The Weekend's Viewing: Crucifixion, Sun, Channel 4
Titanic, Sun, ITV1

 

Crucifixion, Channel 4's film about Gunther von Hagens' latest exercise in human taxidermy, was like one of those fairground chimeras mocked up in the 19th century to milk the gullible of their pennies.

In the case of the fairground, they usually involved half of a monkey and half a fish, cunningly stitched together to produce a "genuine" mermaid. Here, the component parts were two different kinds of television programme: a serious and respectful film about the cultural significance of crucifixion, featuring contributors such as the art historian Martin Kemp and Bishop John Arnold, and another instalment of Channel 4's part-work raree show, starring the world's richest anatomist. The join, unfortunately, was all too visible, as you flicked between reflections on this particularly hallowed artistic theme and Gunther in his German factory, doing something grisly to a corpse.

There's an odd jauntiness to Gunther's gothic schtick. Visit one of his industrial embalming centres (the business has gone global now) and you may spot a human skeleton waving at you from a high window. He likes to tease, in a cadaverous sort of way. But he also likes to pretend that what he does is art. "I want to move people's minds and souls," he said, talking of his plan to create a life-size crucifixion tableau using skeletal remains and a plastinated vascular system for the body of Christ. He plans to take it across the Alps and present it to the Pope, which should be an interesting moment, if it ever arrives. He also talked about it being "in the service of Christianity", which is perhaps something for Christians to decide rather than Gunther himself, given that he's an avowed atheist.

Gunther, it turned out, is enduring a calvary of his own right now, having been diagnosed with Parkinson's. This has slurred his speech and given an acutely personal edge to his daily stock-in-trade. A sequence in which he talked about the electrodes now implanted in his brain to control his illness was almost immediately followed by images of the net of veins that cradle the head, cast in red plastic and pierced through by steel support rods, as if offering a window into his own skull. His illness also seems to have sharpened the sense that his work is a kind of bulwark against personal dissolution. "This Jesus will last long after my death and say, 'Built by Von Hagens'," he explained as he worked on the figure. He was too ill to attend the final erection of the finished piece, but by then everybody else interesting – bishops, art historians and fellow artists – had disappeared as well, so that you were left only with the bare bones and not the disputatious flesh that made it interesting.

I don't know if anyone is still watching Titanic to find out what happens, but those remaining on the voyage to relish the wilder excesses of Julian Fellowes' dialogue had a treat last night. It began with a medal-winning example of force-feed exposition as Winston Churchill stomped around the site of the Sidney Street siege, demanding to know where the ringleader had gone: "Yes! Peter the Painter!... Policeman-killer-in-chief! Where is he?" Wait. Don't tell me. I'm pretty sure I know this one. Could it be on the Titanic ?

Quite why Fellowes thinks he has to add superfluous thrills to a story that already contains tragedy, hubris, injustice and disaster, I do not know. But he does, stirring in runaway anarchists, jewel thefts, and unexpected reunions to add to the stew. Peter the Painter suddenly turned into Peter the Snogger when he encountered the electrician's wife in steerage, though there was no explanation of where they'd met before, only a ludicrous bit of antler-locking between husband and lover. "Come. We can see her and the children aboard boats," said Peter confronting his rival. "Then we can fight to the death." Another iceberg, please.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect