Film Review: The Miracle Maker

16/05/07 | Posted by MattPage

Movie makers filming the life of Jesus have generally struggled to get the balance right between his divinity and his humanity. The earlier films, like 1927's The King of Kings, emphasised Jesus's divinity by making him remote and detached. More recent films have tried to portray a more human Jesus, but often seem to sail straight past the target. Last Temptation of Christ portrayed a Jesus who wasn't even a particularly stable human. Others were so keen to show him laughing, that he lost any sense of substance.

image
 The Miracle Maker

Ironically, it is a film made using puppets and cartoons, rather than live action, which has perhaps captured the humanity and the divinity of Jesus better than any other film to date.

Somehow The Miracle Maker seems to get the required balance just right. Jesus gives off incredible warmth around people: he uses gentle humour in his teaching, he’s relaxed and he frequently smiles at people. Yet these things never compromised the sense that he is someone significant. Perhaps it’s Ralph Fiennes’s voice that does the work, or the fact that not using an actor makes it easier. Either way it’s an incredible achievement, and many find it very moving.

The film was a joint project between Russian and Welsh animators. Cartwn Cmryu and Christmas Films. Having succeeded with their version of Shakespeare, they decided to turn their hand to the New Testament. They decided to divide the work load by getting Christmas Films to make the scenes using puppets with Cartwn Cmryu recording the 2D scenes. The switch to 2D animation indicates that the story is moving to a different state of mind -  flashbacks, parables and the more supernatural aspects of the gospels.

Whilst the use of animation makes the story accessible for children, it is certainly never childish. The variation in animation styles might help keep their attention, but it is far more important than that. The 2D animation gives the film a real edge, challenging the audience’s expectations and involving them in the story more.

Another strength of the film is that it sets the story against its Jewish and Roman background. Early in the story, Pilate and one of his centurions discuss a revolt that has just put down. Later on there we are shown the post-resurrection appearance on the Road to Emmaus where the discussion stresses the importance of Jesus’ execution being in public and how that affects his resurrection.

Interestingly, The Miracle Maker shows more post-resurrection episodes than almost any other film about Jesus. Mary finds the empty tomb, and meets the risen Jesus, as does Peter. We also see Jesus meet his followers in the upper room and on the Road to Emmaus, and leave them by ascending to Heaven.

The Miracle Maker is faithful to the gospels, inventive, creative, expertly put together and includes a great score. The impressive cast never disappoint, and for a film made using puppets it’s surprisingly moving. US readers will also be able to enjoy the recent release of a Special Edition DVD with an audio commentary and making of documentary.

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Your comments

this is not a review

#1. By laura santos on February 02, 2012

You could try to make it more clear so children and young people can also understand what you are saying.

#2. By Jackila Sutha on March 09, 2014

How is this not a review? It discusses why the author thought the film worked, what they liked about it etc.
It made comparisons with other films dealing with the same themes.
That’s a review!

#3. By Mark on May 03, 2014

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