By: Russ Matthews
The cultural phenomenon of The Chosen series has captured the world’s attention and given audiences a fresh means of engaging with the story of Jesus’ life.
From the crowd-funded beginning to the eventual success of Angel Studios, not even the series creator, Dallas Jenkins, could have anticipated the influence this series would have on the world.
Another promotional method the production team has engaged with over recent seasons is releasing the first two episodes in theatres to tantalise fans for the upcoming series release. As season four is set to be unleashed for the first time, Reel Dialogue has had the opportunity to watch the episodes before they have their limited time in cinemas. If there was anything to be said about the initial introduction to this season is that fans will not be disappointed with the continued telling of Jesus’ earthly journey.
After being swept away in the conclusion of season three with Jesus (Jonathan Roumie) and Simon Peter (Shahar Isaac) walking on water, audiences will need to brace themselves for the emotional impact of the newest chapters of the Gospel story. The first episode focusses on the humanity and legacy of the man who would pave the way for Jesus, John the Baptist (David Amito). Jenkins and the writers weave a fascinating tale that travels from the prophet’s birth through until the daughter of Herodias’ dance. They manage to show how these events had an effect on Jesus and his followers. Scenes that brilliantly and respectfully capture the emotional and spiritual effects that these events would have had on those directly involved with his life and how his death would cause ripples through history.
After the traumatic and triumphal end to this episode, the narrative moves into the depreciation of Jesus’ appointment of Peter as the foundation of the church. This announcement causes another series of waves to wash through the hearts of the disciples. Some who wish to have an office in the Rabbi’s court while others seek acceptance from the man who was declared the rock of the ministry. The artistic expression of these relational tensions is given a Jane Austin-esque treatment of how these discussions would have played out with long and extensive dialogue and walks occurring amongst the followers and their leader. All the while, a romance is burgeoning between Thomas (Joey Vahedi) and Ramah (Yasmine Al-Bustami).
The production quality and the clever balancing act between artistic license and biblical accuracy delivered by this team continue to stand out about the series. The acting, sets, and cast chemistry help the viewer be swept into the dialogue without feeling like this is merely a history lesson. The writing team honours the biblical components and respectfully injects humour, emotion and character development into each character. Where many of the disciples are left to be one-dimensional in the Gospel narratives, each is given a believable backstory that adds to the overall viewing experience. If there is a weak link within the series, it is Brandon Potter’s depiction of Quintus. Despite his evil intent and role, this is one of the rare elements that feels like a throwback to the typical Christian interpretation of his place in the Bible, as he is allowed to be a bit camp and overact. Yet, this is not enough to derail the series, and this issue might be remedied as the episodes roll out.
There is always room for more for those intrigued by this worldwide phenomenon and wondering if now is the time to join The Chosen bandwagon. Still, it might be worth catching up on the series before seeing the latest season. The show goes from strength to strength and will not disappoint those who love this series. For the faithful followers of The Chosen franchise, there is no better place to enjoy the first two episodes of your favourite series than in cinemas.
Reel Dialogue: Can we take artistic license with the Bible’s stories?
This has been a debate since the beginning, especially when the Bible’s words were put onto the big screen. Some of the first films ever produced were Bible stories, and they continue to be a source of inspiration for creatives to create screenplays and movies. Over the past century of cinematic history, the discussions about how far to take the artistry with these beloved texts continue.
No one can argue the influence of Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, The Passion of the Christ, the Jesus film and even The Chosen on people’s lives throughout history. Yet, all had their critics for their interpretations of Bible stories. So, how does someone discern how far is ‘too far’ in the artistry? There is a subjectivity to it all, but a few things may make it easier to know how to answer this question.
The first question is if you know your Bible well enough to understand what is mere interpretation and what is Biblical fact? Before judging a film’s accuracy, the challenge is for people to study their Bible and know how to discern the differences.
Secondly, if there are extra-Biblical elements, do they complement or detract from the message? Again, you need to know your Bible to answer this question. Still, this is an important question to ask when watching depictions of the Bible. Thankfully, the team at The Chosen have done their due diligence to complement the words of the Bible instead of detracting from their intentions.
Finally, if watching the Bible on screen is too much for you, don’t watch. The Lord has given you the freedom to make decisions for yourself. Also, He has given the same freedom to others.
These three questions will help viewers to know how to answer the question of artistic license and hopefully challenge us all to read the Bible.
The Chosen – Season Four does artistically add story elements. Still, their purpose and intentions are meant to lift up the person of Jesus. The Saviour’s message is not compromised by the series. Instead, it has managed to get His story before audiences worldwide.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, Philippians 1:9-10
Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.
All images: Movie stills
About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.