Film CRITIque
How to Write a CRITICAL REVIEW of a "life of Jesus" Film
last update: 29 July 2006

Purpose

  1. To practice the skill of "reading" visual and aural imagery in an attentive and analytical way;
  2. To develop and articulate a critical awareness of how Jesus is portrayed by contemporary media;
  3. To discern the theological understanding of Jesus which underlies each film; and
  4. To evaluate how well each film conveys its message about Jesus.

Procedure

  1. Bear in mind the following questions as you are viewing the film:
    1. How is Jesus (or the Jesus figure) characterized in the film; what kind of interpretation is offered?  What kind of personality is he/she given?  Which aspects of the various Gospels are developed, and which are ignored?  How does the characterization of Jesus in the film compare with his characterization(s) in the Gospels as you understand them?
    2. What is the purpose of the film?  How well does the film succeed in achieving its goals?  To what kind of audience does the film seem aimed?  Why?
    3. What would you characterize as the "highpoint" of the film, the most dramatic scene, and why?
    4. What do you see as the film's greatest strength, and its greatest weakness?  Why?
    5. How well do you think the film works as an interpretation of Jesus?  Why?  What objections might be raised against your assessment?  How would you respond?
  2. Review at least two published reviews of this film (in your textbooks or other media) and reflect upon where you agree or disagree with the reviewers' comments.

Length

Customarily, a film critique should be no longer than 750–800 words

Organization

The critique itself will have three parts:

  1. Part One: Synopsis & Sketch of Main Features
    1. What is the overall narrative structure or plot of the film? What do you think is the key idea about Jesus that the producer was trying to convey in this film?
    2. How would you characterize the producer's selection of which "moments" in the life of Jesus to include (or exclude) from this film?
    3. What kind of Jesus is portrayed in this film (e.g., personality, character traits, interests)?
    4. Who are the other leading roles, and how are these characters related to Jesus?
    5. On which of the NT gospels does this screenplay rely the most?  In what scenes do you see evidence of this?
  2. Part Two: Evidence & Illustrations
    1. What are the primary differences you see between this screenplay and the story of Jesus we get from the canonical gospels? What scenes provide key examples of these differences?
    2. What one or two scenes do you see as central to understanding the producer's portrayal of Jesus?
    3. What are one or two techniques that you found particularly effective in conveying the producer's message of Jesus?
  3. Part Three: Critical Evaluation
    1. What was the producer's fundamental message about Jesus in this film?  Are you convinced?
    2. What differences do you see between your reading of the pertinent Gospel texts and the way the film producer has interpreted them? Are these differences of method or content or both?
    3. If you were producing your own "life of Jesus" movie, which "moments" of Jesus' life would you be sure to include? How would your selection compare and contrast with the program for this film?
    4. What do you see as the three most important contributions of this film to understanding Jesus of Nazareth, and what do you see as its limitations?
    5. What two questions would you like the class to discuss concerning this film?

Remember

Click here: Grading protocol