A Handbook to Jesus on DVD
Jeffrey L Staley and Richard Walsh
Whether you're a film buff, a Jesus Scholar or simply curious about the ways in which film-makers — and Hollywood in particular — have interpreted and reinterpreted the Jesus story, you have to love this book! Don't be misled by the cover or the subtitle, however: this is a book, not a DVD, and there is no accompanying DVD or CD-ROM. This absence is the book's one weakness: it is virtually crying out for a cover disc featuring at least some key movie clips.
Staley and Walsh teach New Testament studies and, as they explain in their preface, this book has grown out of their experience of using Jesus films in both their teaching and their research. The book's main purpose is to provide a resource for other New Testament tutors, to save them having to go to the lengths Staley and Walsh have had to in preparing their own classes. For each of the eighteen films they examine — full listing below — there's a plot summary; lists of memorable characters and visuals; notes of key scriptures; comments on the cultural location and genre; information about the director; details of DVD extras and technical features; and an itemised DVD contents list of chapters with timeline and scripture references where relevant.
The film chapters are sandwiched between two complementary chapters, 'Watching Jesus Films' and 'Teaching Jesus Films' which offer suggestions on how to make the most of the experience, asking dozens of critical questions to help explore the themes the films uncover and the challenges they can raise.
A final appendix — which the authors describe as "the generative heart of our work" — provides 'A Gospels Harmony of Jesus Films on DVD' which follows the basic chronology of the Gospels, indicates which films include each Gospel scene and gives the exact point in hours/minutes/seconds at which the scene occurs on each DVD.
To summarise: an excellent resource for anyone keen to explore the life of Jesus as presented in film and the ways in which our culture has chosen to reinterpret the Gospel stories for our times — ways that all too often, as the authors observe, 'tell us much more about ourselves and American culture than anything about "the real" Jesus' (Preface, p.viii). No doubt exactly the same can be said with respect to British culture...
Phil Groom, May 2008
Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.Westminster John Knox Press | Comments? Feedback? | Order from www.christianbookshops.org