Friday, November 15, 2013

The Testaments

 (This is Jeremy Hoop, not Ben Stiller.)

You know what shook my faith? The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepherd, that Church-made feature about Jesus' visit to the Nephites "somewhere in the Americas". Talk about hyper-sentimental dog shit. I cringed through the entire film wondering how in the world the LDS Church (a church considering itself to be led directly by Christ's own resurrected hand) dare produce such an embarrassment of a film.

The story is sappy as all hell. Helam sees the star of Bethlehem as a teen and sets his heart on one day seeing the Messiah. In the 33-year interlude, Helam has a family; his wife has died and his son, Jacob, has become a rebellious pain in the ass who totally forsakes "the traditions of his fathers" in favor of a secular life in the court of evil Kohor. Jacob eventually changes his mind after witnessing the murder of a prophet of God by Kohor's stooges. Helam's disappointment and pain over his son is only compounded when he loses his sight and can no longer hope to see Jesus in the flesh. Then Jesus shows up in the sky, lands on the temple steps, and sets everything right. The end.

The movie plays the pain-of-lost-family card as much as it can to drive home the sense of fear and despair that is so crucial to the film. To say the music is heavy-handed would be an understatement. The Testaments manages to pound all subtlety to smithereens and send it out of screen with a sneeze. I found the movie horribly distasteful and I didn't want to be associated with it.

To top off my discomfort, the makers of the film decided to place the film squarely into a Mayan context. Seeing a bunch of white and Polynesian Mormons running around Mayan temples with with Mayan headdresses felt disrespectful to the Mayan, kind of like putting on blackface. Besides, the connection of the Nephites/Lamanites/(and all manner of "-ites") doesn't work. They weren't speaking a Hebrew dialect, weren't writing in Reformed Egyptian, weren't talking about the Messiah and American Revolution-related concepts of freedom and civil duty, and were not divided into "-ites". But in the film they're running around like there are singles wards and playing with non-Book of Mormon animals, like monkeys. 

I suppose it didn't help much either that Tomas Kofod was a damned ugly white Jesus...

...but my faith remained in tact. The Testaments is just a film after all, my faith was in the Living Christ and his living church!

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