To characterize the Christian Indie project The Good Book as a movie, is almost to give it a misnomer. Unlike most pieces in this media genre, the film has not a single line of written dialogue. In fact, it has no sound at all aside from the soundtrack, put to the “silent” video of the film’s events. In this way, it’s basically the modern version of a silent film, but one with a concept that hasn’t often been done before.
The plot of the film can be summed up quite succinctly by its own self-ascribed synopsis: “A small New Testament passes through the hands of fourteen strangers. For seven of the individuals, their lives will never be the same.” And so the film goes. It begins with Daniel, a young boy who accidentally sets fire to his home. He runs away, and a New Testament that is given to him, he gives to the police officer that reconnects him with his family. And so the story goes, passing from person to person.
The most noteworthy thing that the film is able to accomplish in its sixty minutes is the breadth of emotion. The film portrays people in difficult circumstances, from the loss of loved ones to alcoholism to homelessness to governmental oppression. That’s no small feat for a film with no spoken dialogue. The actors on screen deliver what is at times very emotional performances, especially by Jenn Gotzon, who plays Ruth in the film. That combines with beautiful cinematography and a great soundtrack to make a piece that is at least somewhat enjoyable to watch.
It does, however, have its drawbacks, many of which are by virtue of the film’s unusual medium. It’s hard to find a connection to most of the characters, since they’re on film for only a fleeting five to ten minutes before the book is shuffled onto the next character. It makes me wish we had a more in-depth look at just a few of these difficult situations, instead of attempting to cover several with a short amount of time.
More importantly, though, viewers have to realize that this is not a movie, at least not in the traditional sense. We often in our reviews highlight the particular worldview that a media espouses and the message that it promotes, purposefully or otherwise. In a film like this, with no dialogue and little more than a fleeting glance at personal struggles, the only clearly enumerated message is that the Bible is, as the title indicates, a good book.
That’s not a criticism. Obviously, as a Christian writing this review, I think the Bible is a good book; more than a good book even, being the word of God. It is, however, an acknowledgement of the limitations of this particular medium. The film doesn’t go any deeper than that, and I’m not sure it even has the potential to by virtue of it being essentially a silent film.
So it has its high points. It’s not terribly boring to sit through as a silent film could easily be, nor do the tender and faith-filled moments feel forced. On the contrary, they feel natural. But I am left wondering if the creators had tackled these issues in a way that allowed for discussion and deeper looks into these characters’ terrible circumstances, if it would have been more powerful.