The Film: The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)
The Principles: Martin Scorsese (Director) Paul Schrader (Writer) Willem Dafoe, Barbara Hershey, Verna Bloom, Harvey Kietel, Victor Argo, Irvin Kershner, Roberts Blossom, Harry Dean Stanton, and David Bowie
The Premise: We see the life of Jesus Of Nazareth. Carpenter, Rabbi, apocalyptic prophet, and rabble rouser.
Is It Good: Let me think for a second….OF COURSE. As a man who grew up going to church on a regular basis on Sundays, then around middle school, Saturdays at 5 p.m. in Spanish (I liked this better, at least I didn’t have to wake up early, and it helped me brush up on my Spanish). My Parents taught me about the Catholic faith, while also being very relaxed and never discouraging my taste in films/books/comics/music. I knew the Jesus of the Catholic Church. He died for our sins, and was resurrected 3 days later. He helped people. He healed them.
Cut to years later in 2002 and I see a little movie by Mr. Martin Scorsese called The Last Temptation Of Christ. I rented it on vhs and was bored by it to be honest. Then cut to 7 years later, I’m talking on the CHUD Chat late at night with a new forum member named Renn Brown, and he offers to sell me his Criterion dvd, to which I agree.
It was like watching a brand new movie. Was this a peaceful Jesus? Sometimes he was, yes. Was he always like this? NO. We get a Jesus who goes around talking about the end of the world. We get a Jesus who isn’t afraid to go into a Jewish temple and start TEARING THE PLACE APART. He hates that the temple has literally been turned into a bazaar with men groping young girls, butchers killing animals, and all the people being more content with making a profit. He rails on the Rabbis by saying “I’M THE SAINT OF BLASPHEMY!” as well as “I’m the end of the old law and the beginning of the new one!” “You think God belongs only to you? God is an immortal spirit who belongs to everyone! You think you are special? God is not an Israelite!”
We see him exorcising demons from people who live in holes in the ground, healing the blind, turning water into wine, and raising the dead. He is called a “magician” a “blasphemer” all words that would be attributed to someone who went around saying “My Father is God!”
However, the real kicker is that so much of this comes from the Bible itself. People still gotta hate though. This movie faced an endless storm of controversy even before it came out, because of the source novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. This guy dared to believe that Jesus didn’t go on the cross and just accept it. He basically said “What if Jesus had a final temptation? What if The Devil in disguise showed him what life would be like if he wasn’t on the cross? What if Jesus took not one, but TWO wives, lived to be an old man, and had children?” This led to a widespread FURY of protests, and in one case, French Fundamentalists burning theaters showing the film.
All for what? To show that Jesus probably wasn’t as infallible as people think? That he was as human as the rest of us? That’s what upsets me. I mean, if these people bothered to watch the film, they’d see that despite The Devil showing him what his life would have been like if he wasn’t sacrificed, in the end, he sees through the lies, and still decides to accept his fate on the cross. He triumphed and as he says in the end “IT IS ACCOMPLISHED!”
People just want to believe what they’ve been led to believe all these years. There’s also more parts of the film that no doubt incensed religious folk. Jesus is a carpenter. We know that. This film shows that Jesus made crosses for the Romans. Crosses that were used for crucifying people. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he would have been made to do that. He’d have had no choice. Still, just seeing this, or knowing about it pissed off a lot of people.
Then there’s God talking to him. Does he hear a heavenly voice? No. This voice (that we as an audience never hear) causes him PAIN. He suffers SEIZURES from it.
We are shown that Judas was not a willing turncoat, but one who was at first tasked by other Jews to kill Jesus for being a rabble rouser, then started to believe in him. Jesus then asked him to turn him in. Not only that, but it is Judas in the end who convinces Jesus during his dream that it is just that, a dream.
It’s all a what if scenario, and people hate it because it deviates from what they have been thinking all of these years instead of just seeing it for what it is. An alternative, a possibility. We don’t know what really happened, and all we have is differing accounts in various books.
This is a film to watch and see not a man who was perfect, but a man who at first believed he could change the world with love, went out into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, came back and decided that he didn’t believe in love anymore and decided to destroy all the corruption he saw, before accepting his fate.
Is It Worth A Look: This movie should be seen by EVERYONE. Religious and not religious. Whether you believe in Jesus and heaven or not, it’s a well done and powerful film.
Random Anecdotes: The original cast had Aidan Quinn as Jesus, Sting as Pontius Pilate, and Vanity as Mary Magdalene.
The final shot in the film where it whites out, then colors appear was not intentional. Apparently the camera was faulty, and light leaked onto the film.
Eric Roberts, Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Ed Harris, and David Carradine were all considered to play Jesus.
The movie was so controversial that some French Fundamentalist Catholics burned several cinemas showing the film.
Cinematc Soulmates: The King Of Kings, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Gospel According To Matthew, Dogma