Godspell truly captivates the heart and mind of the mere spectator because of its austerity, and its provincial meanings. The movie is not a message for our times, or a movie to focus on the movement of Jesus, or even quite a movie for the youth. In Fact, it is a sequence of stories and tunes, like the bible is, and it is conveyed with the straightforwardness that ingenuous stories demand: with zero illusions, no knowledgeable implements, and a lot of modest honesty.
The qualities expressed through the movie would allow me to see the play in person. Though I was not able to attend a performance of the Godspell at my local high school; if I were given the chance again I would go to watch the play because the movie was truly captivating. The play and movie is a musical focused on the Gospel according to the Evangelist Matthew, “Godspell” is strangely mocking, wild, and loveable. The stage version originally produced in 1971 has been opened up into a movie by taking all of New York in a set.
That is true, except for the scenes at the beginning and end, which display the city as a temple of mammon and a rat nest. Only the cast populates the movie; we do not see any other people, and the 10 kids dance, sing, and act out parables in improbable places as the World Trade Center and a tugboat. This is a new use for the city of New York, which looks remarkably spotless; even its vulgar skyscrapers edge toward magnificence when the infinitely long shots immerse them.
Against this normality of steel and concrete, the characters come on like kids at a junior high reunion, clothed in comic book colors and bright tattered rags. Only two characters have names: Jesus, and a character who plays both John (who baptized Jesus in the bible) and Judas (who denied and betrayed Jesus). The other eight characters, which represent an on-the-spot assembly of disciples, are the cast who play themselves. What is nice about the cast is that they give the observer all new faces to watch.
The characters don’t look like professional stage youths but this is a positive because the movie is livelier. “Godspell’s” cast is not only young but they are supposed to look like normal everyday people. For some crazy purpose the director, David Greene, has repelled from any enticement to make the movie visually extravagant. The movie characters, just like the stage characters, are given little emblems on their faces by Jesus. A little girl receives a little yellow flower and a boy acquires a tiny red star.
It was necessary in the stage version to exaggerate this makeup to make it visible by making the emblems very large and crude, but the movie is an opposite an makes the emblems appear detailed and nice looking. It appeared to me that some people would not understand the meaning behind the odd tattoos and why they were unrelated to religious icons. In the 1970s tattoos were extremely popular, so why not add a part of the current culture to the play and movie. The director and producer used anything to brighten the culture and the upcoming world around them.