Nicole Law binges on a very old tale told in a very new way in the form of a compelling series.
While browsing a series of cooking tutorials, art gallery tours and the odd book review video on Youtube (don’t you look for these?), I chanced upon a curious new series known as The Chosen.
At first, I was sceptical – the thumbnail showed a strangely modern looking Jesus with a piercing gaze- was this a remake of The Passion of the Christ? Asking around my peer group, I was surprised to learn that the series had garnered millions of views across the globe and that almost all my friends were talking about it, regardless of their faith background.
I did some research on the series and found out that season one was among the highest crowd-funded media projects of all time. It made me wonder, what attracted people to The Chosen in such numbers? Was it the cinematography, the acting or was it something deeper?
A week or so later, I watched a clip of the first series with a friend and she remarked that unlike many previous adaptations of Jesus’ life, this one felt different. Sure, in that brief clip there were biblical references, events of importance illustrated on screen and a faithful retelling of a story we thought we were familiar with. Yet, I also observed a very human take on the biblical narrative, unlike anything I had seen before.
As I watched more I glimpsed the human nature of Jesus in many episodes …
the kind smile he has for the Samaritan woman, despite her wayward lifestyle, and his love for children spring to mind.
A particularly impactful episode in the series, known in the Bible as ‘The calling of St Matthew’, really struck me deeply.
It tells the story of the tax collector Matthew, Jewish himself but who collects taxes for the Roman occupiers from his Jewish compatriots. He is well protected by the Romans and lives in luxury, yet his existence is a lonely one. He is rejected by his own people as they view him as a traitor working in collaboration with their oppressors. The sense of fear and woundedness on his face is apparent every time he is shown going through jeering crowds from his home to the tax collectors’ booth in the centre of the city. On one of those days, Jesus and his disciples walk past the booth.
He calls Matthew by name, and only then did I realise the importance of being seen.
It wasn’t enough to exist and to revel in decadence; at a deeper level, we need to be seen and loved as the people we are. Matthew immediately leaves everything behind and passes back the keys and his ‘freedom’ to the Roman soldier standing guard. The rest, as they say, is history.
From that point on, I was hooked on the series and binge watched season one. (Though I warn you, episode one is perhaps the weakest of all the episodes. It gets really good from episode two onwards.) I started to focus on the human nature of all these biblical characters, perhaps for the first time, understanding their motivations, fears and hopes and it helped me to see the biblical narrative in a more human way. I laughed and cried with all these characters and I was even more thankful that the season was made available for all to view.
I am thankful to be able to appreciate the sheer artistry and devotion evident in the production and to realise that the Good News still resonates so deeply with so many of us, who are yearning and seeking for the truth.
The acting is good, the script likewise, with numerous witty or deep exchanges, though of course it lacks the panache of a big budget production. In terms of cinematography, The Greatest Story Ever Told it ain’t. But it’s all the better for that …
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