The super folk at National Geographic have given me advance access to the film and in what follows I offer my review, but first, a caveat: the version I watched, naturally, was web based and neither in 3-d nor HD (I turned HD off so that the film would run smoothly over my rather modest internet connection. I am perfectly satisfied and absolutely certain that both the IMAX 3d and HD will be fantastic viewing experiences because the ‘flat’ version was).
The film commences with an overview of the city’s history beginning with the Jebusites and a series of flyovers and then turns to a description of the city’s various ‘quarters’ by residents of them: a Muslim girl describes her Jerusalem and life in it; a Jewish girl and her life in it; and a Christian girl and what the city and its history means to her.
The film then addresses how such a tiny patch of earth came to dominate three of the world’s greatest religions, discussing its many occupations and conquests and turning to an examination of the archaeology of the city with Jodi Magness as the featured expert explaining to viewers the importance of the site in archaeological terms. In her words
Understanding ancient Jerusalem is like trying to put together a giant puzzle where we’re missing most of the pieces and we don’t know what the original picture looked like. Everything that we dig up out of the ground is a new piece of that puzzle.
Magness informs viewers about the most important archaeological discoveries from Jerusalem and its environs (including, of course, the Dead Sea Scrolls) and suggests that what drew ancients to the site was water- the spring which waters Jerusalem year round.
Our narrator then takes his audience to even more ancient times before anything stood on the site of an ancient slab of bedrock where Jebusites worshiped Shamesh and later Abraham bound Isaac and even later the First and Second Temples were built.
This special sacred place still stirs love among Jews who feel a special connection to it. Various scenes and celebrations reinforce this fact and they are, one must admit, beautifully filmed. Also beautifully done are the computer generated archaeological reconstructions of Herod’s Temple and the structures surrounding it which use a combination of modern film and artistic rendering.
But, naturally, Jerusalem is also beloved of Christians and the film next returns to our Christian guide and her experiences in the place and our narrator describes the ‘footsteps of Jesus’ from the Jordan to the sea of Galilee to his death in Jerusalem.
Most interestingly, from a Christian point of view, may well be the discussion of the ancient graffiti beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which shows a ship with a Latin inscription reading ‘Lord, we have come to worship you’ and which seems to indicate to our filmmakers that the site in question was viewed as sacred long before the church was built upon it.
Jerusalem is a place where heaven and earth meet for so many people and that’s why it is so vitally important and why it is so treasured, and desired.
This is a spectacular movie. Even on a small computer screen. I can only imagine how brilliant it must be in all its HD IMAX 3-D glory. The history it offers is accurate; the archaeological bits are superb (as one would expect with Jodi Magness involved) ; and the way in which it mixes modern with ancient and personal with universal by means of our delightful Christian, Jewish, and Muslim guides to Jerusalem their home and the highly articulate and obviously well-informed and rehearsed narrator is magnificent. It refuses to pander to special interests and neither will it offer ownership of the city to one quarter or the other.
Finally, from a purely aesthetic point of view, we have here an honest to goodness work of art. Balance and symmetry and color and light and artistry are all in harmonious wholeness. If this film were a painting, it would be a masterpiece. It is no exaggeration to call it ‘visually stunning’.
I will definitely watch it again when it hits the theaters if its even so far as Nashville (a three hour drive). It’s that good. I recommend that you do as well if it is at all possible for you to do so. You’ll be so very glad you did.
And, in case you want to get a taste of the movie for yourself- you can watch the trailer below:
- Jerusalem: The Movie (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)