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Verhoeven gains funding and writer for Jesus Christ film

PaulVerhoeven.jpgBiblical epics are the latest copycat Hollywood films, one studio leaps forward with one and the others leap on the back, however it has to be said that this latest run isn't your typical Hollywood run for the list of names behind the productions suggest not only that they will be epic but also that they'll be good, damn good at that.

While the big names might be moving forward with their safe options for biblical films, one name isn't heading for safe ground and the director and writer attached to the project suggest anything but safe, and perhaps even controversial.

While we have Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg each looking at their own Moses films, Darren Aronofsky building Noah's story and Mel Gibson looking to bring his Judah Maccabee film to life, they all seem relatively safe films apart from Gibson's which will undoubtedly cause concern with some.

So come to the previously discussed film about Jesus Christ from the director Paul Verhoeven who has delivered some good films, some bad films and some slightly controversial ones. Currently he has two rather more controversial films on his agenda, the film adaptation of (Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com) The Hidden Force (De Stille Kracht) by Louis Couperus and the story of Jesus Christ which Verhoeven himself wrote after researching the subject for nearly two decades.

It's the latter which I think will hit the most controversy worldwide for what we've already heard about his story, and so far it's just a claim as I haven't read it myself, is that Jesus was probably Mary's son conceived after she was raped by a Roman soldier during the Galilee uprising of the Jewish people and furthermore that he was not betrayed by Judas Iscariot. Even those two claims are enough to make the story controversial.

Here's the blurb from Amazon about the book Jesus of Nazareth (Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com):

Building on the work of the great Biblical scholars of the twentieth century-Rudolf Bultman, Raymond Brown, Jane Schabert and Robert Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminars, among others-filmmaker Paul Verhoeven disrobes the mythical Jesus to reveal a man who is, after all, startlingly familiar to us, a man who has much in common with other great political leaders throughout history, human beings who believed that change was coming in their lifetimes.

Gone is the Jesus of the miracles, gone the son of God, gone the weaver of arcane parables whose meanings are obscure. In their place Verhoeven gives us his vision of Jesus as a complete man, someone who was changed by events, the leader of a political movement, and, perhaps most importantly, someone who, in his speeches and sayings, introduced a new ethics in which enlightened behavior and the embrace of human contradictions transcend the mechanics of value and worth that had defined the material world before Jesus.

Coming to a deeper understanding of the historical Jesus has been a lifelong passion for Verhoeven, who for the last quarter-century has been among the very few nonacademics participating in the Jesus Seminars. Verhoeven assumed that one day he would make a film of the life of Jesus. Then he realized that it must be a book. Steeped in Biblical scholarship but free of the institutional biases, whether academic or religious, that so often dictate the terms of discussion of the historical Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth is a book that builds a bridge reaching all the way back to Jesus's lifetime, all the way forward to the present, and from biblical scholars to lay readers whose interest might be personal or political.

Reading the comments on both sites it seems that the book has already split audiences but the comments on the U.S. site are surprisingly more positive than the single one on the UK site which includes the comment:

"...Of course reading a lot of stuff about someone does not mean your can really figure out and truly know what a person was thinking and doing 2000 years after that person lived..."

Which kind of describes what people do with the bible all the time, King James did it didn't he? Anyway, that's not to debate here, the fact is that there are a lot of positive comments about the book and Paul Verhoeven has spent a lot of time researching the life of this character, now it looks like he's bringing the story to film.

According to Deadline Muse Productions are going to be backing the film with the producer being Chris Hanley, whose previous credits include American Psycho, Hounddog, Downloading Nancy, Boogie Woogie and The Killer Inside Me (Filmstalker review), films which just add that controversial label, and the writer Roger Avary who has Killing Zoe, Pulp Fiction, The Rules of Attraction, Silent Hill and Beowulf to his name, is the one to take the first shot at adapting it to a screenplay.

The article also has some other reveals about the book and points out what the blurb hints at, that all the miracles are discounted including the immaculate conception and the resurrection. They even have a quote from Verhoeven which goes some way to calm the potential tide of negativity rising up about the film.

"My own passion for Jesus came when I started to realize that. It's not about miracles, it's about a new set of ethics, an openness towards the world, which was anathema in a Roman-dominated world. I believe he was crucified because they felt that politically, he was a dangerous person whose following was getting bigger and bigger. Jesus' ideals are about the utopia of human behavior, about how we should treat each other, how we should step into the shoes of our enemy."

It's a very interesting quote and a very interesting idea. I've heard said that what if the bible is just a series of parables of how we should behave towards each other with the character Jesus passing through them to tie them together. Viewing the whole story of Jesus in this way is an interesting one but I still think it's going to cause a lot of controversy and be hard to sell in America.

Would you go to see it?



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