Dir: Pier Paolo Pasolini | Cast: Enrique Irazoqui, Margherita Caruso, Susanna Pasolini, Marcello Morante, Mario Socrate, Settimio Di Porto, Ferruccio Nuzzo | 137min ***** Historical Drama
In 1962 Pier Paolo Pasolini found himself in Assisi invited by the Pope to attend a seminar at a Franciscan Monastery. He was a Marxist homosexual and the Pope wanted to engage with non-Catholic artists in a bid to raise the bar on traditional Catholicism and the organised Church. Pasolini didn’t believe in God or religion and yet his experience led him to make this low budget indie that is possibly the most important and starkly powerful film about Jesus and his life story.
Conjuring up the spirit of Italian neo-realism, Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo features a cast of non-professional locals taken from the villages of Apulia and Basilicata, and a script based exactly as the Gospel is written. As its core is a mesmerising performance from Enrique Irazoqui, a Spanish newcomer Pasolini had met by accident in the street after days of searching for the ideal actor. He is perfect for the role of Jesus, exuding a gentle magnetism that is the closest to ‘goodness’ imaginable. With the innocence of a child divested of centuries of awe and the inculcation of a religious believer, Pasolini creates a surprisingly devout version of Christ’s passion, set in the barren countryside of Basilicata in place of Palestine.
That said, the purity of Christ’s message is rooted in Christian beliefs of unflinching modesty, simplicity, social respect and equality. The miracles performed are so low-key they actually feel authentic and transcend moral statement or scorn in a drama delivered without sentimentality, cant or glorification. The film won the Special Jury Prize at Venice that year, and was screened in Notre Dame as a result of being awarded first prize from the International Catholic Office of the Cinema . Forget Terrence Malick, if any film deserves to be called To The Wonder it is this one MT
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW IS on