Filmed in Southern Italy in rocky hillside villages and along the coast, Pasolini's "Gospel" has the feel of a silent film, with its long close-ups of its cast of non-professional actors, which include Susanna Pasolini, the filmmaker's mother, and how the camera loves these rough, beautiful and distinctive faces...it is like a moving tapestry of Renaissance paintings, and a visual artist's dream film.
Enrique Irazoqui's Jesus, with his lofty forehead, thick eyebrows that meet over his nose, and coal black eyes, is stern and compelling, and recites the Gospel with strength and mettle.
Released forty years ago, the quality of this black and white film is gritty, which adds to the harsh depiction of the life and the landscape. Though much less ambitious, it reminds me a little of Tarkovsky's "Andrei Rublev", and it has the same pacing (especially in the first hour) and gravity. The soundtrack also shows signs of age, and includes Bach, Mozart, Prokofiev, Webern, some American spirituals ("Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" during the Manger scene), Kol Nidrei during the Last Supper scene, and Missa Luba. There is also a biting wind, whooshing and whistling though much of the film.
The tape that I own is dubbed, and this is the only instance where I don't find dubbing intrusive. Since the dialogue is literal and familiar, and many scenes are purely visual, the dubbing frees one to just take in this marvelous interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel, which is sometimes simple and sometimes quite savage (the Massacre of the Innocents is chaotic); a must see for anyone interested in Christianity, and students of film and the graphic arts.