Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Gospel According to St Matthew.

Enrique Irazoqui gives a haunting portrayal of Christ.

I suppose it is surprising that a well-known atheist like Pier Paolo Pasolini would commit to film the retelling of Jesus Christ’s life using the very words found in The Gospel According to St Matthew (1964) in such a reverential manor. When asked at a press conference in 1966 why an unbeliever had made such film he replied ‘If you know that I an unbeliever, than you know me better than I do myself. I may be an unbeliever, but I am an unbeliever who has a nostalgia for a belief’ a statement made all the more poignant by the fact that a year earlier Pasolini had been sentenced to jail for alleged blasphemy.

In David Parkinson’s film notes that accompany the films Tartan DVD release he points out that despite their obvious differences, its still surprisingly easy to draw parallels between Pasolini and Christ. Both abandoned the religion of their youth and so alarmed the authorities with their outspoken views that they were charged with blasphemy. Both lived among society’s outcasts and both perished at the hands of the very people they sought to champion. He goes on to say that its not difficult therefore to see why the gay, Marxist poet and film maker would be drawn to the life and teachings of a Palestinian carpenter.

I feel that Pasolini’s film puts Christ back to where he should be, not a champion of the middle and upper classes on a Sunday morning, but amongst the disenfranchised people that need someone to look up to and possible lead them out of their marginalized existence. The director portrays Christ as he should be portrayed as a spokesman for the downtrodden, a cross between the revolutionary spirit of Che Guevara and the intelligence of Ulrike Meinhof. Pasolini dedicated it to the dear, joyous, familiar memory of Pope John XXIII, but Pope John died before the film was released. This is no ordinary film and should not be viewed as such!

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