Powerful and unique are two of the best ways to quickly describe season one of ‘The Chosen’, a ‘pay-it-forward’ episodic, visual chronicle of the life of Jesus.
The series is free to watch via an app, with the options of paying for the entire season or paying as you go. Meaning that each episode watched has been paid for by someone else, and it’s now up to you to pass that kindness on.
The pay-it-forward option also invites viewer ownership in the continued success, and advancement of the series.
There’s a list of things to like about ‘The Chosen’.
It isn’t Christian kitsch. It’s not bumper sticker theology, nor is it a grind to push through. It’s not cringe-worthy to watch, and it’s careful in handling the events revealed in the New Testament. The pay-it-forward method is ground-breaking, and the expositional bridge brings together a thought-provoking, historically accurate, multi-ethnic retelling of Jesus, as would have been witnessed by the New Testament’s original audience.
The music also deserves a mention. Like a lot of art, music takes words further than words and images can go. This is reflected in the ‘stomp and clap’ theme song ‘Walk on the Water,’ elevated by Ruby Amanfu’s vocals. Even with the theme song’s much brighter tone, it’s overpowering nuance has an engaging impact reminiscent of Fever Ray’s ‘If I had a Heart’ used in the History channel’s Vikings series.
The score for ‘The Chosen’ was penned by composer Matt Nelson and Jars of Clay lead singer, Dan Haseltine. Haseltine said he signed on because he was intrigued by the way in which director, Dallas Jenkins was drawing out the human relevance of the New Testament’s record of the life of Christ.
Haseltine described the creative inspiration behind the music as a fusion of slave spirituals, blues, and middle-eastern music; calling it ‘a combination of three textures, which aims to create a very human sounding musical bed for the show.’
Nelson (rightly) gave a thumbs up to ‘the raw, slightly out-of-tune sound’ saying that it ‘gives the series an authenticity’ that ‘brings out those [raw human] elements in the presentation of the story.’
Dallas Jenkins describes the series as being about a ‘mix of pain and hope. [That in midst of] immense suffering, [there is] also this dignified beauty that came from the hope in this belief that God was actually present and that there was going to be rescue. That’s something that I think was also taking place two thousand years ago.’
Experienced actor, and Christian, Jonathan Roumie plays the role of Jesus, telling Catholic Weekly that his focus for the role was God’s ‘infinite compassion and mercy. Otherwise it’s just a very pale representation of who I understand Him to be.’
‘The Chosen’ builds on the quality production standards set by the Visual Bible’s 1993 Word-for-Word ‘The Gospel of Matthew’, Dreamwork’s’ ‘Prince of Egypt’, Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’, ‘Risen’, ‘The Nativity Story’, ‘AD: The Bible Continues’, and ‘The Young Messiah.’
Roumie’s on-screen portrayal of Jesus combines the infectious joy of Bruce Marchiano’s portrayal of Christ in the Visual Bible, with the gravitas of the Passion’s Jim Caviezel.
The team capture Jesus’ soberness, sass and sense of humour, minus the cartoonish caricatures. They bring the Gospels to life, and invite us to participate in that journey with them.
According to the official website, ‘The Chosen’ is ‘the first ever multi-season show’ of its kind. It’s also the ‘number one highest crowd-funded media project of all time at $10 million from over 19,000 people, translated into 50 languages and counting.’
Season one of ‘The Chosen,’ with the option of paying-it-forward, is free to watch via the app in app stores.
Image: VIDANGEL Studios
© Rod Lampard, 2020