Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pasolini's 'Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo'

"I may be an unbeliever, but I am an unbeliever who has a nostalgia for a belief." - Pier Paolo Pasolini

Recently I watched both the new movie 'Son of God' and the 1964 Italian movie "Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo" - The Gospel According to St. Matthew - directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. After watching both movies, I have to say that Pasolini's is by far the most compelling of the two. In it I saw perhaps the most realistic reenactment of the story of Jesus Christ. The movie itself is considered by many to be a cinematic masterpiece. Shot entirely in black and white, the movie is void of romanticism or melodrama. Simply put, Pasolini puts the gospel account of Matthew as it is and in the style of Italian neorealism. He chose non-professional actors to work in his film, he cast his own mother as Mary, and his Jesus was an unknown economics student named Enrique Irazoqui. The Jesus depicted by Irazoqui is perhaps the best on-screen portrayal of Christ I have ever seen.

Enrique Irazoqui as Jesus
Pasolini's movie, when it came out, was intensely criticized by both the religious right and the secular left. The director was a Marxist and a homosexual. Why would someone like him direct a film on Christ's story? Once Pasolini read through the entire gospel story while waiting for the Pope before a meeting. After that he decided to film the story of Jesus. Pasolini depicted Christ as the greatest revolutionary to have walked the Earth.

When someone has read the story of Christ it is hard for him/her to not feel drawn to that one personality that forever changed the course of history. Pier Paolo Pasolini was a homosexual, but that did not stop him from being drawn to the brilliance of Christ's character. Perhaps we, as Christians, need to learn that Christ's message refuses to be locked into the boxes of either conservatism or liberalism.

I highly recommend 'The Gospel according to St. Matthew' by Pier Paolo Pasolini to those who are looking for both a scriptural portrayal of Christ and a masterpiece.

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