The Gospel According to St Matthew (1964)

The next film we'll be watching is The Gospel According to St Matthew, a 1964 religious drama imported straight from Italy.  This is a straightforward adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew, detailing the life and death of Jesus Christ.

This film confirms to me that I am a terribly uninformed Christian.  I was baptized Lutheran, but I've never really gone to church, and I never really read the Bible.  I got most of my biblical information from Jesus Christ Superstar, the production of Children of Eden I did in high school when I was 16, and the first ten pages of Bible Stories for Kids.  So there's a lot of things that happen and I'm like:

Mary has Jesus.  By the way, how awesome of an idea is the virgin birth?  You have to hand it to Mary, that's thinking fast when you're in a sticky situation.

Jesus grows up.  He becomes a shiftless lay-about, wandering around and preaching to a growing troupe of followers.  He performs tricks, like walking on water and curing lepers and stuff.

Jesus dies.  Judas betrays him and the Romans crucify him.

All said...I'm not really sure this movie needed to be nearly two and a half hours.  I question the decision to draw exclusively from Matthew for the dialogue.  There are patches when you're watching a five minute long close-up of an untrained actor reciting passages from the Bible.  And while we're talking about the close-ups...there are way too many close-ups.  No disrespect intended, but I've always preferred the Old Testament.  Sequels are rarely as good as the originals.

Now that I've got my blaspheming done...this film is nothing if not a faithful translation of the Christ story to the screen.  The landscapes are strikingly beautiful, and the film has a great atmosphere.  The sets are perfect, and they create some fantastic shots.  I like that Pasolini subscribed to the Italian neorealist practice of using nonprofessional actors.  This is a film without pretense, and have recognizable actors would threaten that.  Without the overblown dramatics that come with many other films trying to interpret the Bible, this movie manages to stay historically grounded and somehow more realistic.

Overall, I can see why some people really love this film, but it's definitely not my cup of tea.  I prefer Jesus Christ Superstar.

Random Musings:

  • No offense Jesus but shave your unibrow.  No one's going to take you seriously as a Lord and Savior if you don't take care of yourself.

  • Healing the leper will always make me think of the leper from Life of Brian who's all pissed off because his livelihood was begging and now that he's able-bodied he can't do that anymore.  Classic.

Alms for an Ex-Leper?

  • Jesus has beautiful hair for someone who wanders through the desert not showering.

  • Jesus, dude, your whole outburst in's called property damage, and it's frowned upon in polite society.  Isn't throwing a tantrum like a spoiled two year old one of the things you're not supposed to do?  Or are you just going to try to bank on the fact that your dad's famous to avoid getting into trouble? 

  • The walking on water scene is pretty cool, not going to lie.  Very mystical.  How did they even do that?

Thanks for reading, and come back next time!

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Anonymous said...

I'd just like to pass on another way to help spread the gospel and it's simply this:-

Include a link to an online gospel tract (e.g. as part of your email signature.

An email signature is a piece of customizable HTML or text that most email programs will allow you to add to all your outgoing emails. For example, it commonly contains name and contact details - but it could also (of course) contain a link to a gospel tract.

For example, it might say something like, "p.s. you might like this gospel cartoon ..." or "p.s. have you seen this?".

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to pass on another way to help spread the gospel and it's simply this:-

See if a newspaper will publish a gospel tract (e.g. Maybe pay for an advertisement in the newspaper - but submit a gospel tract to them instead - hopefully they'll publish it as if it were an advertisement?

Another way is to print out the tract and hang it on your wall (as a poster) so that anyone entering your home will see it.

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