The Miracle Maker (1999 film)

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The Miracle Maker
DVD cover
WelshGŵr y Gwyrthiau
Directed byDerek W. Hayes
Stanislav Sokolov
Written byMurray Watts
Based onLife of Jesus in the New Testament, particularly the Gospel of Luke[1]
The Miracle Maker by Murray Watts
Produced byNaomi Jones
Renat Zinnurov
StarringRalph Fiennes
Julie Christie
Richard E. Grant
Ian Holm
Michael Bryant
Emily Mortimer
Alfred Molina
Music byAnne Dudley
Distributed byIcon Film Distribution (UK)
S4C (Wales)
Release dates
  • 26 November 1999 (1999-11-26) (Welsh)
  • 31 March 2000 (2000-03-31) (English)
Running time
90 min
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States

The Miracle Maker (Welsh: Gŵr y Gwyrthiau)[2] sometimes subtitled The Story of Jesus, is a 1999 Welsh-Russian[3][4] stop motion-animated film directed by Derek Hayes and Stanislav Sokolov.

The film tells the story of the life of Jesus Christ, voiced by Ralph Fiennes, from the perspective of secondary characters such as his disciples, the high priests and in particular Tamar, the daughter of Jairus, previously unnamed in the Bible. While the film mainly utilizes stop-motion techniques, hand-drawn animation is used to distinguish flashbacks, parables, visions and spiritual encounters.


90 years into the Roman Occupation of Judea, Jairus of Capernaum, on the advice of his friend Cleopas, brings his sick daughter Tamar to see a doctor in Sepphoris. While the doctor confides to Jairus her condition is incurable, Tamar witnesses a deranged woman, Mary Magdalene, being spared a public humiliation by Jesus, a carpenter building a new synagogue. Jesus leaves Sepphoris and visits his mother, Mary, who recalls his birth, the visit of the Wise Men and his conferring with the elders at the Temple.

Jesus is baptised by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, where he is spoken to by a heavenly voice, he then wanders into the wilderness and resists temptation by Satan. Jesus begins preaching in Capernaum, where Tamar and her mother Rachel hear him give the Sermon on the Mount and tell the Parable of the Wise and the Foolish Builders. Judas, a zealot plotting an uprising against the Roman Empire, believes Jesus is the Messiah come to lead the Jewish people to victory and leaves the zealots to follow him.

The Temple priests question the legitimacy of Jesus's teachings, with priest Ben Azra particularly concerned he could lead a revolt. Jesus commandeers the boat of fishermen Simon, John and James to preach to crowds from the water, then instructs them into making a miraculous catch of fish. Simon subsequently recognizes Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus makes him his first apostle, changing his name to Peter. Jesus selects eleven more apostles, including Judas, and continues to preach and perform miracles. He frees Mary Magdalene of the demons who possess her but after forgiving her sins in front of synagogue leaders, Ben Azra and Simon the Pharisee condemn him as being in league with the Devil.

Tamar's illness worsens and though fearful of angering the priests, Jairus asks Jesus to save her, but she dies before he is able to. Jesus encourages Jairus to remain faithful and raises Tamar, who awakens fully healed. Jesus mourns for John the Baptist after hearing he has been killed by King Herod, who agrees with Ben Azra that Jesus must be dealt with to prevent Pontius Pilate from reporting an uprising against Rome. Jairus, Rachel, Cleopas, and Tamar join Jesus and his followers as they journey to Jerusalem for Passover. Ben Azra tells high priest Caiaphas that he witnessed Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead and his visit to Jerusalem is the start of an uprising, but Caiaphas reasons that Jesus can be disposed of.

Arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus turns the tables of the temple traders, validates the payment of taxes to Caesar and predicts his own death, leading Judas to believe him to be a false messiah. Judas resolves to betray him to save himself and the Jewish people and offers to help the temple priests arrest Jesus away from the crowds. Jesus has the Passover meal with his followers, where he tells the disciples they will abandon him, then goes to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he refuses a final temptation by Satan to escape his fate, praying for God's will to be done. Judas leads the authorities to Jesus, who is arrested while the disciples flee.

Jesus is tried by Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin and is mocked by Herod, but Pilate finds no case against him, Ben Azra has crowds call for Jesus's execution and Caiaphas blackmails Pilate into condemning Jesus to death. Jesus is crucified in sight of his followers, the curtain separating the Holy of Holies is torn as he dies, and his body is laid in a tomb. Following the Sabbath, Mary Magdalane returns to the tomb and becomes distraught when she finds it empty, but she is comforted by the seemingly resurrected Jesus. She tells Peter, who also encounters Jesus near the empty tomb, while Cleopas and Jairus say they met Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Jesus finally appears before the apostles, then gathers all his followers on a mountain, where he tells them to give his teachings to the world and that he will always be with them before disappearing.



A Welsh language version premiered on S4C on November 26, 1999, with an English version distributed theatrically by Icon Film Distribution in the UK in March 2000. Opening in 100 cinemas, it grossed £153,408 in its opening weekend.[5] The film was also released theatrically in France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Poland as well as the USA, following the premiere on ABC on April 23, 2000.[6][7] Artisan Entertainment, and later Lionsgate, held the home video rights.


The Miracle Maker received positive critical response, Antonia Quirke of The Independent calling it "a powerfully engaging film, one that correctly sees the gospels as spiritual autobiography, and Jesus's skill with parables as an art both fundamental and devastating."[1]

Steven D. Greydanus of the National Catholic Register praised it, saying "no other Jesus movie I’ve seen is so well-grounded in the historical, cultural, political, religious and even economic realities of Jesus’ day, or in the religious conflict between Jesus and the Jewish authorities. From Jewish-Roman tensions to diverse groups within Judaism — Pharisees, Sadducees and Zealots; priests and local religious leaders, working-class Jews, despised tax collectors and other 'sinners,' hated Samaritans, and even more marginal figures like 'Mad Mary' Magdalene — Murray Watts’ astonishingly deft screenplay efficiently sketches the lines between all these groups. And then it demonstrates how easily Jesus crosses those lines, to the discomfort of all around him, his disciples included."[8]

Den of Geek listed it at #1 on a listicle of "25 Best Bible Movies About Jesus Christ to Watch For Easter," Rebecca Clough writing "For a children’s film, there’s an astonishing amount of intelligent insight into characters’ feelings and motivations. It’s also beautifully made, moving, and funny."[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Why do Shakespeare at all if you're going to do it like this?". The Independent. April 1, 2000.
  2. ^ "S4C - Gŵr y Gwyrthiau". BBC (in Welsh). Retrieved 9 October 2021.
  3. ^ "Why do Shakespeare at all if you're going to do it like this?". The Independent. 2000-04-01. Retrieved 2023-05-20.
  4. ^ "Bwletin Awdurdod S4C" (PDF). 2000.
  5. ^ "International box office: UK/Ireland". Screen International. 7 April 2000. p. 26.
  6. ^ DeMott, Rick. "The Miracle Maker On ABC". American Broadcasting Company. Retrieved 28 April 2024.
  7. ^ "The Miracle Maker (1999) - Release info". Retrieved 28 April 2024.
  8. ^ "A Triduum Ritual: 'The Miracle Maker'". NCR. 31 March 2021.
  9. ^ Clough, Rebecca (April 20, 2019). "25 Best Bible Movies About Jesus Christ to Watch For Easter". Den of Geek.

External links[edit]