Jesus of Nazareth
Paul Verhoeven, free spirit and director of such films as Robocop and Basic Instinct, which brim with sex and violence, used to be a member of the Pentecostal Church and has been fascinated by the life of Jesus since childhood. He once asked his father whether Jesus felt pain when he was crucified. Couldn’t God do anything about that? Receiving no answer, Verhoeven continued searching. In his films he explores the outer limits of acceptability, and he does so again in this his first book, defending positions that certainly do not square with the official teachings of the Church.
Most importantly Verhoeven asks who Jesus of Nazareth really was. How did he live? What did he stand for? For two thousand years appraisals of his character have been coloured by articles of faith, such as miracles and the resurrection, and iconic images of a skinny man on a cross with resignation in his eyes. That is not how Verhoeven sees him: ‘I look at Jesus as a person, I don’t think of him as the son of God. That’s a mythological Jesus, born out of our desire to see an image of God in a human being.’ Verhoeven casts his eye over some of the less attractive features of Jesus the man without intending to desanctify him.
He believes greater realism in tracing Jesus’ life will further our understanding and sense of identification. Verhoeven has an understandable preference for Mark’s gospel, since it is full of the kind of engaging details he can use to create a captivating portrait of Jesus as a brilliant and passionate wordsmith, a rebel and provocateur, a bundle of contradictions.
Verhoeven, film director that he is, presents ideas on how to make the ultimate film of the life of Christ. What would be the best opening shot? This makes the book highly personal, a quest by a man determined to leave no stone unturned, guided by personal associations, writing more as an essayist than as a biographer. This freethinking approach prompts questions.
Did Jesus choose his own twelve disciples? Did he really believe he had to die? What exactly happened to the body? Verhoeven’s answers make Jesus of Nazareth a provocative and resolutely original book.
- An engrossing book by a filmmaker fascinated by encounters with metaphysics as well as raw reality
- Intriguing insights from a director and dramatist in response to biblical texts
- A new angle on Jesus as an exorcist, utopian and revolutionary