In a noteworthy moment from Jeymes Samuel’s 2021 revenge Western film, “The Harder They Fall,” the character Beckwourth, played by RJ Cyler, utters the enigmatic phrase, “Like they say in the book of Clarence, ‘No man out-speed me.’” This seemingly casual line has a deeper significance as it alludes to Samuel’s upcoming cinematic endeavor, “The Book of Clarence.”
Samuel, acclaimed for his directorial debut in “The Harder They Fall,” is set to shift his storytelling lens to biblical times with “The Book of Clarence.” The film chronicles the journey of a man’s ambition to become one of the Messiah’s apostles. The director seeks to illuminate lesser-known facets of these timeless tales, choosing to focus on the perspective of everyday individuals during that epoch.
Scheduled for a theatrical release on January 12, 2024, “The Book of Clarence” boasts an exceptional ensemble cast led by LaKeith Stanfield as the titular character, Clarence. The roster is further enriched by the talents of Omar Sy, RJ Cyler, Benedict Cumberbatch, James McAvoy, Anna Diop, David Oyelowo, Alfre Woodard, and Teyana Taylor. Drawing inspiration from his previous work, Samuel places Black characters in central roles, breathing fresh life into classical biblical narratives and reshaping conventional Hollywood genres.
At its core, “The Book of Clarence” delves into Clarence’s odyssey of self-discovery and faith, set against a backdrop of belief and skepticism. Clarence, a tenacious individual navigating his circumstances, is drawn to the allure of the apostles and endeavors to join their ranks, even as he harbors doubts about Jesus’ messianic role. Samuel describes Clarence as possessing inner confidence but lacking outward faith, a compelling dynamic in the historical context.
Samuel’s film goes beyond the surface, unraveling the intricacies of biblical narratives while incorporating nuanced references to characters and everyday life of the era. The movie doesn’t limit itself to matters of faith; it encapsulates the universal themes of personal growth, love, and the aspiration to make a meaningful impact.
Crafted with a blend of wit, humor, and fantastical elements, “The Book of Clarence” is a testament to Samuel’s artistic vision. The production journey wasn’t without its challenges, including finding suitable locations for historical accuracy and navigating language barriers with a foreign-speaking crew. However, Samuel’s determination and audacity shine through, resulting in a visually captivating portrayal of the ancient world.
(Originally read on Vanity Fair with photos via VF)