Matthew’s dinner party; the Sermon on the Mount; debating with Joseph of Arimathea; the curing of the blind man at the pool; the Raising of Lazarus (John 11:43); the Feeding of the Five Thousand; the Entry into Jerusalem; Jesus and the money changers; dialogue with Nicodemus; the Last Supper; the betrayal of Jesus by Judas; Peter denying Christ and repenting of it; the judgment of Jesus by Pilate ; the Johannine Passion Narrative (John 18-19; including the Agony in the Garden); the Carrying of the Cross; the Crucifixion of Christ (Laurence Olivier’s Nicodemus recites the “Suffering Servant” passage [Isaiah 53:3-5] as he looks helplessly on the crucified Messiah); the discovery of the empty tomb; and an appearance of the Risen Christ to his Disciples. The film’s storyline concludes with the non-Biblical character Zerah and his colleagues gazing despairingly into the empty tomb. Zerah laments
“Now it begins. It all begins”.
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