The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

April 16, 2012

Shockingly enough, Jesus is introduced to the audience as a crucifier of “messiah’s”, assembling crosses and Judas a good man, trying to convince him to stop. Our first image of him is a weak man in struggle, lying on the ground, hopeless. We’re used to seeing a humble, wise man, but here Jesus is, “a liar, a hypocrite, who doesn’t ever tell the truth”. He is a scared man of sin in severe disbelief of himself. “My God is fear, you look inside me and that’s all you’ll find”.

Jesus is fragile and confused. He believes he has Lucifer inside of him. This unique portrayal of Jesus, completely different from the biblical one, is disturbing and yet completely captivating. I would imagine it caused quite a bit of controversy amongst the Christian community. Jesus is having a constant internal battle within himself, trying to stop God from remaining in his head. He depicts an extremely honest representation of man who is more than capable of making the wrong choices. Temptation is constant throughout the film. He has human emotions such as, fear, sadness, doubt, reluctance and lust. The film remains true to the novel, written by Nikos Kazantzakis in 1953; it does not follow the Gospels. He is aware of what is right and wrong and he knows what he has to do but he seems to hold this sense of uncertainty throughout the film.

At the film’s conclusion, Jesus confesses that he didn’t want to be the son of God. He confesses all of his faults and tells God he doesn’t want to die like a man.  He could have chosen the easy way out, but he wants to repent for the life he’s lived. He wants to pay the ultimate price, he wants God to take him back, he wants to be in God’s good graces, and he wants to be crucified. He calls himself, “a selfish and unfaithful son”. In the Bible, Jesus is told what will happen to him by God and although he is reluctant, he does it. Here, he requests a crucifixion.

From this scene on it Scorsese cuts directly to the requested crucifixion and there’s a quick zoom in on Jesus’ face. The crucifixion is where the movie abruptly ends in Jesus saying, “It is accomplished”. His facial expression is one of relief, due to the fact that God has answered his request and that he has done God’s work. The soundtrack at the very end of this scene struck me as bizarre. Instead of a joyful song praising Jesus in his sacrifice, we get these screeching chords that would normally be found in the score of a horror film. It leaves you feeling a bit disturbed and fearful for Jesus’ choices and future after death. They come about so suddenly, it’s startling. I’m not sure what the purpose of such sound was, but Scorsese leaves us with this feeling of terror.

 

 


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