The Music of Jésus de Montréal

April 25, 2012

Not all the music, obviously….

But the duet of soprano and alto during the opening titles and the closing credits: what are they singing?

What they are singing in the church during the opening titles is the Inflammatus movement from the Pergolesi Stabat Mater (1736).  The Stabat Mater is a hymn sung, traditionally, during Lent, with words beginning “Stabat mater dolorosa” (the sorrowful mother stood), and describing the Virgin Mary during the crucifixion of Jesus.

The words to this movement are: Inflammatus et accensus, Per te, virgo, sim defensus, in die iudicii. [In flames and on fire, may I be defended by you, O virgin, on the day of judgment.]

The same singers are shown at the end of the film, singing now as buskers in the Montreal subway station where we had last seen Daniel as a conscious human being.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They are singing…the very next movement of the same Pergolesi Stabat Mater.  The words here are: Quando corpus morietur, fac ut animae donetur, paradisi gloria. [When this body dies, grant that my soul be given the glory of paradise.]

You can listen to the Pergolesi Stabat Mater on Youtube.  The relevant file is

Start at 3.25 for the Inflammatus.

Start at 5.35 for the Quando corpus.

 


The Life of Brian – Terry Jones

April 25, 2012

The Life of Brian caused quite a controversy upon its release to the public.  The film was even banned in several countries for it was thought to be blasphemous and out to mock the suffering of Jesus.  However that is not what the film sought out to do, it was not intended to destroy anyone’s faith.  The film did take a satirical approach to the Jesus tale but it does not blasphemously criticize the God that Christians and Jews worship.  However it does criticize the practices of modern organized religion making the film heretical and obviously satirical, but not it is in no way blasphemous.  The scene on the Mount when Jesus, played by Kenneth Colley, addresses the Beatitudes does not depict Jesus in a way that mocks the biblical figure (6:47).  On the contrary Jesus is played straight and portrayed with respect.  Colley does not speak in a satirical manner in this scene, he speaks sincerely and with conviction.  Even the music and lighting of the scene convey the importance of Jesus’s character. The scene opens with music that is strong and powerful as the camera pans up the hill to where Jesus stands.  When Jesus does appear he is the central figure and there is a light that surrounds him that shows the genuine aura around him (7:28).  This scene in a way confirms that the films intention was a blasphemous one but rather a satiric social comment on modern religion pratices.  The director, Terry Jones, described it best when he was quoted saying: “the film is not blasphemous because it does not touch on belief at all.  It is heretical, because it touches on dogma and the interpretation of belief, rather than belief itself”.  The scene in the film after  Brian has just spends the night with Judith shows the films motive in commenting on the practice of modern religion (16:15 Part II).  The crowd hangs on Brian’s every word and blindly worships the mistaken Messiah.

The most obviously controversial scene is what a doubt the crucifixion in the ending of the film.  This scene could be interpreted as mocking Jesus’s suffering because the film treats it in a very casual way.  For instance when Brian is captured and incarcerated by the Romans he turns to one of his fellow cellmates and asks what will happen to him.  The cellmate replies “Oh, you’ll probably get away with a crucifixion” and this gives the audience the impression that the punishment was not  is not that bad; as if that is not the worst thing that could happen.  Another example would be the the moment right after Brian is crucified and one of his fellow suffers turns to him and says “See, not so bad once you’re up!” (35:25 Part II)  Again the intention is not to be blasphemous but rather to use this sarcastic telling of Jesus’s story to comment on how modern religion glorifies and turns the crucifixion into an icon.


Jesus De Montreal

April 25, 2012

Jesus De Montreal

What made Jesus De Montreal successful despite a few problems that irked me: hollow and over the top caricatures representative of some vapid “modern” world (an inherently dishonest critique because of its simplistic representation of modern times and people), use of cheap and out-of-place 80’s rock riffs during scene transitions (tonal incongruities), and a rather bland filmmaking style (one of the few imaginative scenes/shots — “end of the universe” was derivative: Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause (I also admired the effective dramatics of the train passing by during Daniel’s collapse, and also, the closing shot.) was the strength of the concept—the staging of a modernized Passion play based on newly discovered information about Jesus’s life—and the political ramifications and difficulties such a production would face.

That conceit and the inevitable ensuing dramatics alone could have carried the film, but in addition to the Church’s reaction writer/director Denys Arcade also layered the film with a critique of a modern, consumerist, image obsessed society. By also positing in the film an argument against Jesus as a product, a carefully crafted, and heavily protected image. One protected by the Church higher-up’s (whom we never see) those that—to protect their product— demand modification, then outright cancellation of the play. This aspect of the film is told subtlety, and only alluded to briefly (its relation to Jesus, at least); the importance of image and its relevance to the Christ narrative is in its parallels to Daniel’s experience and his incompatibility with the modern world. The church has resigned itself to offering “happiness”—to give the miserable something to soothe the suffering. Actual meaning—a deep and true meaning—is not the objective. It’s about the selling of the product: Jesus as a source of salvation, an abstraction, not as a man. Arcade’s film encourages us to consider how it parallels modern advertising: drink the beer, get the beautiful girl— believe in Jesus, get eternal salvation. They both distort the truth to manufacture a desire that supposedly only their product satisfies. And any individual or idea that challenges that assertion (humanizes Jesus) is bad for business— and the Catholic Church is big business. And as Father Lecierc says in the film—“Institutions live longer than men”— and this institution: the Catholic Church, has Jesus trademarked.


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