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STEPHEN'S MOVIE GUIDE

The Bible – Jeremiah (1998)   rating

Review: written 2008

Pretty good, but not as good as the book

 The Bible – Jeremiah (1998)

Some lively direction and great performances bring some life to what could have been a bleak story.

Over 6 Centuries before Christ, Judah is revitalised when the ancient scrolls are discovered and the temple is restored. The young Jeremiah is born into the order of the priesthood, and his faith and tradition become the cornerstone of his existence during this renaissance of sorts. However, 16 years later the adult Jeremiah receives a Word from God that nobody wants to hear - that the sins and excesses of Judah are going to lead to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the people will be led into bondage. Does he have the faith and strength to deliver the Word, facing ostracism from his family, tragic separation from the woman he loves, and persecution for treason?

Some license has been taken to add some characters and give some depth to Jeremiah's character - a tack which can lead movie versions of bible stories into rough water - however with Patrick Dempsey as Jeremiah, the effect here is to bring out a real sense of the humanity of the prophet, making the sense of sacrifice relevant and believable. However, this gentle looking man does not flinch from forcefully speaking the Word when it is needed - watch out for the flying spittle! The weak King Zedekiah is also well portrayed and a few starry cameos are welcome - Oliver Reed in fine form, and Klaus Maria Brandauer oddly believable as the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, despite that resolutely European accent.

The Bible series always seems to have tackled the subject of God speaking in a sensitive way, and the manner in which He speaks here is done very effectively, portraying how surreal and powerful the moment is while avoiding the `Booming American Voice cliché of so many movies. The scene in which Jeremiah first acts as God's voice piece is particularly well done.

Taking into account some crisp and colourful photography and reasonable production values given the TV budget, it's a valiant attempt at a rarely told story - of course, it's not as good as the book it's based on.





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