“The Book of Clarence” is definitely not your average “Bible movie,” as its first trailer makes very clear. Although it draws inspiration from Old Hollywood’s fascination with large-scale historical epics, it takes the ancient setting to tell a totally new story, featuring imagined characters whose lives intersect with biblical figures we’re more familiar with. With an all-star cast led by Oscar nominee LaKeith Stanfield, it’s a new take on the genre, with the idea of focusing on the people whose stories would have been overlooked by history.
Is “The Book of Clarence” a True Story?
“The Book of Clarence” is set in a real time and place: ancient Jerusalem during the ministry of Jesus. Although biblical figures like Jesus, his disciples, John the Baptist, and Mary Magdalene are characters in the movie, the main story is not part of any known history or religious narratives. Instead, it focuses on the imagined tale of Clarence, a young man who decides he wants to become one of the apostles, even if he’s not completely sold on the idea that Jesus is the Messiah.
“This story is about a young man who finds his faith through love and through wanting to become somebody in the world, which is the story of everybody,” producer JAY-Z told Vanity Fair. “Everyone wants to find love and everyone wants to leave this place having accomplished something, having left their mark that they’ve been here and hopefully affected the world in a positive way.”
What Inspired “The Book of Clarence”?
“I wanted to tell a Bible story about an everyman,” director Jeymes Samuel told Vanity Fair. “I always wanted to explore the Bible stories, but from the angle of the person that sells Jesus his sandals, the woman or man that owns the hair salon.” Samuel previously made a big splash with “The Harder They Fall,” another genre-bending tale (a Western) that put a twist on genre conventions by centering characters of color, and particularly Black characters. This time, the idea was to revisit the biblical stories that so many people are familiar with, but to give it a fresh view from the perspective of someone not already “known” to audiences or to history.
Although it’s a movie that draws inspiration from the Bible and from Christian narratives, Jay-Z explained to Vanity Fair that religion is merely “a backdrop” to the story. Instead of being a classic biblical epic, it’s more of a story about the power of “celebrity,” however it’s defined in a particular time and place, and how Clarence’s journey of skepticism, confidence, and faith takes him (and viewers) on a more unexpected journey.
Watch the trailer for “The Book of Clarence” below.
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