Michael Sheen's staging of the Passion in his hometown of Port Talbot last Easter won plaudits from all.
Now it has been adapted to the screen, and it's a calamitous misjudgement. The immersive element of the event, wherein the public interacted with the performance, has vanished altogether, leaving only the spectacle of crowds standing about looking bemused. More seriously, its intellectual pretensions stand horribly exposed. The director Dave McKean admits he's an atheist, which is fine, but denuding the Easter story of any religious dimension is surely nuts. He says he's exploring "belief systems" but fails to show what anyone here believes in.
Sheen calls himself Teacher, and all he does is pass around sandwiches (the feeding of the 5,000, I think) and ask people to tell him their "stories" – as if in this age of blogging people need encouragement. The Teacher has provoked evil corporate profiteers who want to exploit the town's resources. How he could threaten them never becomes clear. Sheen is a Messiah figure without the mystery, majesty or dark wit that characterised Jesus. Instead of giving great speeches to inspire followers or worry enemies, he just looks vaguely beatific, like a local boy made good. The conceit of it is at once narcissistic and completely banal.