Saturday, 6 August 2011

Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo - The Gospel According to St. Matthew

1964 by Pier Paolo Pasolini - Italian, Black and White

It was rather because of the documentary on the Church, Deliver Us from Evil, the last day, I decided to watch this movie. There has been so many versions of Christ's story and hence this must have been yet another repeat actually. But there were two points, unlike most Bible movies which are Anglo Saxon productions, this comes from Italy. The poster of the movie, which had a close up shot of Christ was starkingly different from any Christ we have ever seen in any movies.

The story of Jesus Christ, since his birth to his resurrection, based on the Gospel of St. Matthew. 

For the first few minutes, to be honest, I thought I may not complete this movie and might fell asleep very soon. Black and White frames which look older than 60's, a style and pace which are reminiscent of some of the art movies from India in the 70's, oh this looks like a waste of time, I thought. But then, there was this scene where Mary, with the baby in her hands, looks gently at the visitors, and that single shot was brilliant, bloody brilliant and shook me up completely. Soon Christ is grown up and here is a Christ who looks quite different, not like an Anglo Saxon, but somebody who is from the middle east. So are all other characters, they are all amateur artists and doesnt look at all like those from the typical Hollywood world of Bible actors.

For a really good part of the movie, the camera is fixed on the face of the Christ who gives rather fierce looking speeches. And when the camera is looking else where, it looks brilliantly realistic. No mind boggling sets or costume dramas, but you can feel the barren countryside around the lands where Christ lived and the rustic people with whom he interacted. It all looks brilliantly realistic.

Christ is presented in this movie more like a revolutionist. Of course, I have always thought if there every lived a man called Jesus Christ, then he was the first Communist of the world. And this movie treats him like one too. He speaks harshly about what his followers ought to do and the whole dialogues in this movie are more like verse, so that it just adds more to the tone of the harsh speeches of Christ. I am told Pasolini received a medal from the then Pope, after seeing this movie. And, for the first time (yes I have never heard any Christian telling this, or read anywhere in any texts that preach Christianity), I hear this brilliant words - It is easier for a Camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Sure Jesus was the first Communist.

And unlike all other Christ movies which places Romans under the blame, Pasolini focuses on the betrayal by the Jewish leaders, leading to the crucifying of Jesus.

I think this is the best realistic picturisation of Jesus Christ, may it be the settings, costumes or even the actors, who are picked from around the Mediterranean, no Anglo Saxons here. Add to it the stunning music that accompanies.

I wish everybody, especially my Christian friends, watch this. This is more realistic than the best Hollywood depiction of Bible, for me. And be sure to watch a very slow paced movie. It does not hold any surprises or effects or sets or any kind of grandeur that you may expect from a Bible movie. But you will be surprised that it is actually a Marxist, an ethiest and a homo sexual Pasolini, who has made the best , for me in many ways, movie on Christ.