Jesus in the movies

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The Gospel of Matthew 1964

While the Hollywood Jesus epics were floundering at the box office, another film found a growing audience in art house cinemas. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St Matthew was a black and white Italian film which used non-professional actors to portray the ordinary people of Jesus’ time.

Today, Pasolini’s film about Jesus is the one most respected among film critics. Its stark, hand-held cinematography, its passionate, driven Jesus, and its dreamy, meditative feel all combine to make a film that is rewarding on multiple viewings.

Pasolini uses the camera in interesting ways, such as placing it among the crowds listening to Jesus as if it is straining to see him, or following behind him as if it is struggling to keep up. The soundtrack blends a range of music from Bach to Billie Holiday, and Mozart to Missa Luba, yet there’s also a certain quietness about this film.

As the title suggests, almost all the words used in the film are found in Matthew’s Gospel, although the screenplay rearranges various scenes and adds a few words from Isaiah. Pasolini was a Marxist, so perhaps unsurprisingly his Jesus is a social revolutionary, hurrying around Galilee’s peasant villages preaching about a political Kingdom of God which was for all the people, rather than just the privileged few.

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About this module

It’s “the greatest story ever told”, according to one famous movie title, and among these films is the alleged most watched film of all time. In these pages we review some of the most significant Jesus movies made over the past 50 years.

Written by Matt Page

Categories: Creativity, Biographical, Sound & vision,


Module contents

arrow Introduction

arrow King of Kings 1961

arrow The Gospel of Matthew 1964

arrow Jesus Christ Superstar 1973

arrow Jesus of Nazareth 1977

arrow Jesus 1979

arrow The Last Temptation of Christ 1988

arrow Jesus 1999

arrow The Passion of the Christ 2004

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