NEW YORK – Actor Joseph Fiennes of the movie "Risen," releasing Friday, praises the telling of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the lens of the skeptic and affirms it's the story of every man.
"I think the message is up to the individual and I think there's huge takeaways. There is, if you're a believer, a wonderful opportunity to be inspired in terms of continuing that conversation of faith and what that means to you. If you're a non-believer, there are other takeaways such as the power of forgiveness and redemption and a second chance. Clavius gets a second chance in many ways," Fiennes told The Christian Post.
"Risen" is the epic biblical story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as told through the eyes of a non-believer. Fiennes admittedly revealed that he's on his own spiritual journey and it's constantly changing. He says this film provides a safe platform for every man to look at the Gospel account through the eyes of a doubter.
"I love the component that he might be in every man for people to hang their own position of faith on him or look at that conversation through him. Here's a man that gets to witness the resurrection first hand and then the next day he says to Peter when they're on their journey in Galilee, 'Maybe it was a trick? Does he have a twin brother?' He can't shut off this intellectual noise and I think that's true of a lot of us and I think that noise, maybe there's another word for it. Maybe it's doubt and it's something that we're all subject to," said the actor.
Fiennes plays Pontius Pilate's tribune Clavius, a vicious official in ancient Rome that is put in charge of finding the body of Jesus and bringing all of his disciples to justice after the resurrection. Fiennes praised his character's disbelief and confessed that was why he wanted to play the character.
"It's a beautiful human condition – doubt. It's to be loved and cherished and understood. Not to be scared of, I think," he continued. Fiennes said he was also intrigued by the role because of director Kevin Reynolds. "He a director that I love and admire and is a veteran of cinema," he gushed.
Another reason the Salisbury, Wiltshire, England native wanted to take the part was his respect for the account of Christ.
"The story of Christ was a story told to me when I was very young and it arrested me from an early age," Fiennes admitted. "I love the idea that we get to visit this story but we don't end at the cross. So many films end at the cross and the cross is fairly heavy place to end. I think it's brave, and brilliant that a filmmaker and writer would say, 'Well let's get into the second equation because that's the payoff and the big uplifting point, the final equation.' So to end at the cross is sad and it's great that we get to go beyond that to the resurrection."
"Risen" is filled with graphic scenes of death and combat but the tribune Clavius does get confronted with the reality that Jesus has risen. He admitted that even after seeing with his own eyes the resurrection, it's a reality that cannot be reconciled, which to Fiennes is the selling point for those who may never fully accept the biblical account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
"If you're a non-believer you get to enjoy this ride without it being a preachy Sunday school lesson," he said. "A lot of [Christian] films do come across like that. They come across conservative, sunday school, low production value, cheesy and they're inauthentic. There's an authenticity here – it's gritty, it's hard, it's gory and you really feel the texture of the time and place. I think that's because of the high production value."
"Risen" is certainly not laced with scripture since it's written from the persepective of a Roman officer but there are particular scenes throughout the film in which the disciples share some of the original principles of Christ and Christianity. Perhaps to add some comedic relief when the disciple known as Bartholomew is interrogated, the very hippy, goofy-like character maintained that a follower of Jesus' only weapon is "love."
Furthermore as the film comes to a close and Jesus is about to ascend into heaven, he gives the charge found in Mark 16:15: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."
Fiennes praised the film's handling of getting the balance between scripture and cinema right. "It's not too revisionist and it's not Sunday school, it's great. It's been a tough journey but I think we got there," the actor concluded.
"Risen" hits theaters Feb. 19th. Directed by Reynolds and written by Reynolds and Paul Aiello, the film also stars Tom Felton, Peter Firth, and Cliff Curtis. For more information visit Risen-movie.com