The Last Temptation of Christ

April 19, 2012

“Father in heaven father on earth the world that you’ve created that we can see is beautiful but that the world that you created that we can’t see is beautiful too. I don’t know I’m sorry father I don’t know which is more beautiful.” This quote taken directly from the movie which came from the mouth of Jesus himself, illustrates in entirety the character of Jesus in this film. Here Jesus is basically professing his uncertainty about life, gods will for him and the temptations that he encounters. Many of the other films reviewed in the class where films where Jesus held true to his being for God. They were strong in their beliefs and knew what needed to be done whereas, in Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ”, Jesus is clearly torn between his own knowledge, desires and that of which God has willed for him. Jesus is characterized by both divine nature and human nature. He is both man and God. He is the Jesus of a fallen society and with that his humanistic nature is just as prominent as his divine. This is displayed by both the director’s incorporation of Jesus’ internal thought as well as his human behaviors one primarily being aggression.  

Some other examples of human nature that are seen in the film are Jesus’ experiences with doubt and confusion. An example that is that brought up in the movie when Jesus says “I used to choose love but now I choose this”, in which he raises the axe. Even a little but further in the film he says “Give me the axe not the cross let me die like this” yet says that love is the way that things can be changed. Here it is quite evident that he his conscious even his body seems to belong to the earthly world in which he is so tied to the axe, yet deep inside his heart belongs to the divine and it is why he falls back on the ideals of love.

Also there is the moment in the movie when Jesus pleads to the Lord:

 “Do I have to die?”

“Is there any other way?”  

            With this the viewer comes to witness Jesus’ doubt as well as his fears, something that all people feel. Furthermore, when watching this movie one can only relate to Jesus on his journey. He is a representation for all individuals finding their mission. There is often that struggle that exists within all of us where you don’t know what your destiny is or even how to go about the process of revealing it and even once it is sought how to go about fu-filling it and because of this I really enjoyed this film.


The Gospel According to Matthew – Pier Pasolini

April 19, 2012

Pier Pasolini retells the story of Jesus in his film version of the gospel of Matthew.  The film was shot with a cast of “non-actors” in locations in southern Italy and the dialogue was in Italian.  What I found the most fascinating about the film was that it made the retelling of Matthew’s gospel authentic; it was not overdone or made to look like a major Hollywood production.  Pasolini was a known atheist and I at first found it strange that he chose to make a film that dealt with religious themes.  Pasolini even incorporates a dedication to Pope John XXIII in the opening credits of the film (2:44) that reads, in English, dedicated to the dear joyous, familiar, memory of Pope John XXIII.  It is interesting that Pasolini who, in a broad sense, rejects the belief in dieties created film based on a biblical text.  With that in mind the film itself was very well done and I felt that Pasolini’s account of the gospel of Matthew had a very authentic quality.  The film opens with a close-up of the virgin Mary (2:52) and then moves to a close-up of Joseph.  The camera switches back and forth between the two and the audience soon discovers that Mary is pregnant, however the entire time the actors say nothing.  It is as if the characters of Mary and Joseph are communicating without having actually speak and this in a way makes the actors come across as real people as opposed to fictionalized characters.  Pasolini uses a kind of silent effect and it gives this scene a surreal quality but it also gives it a authentic quality as well.  The camera shots and the actors silence in the scene makes it seem like the audience is actually there watching this silence exchange between Mary and Joseph.

As previously stated, the cast was composed of hired amateurs and this also adds to the authenic quality of the film because the actors come across as real people.  The audience is not watching a well-known Hollywood actor performing the role of Jesus instead the actor is a nameless face; this allows the audience to not have any preoccupations of the actor’s performance.  Jesus’s character does not seem preoccupied with his own authority or status and I enjoyed how he was portrayed in this way.  In the scene when Jesus arrives at the baptism at Jordan River with John the Baptist (25:18).  He approaches the riverbank slowly and the actor maintains an expressionless look on his face.  Jesus remains silent as he walks closer to where John the Baptist stands and the audience can immediately see the change of expression on John’s face.  The camera again switches between a close-up shot of John the Baptist to a deep focus shot of Jesus.  John’s facial expression looks stunned and he seems to be in awe in the presence of Jesus.  Jesus does not make his status known to the people nor does he exert any authority; he speaks softly and humbly as he speaks to John the Baptist.  It is not until John baptizes Jesus and the voice of God is heard that the people learn of who Jesus is (27:19). 

 The film contains no special effects and the “miraculous” is shown is a very matter-of -fact and miminalistic way.  By not incorporating special effects and taking a more simple approach Pasolini emphasizes the meaning of the miracles more than the display.  The massacre of Innocents scence shows the Roman soldiers rampaging the village and slaughtering the male babies of Bethlehem (17:40).  The scene itself is not overly done; it does not contain and grusome or gory images.  However the scene is still powerful and distrubing as the audience watches the Roman soldiers rip the babies out of their mother’s arm and toss them into the air.  The scene contains only the actors and the props.  There are no special effects or edits made and yet the scene remains just as horrorific.  Special effects were not needed and by not incorporating any effects the film seems more realistic as if the audience is there at the village witnessing this scene.  The ending crucifixion scenes also are done in a simply way with no excessive gore and again it is not needed.  It directs the audience’s attention to the meaning of the event rather than to the display of it (2:2:34).  We are able to see the crucifixion from the point of view of Jeus’s mother which gives this scene a very relatable quality because we can sympathize with her.  I think by leaving out special effects and taking a more simple approach to the story adds to the authenticity of the film.

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