Review: Judas – Gli amici di Gesù – Giuda (2001)


Director: Raffaele Mertes | 92 minutes | drama | Actors: Enrico Lo Verso, Danny Quinn, Aglaia Szyszkowitz, Mathieu Carrière, Francesco Pannofino, Pierfrancesco Favino, Mehmet Gunsur, Shel Shapiro, Todd Carter, Hannes Jaenicke, Matt Patresi, Giovanni Mi, Omar Lahlou, Cyrus Elias, Athina Cenci

In the 1990s, the stories about the most important figures from the Old Testament were filmed by an Italian team for TV, a popular series that was also broadcast in the Netherlands. Raffaele Mertes excelled as a cameraman and was promoted to director for the filming of the same series about “the friends of Jesus”. Not an easy task, because “Jesus” had already been made – with Mertes again as cameraman – and since Jesus of Nazareth is the only central figure in the New Testament, the dramatic flush for the series “Gli Amici di Gesù” became thin; this is also reflected in “Judas”.

Judas is an interesting figure in his own right. He doubts the decisiveness of his master and that puts the mutual relationship in the days before Jesus’ imprisonment under pressure. Judas thinks that Jesus must show more power to prove to the Jewish people and the Romans that he is the rightful King of the Jews. Judas also doubts between the love for a woman and the divine love for Jesus, but his pride drives him further. He is portrayed as a characterless and insecure figure, who becomes convinced of the idea that he is the key to the outcome of the battle between Jesus on the one hand and the rulers on the other, ignoring the will of his leader.

A difficult, ambiguous role, which is filled by Enrico Lo Verso. Lo Verso fits in the list of beautiful Mediterranean men that are approached for these films, but you cannot muster a shred of sympathy for him. Well, let’s say, we know Judas from Biblical tradition as well, but we are looking for a reason to put this man at the center of a story in which Jesus determines the events and the real despair about his own weakness is missing in Lo Verso. Jesus himself – as in the movies “Thomas” and “Mary Magdalene” played by Anthony Quinn’s son Danny – knows that his followers are too weak to follow him into his darkest moment and reacts with resignation to Judas’ antics. They are sometimes difficult to follow and not interesting enough for a separate film.

The makers, who deliver the usual quality visually, do not choose between the demonic Judas and the weakling. This too can be argued as Biblical faithfulness, but it does not bring new insights. It is striking that in ‘Judas’ Pontius Pilate is portrayed as a crafty tactician, who uses whatever comes his way to achieve his goals, is willing to go to the extreme, but lets others pay for it, including the naive Judas . This Pilate is the true key figure in the condemnation of Jesus and deserves a film of his own. Judas gets more credit than he deserves. We do not shed a tear for his ultimate fate, nor do we feel any satisfaction for it.

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