on March 1, 2004
A disclaimer appears prior to the start of this movie that clearly states that this film is fiction and is not considered by Scorcese to tbe the 5th Gospel. Therefore, this film is not blasphemy.
I am a strong Christian and this is one my favorite Jesus movies. I approached this film with an open mind, reserving my criticism until the movie was over. Scorcese said that in this portrayal Jesus doesn't sin,but he does: he says after the stoning of the prostitute scene that he "wanted to kill" those people trying to stone Mary Magdelene. In scripture Christ Himself states that wanting to kill somebody is a sin. That aside, this film is not blasphemy. It simply presents the what-ifs.
You are to watch this film and ponder whether or not Jesus was tempted on the cross (Don't you think he would have felt the urge to get down?). This film is an excellent life-application tool for Christians as well. Jesus meets John the Baptist, who has a rather crazy following. His followers all run around naked, and try to exorcise their demons and pay for their sins by cutting themselves, among other things. John the Baptist tells Jesus that he prepared thw way for Jesus: with an axe. He hands Jesus the axe and tells him to wreak vengeance on those who don't obey God.
In many ways, this is a trap Christians can get into. We sometimes aren't very compassionate to sinners and act very pious. The Catholic Church in particular has a dark history of punishing sinners and pagans.
Later, Jesus changes his message from one of wrath and law to one of love and gospel. This is the way Christians should behave.
At one point jesus is sitting next to the edge of a cliff, and in a fit of anger, throws a rock over the cliff, and yells "God hates me! God want to toss me over!" We can all relate to that feeling. Sometimes we are overcome by sins that we feel that God is angry with us and wants to punish us.
The scene of most controversy is the last temptation, which is ridiculous. There is nothing sinful about Jesus getting married and then having sex with Mary. That is sex INSIDE wedlock, and the sex scene is very passive. (The scene previous to it is with Mary wearing a crown of flowers and hugging Jesus. This is their wedding. This scene is pretty passive, so people think that the next scene (sex) is premarital) It is only a temptation, it never happens. The last 30 minutes of the film are all a temptation, an exploration of Jesus' earthly life had he rejected his chosen crucifixion and lived a mortal life. On his death bed Jesus realizes his mistake and pleads to God to have him crucified. Jesus stays on the cross and saves mankind.
A very moving film. Please note that neither I nor Martin Scorsese believe that this is a true account. It simply explores the possibilities of just how human the human side of Jesus' dual nature MIGHT have been. Highly recommended. I will warn Christians considering viewing this movie that you should take the disclaimer to heart and that there is lots of nudity in this film that might offend you.
on March 6, 2004
Let's be honest. We don't know a whole lot about Jesus. We have a few words that he spoke (allegedly) written down decades after his death. So historical speculation is natural, people have been doing it for centuries, so let's just drop the whole blasphemy angle. Hell, if it's truly a sin to create a movie like this, Martin Scorcese would have been subject to a whole lotta holy wrath by now. Then again, those eyebrows surely are a holy terror, so who knows.
This is a good movie. It humanizes Jesus (and wasn't that the whole point of Jesus anyway?). I have to say that I think casting Harvey Keitel as Judas might have been the single error in this film. But honestly, have we ever taken him seriously in a role? Naw, he's pretty much a mockery of himself and that's why we love him so much.
DVD is great, a little pricey though. Cinematography is expressive as hell. Maybe a little overindulgent at times but the DVD will allow you to bathe in that overindulgence. Soundtrack is awesome.
on March 8, 2004
Religious zealots and "bible thumpers" can no longer accept ANY film whatsoever of the nature of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Until most recently with Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ", it was practically a sin to do a movie on the life of the Christian leader. No movie was released that has the best intentions toward the audience it was aimed towards. Yes, there's movies like "Jesus Christ Superstar" and such that don't nescessarly give the whole story, rather than to entertain the audience. And then there's "The Last Temptation of Christ", Martin Scorcese's brilliant attempt to not nescessarly give the word of God and the story of Jesus, but rather an alternative view on the whole perspective. Rather than based on the actual Bible scriptures, it's based on the controversial fiction novel of the same name by Nikos Kazantzakis. I found it more close to that novel than the bible itself. Controversial in it's own way.
Essentially, the story (or atleast most of it) is somewhat relavent to the eerie short story, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce. In the beginning (and no, there was no light), the movie starts out with Jesus (Willem Dafoe's somewhat original performance) and his remainding days on Earth before crucifixion. He is somewhat tormented by the his duties as a Jewish carpenter, making the crosses for the Romans to use for prisoners. In what is a pretty vivid and good perception, Jesus is shown being and acting more "human" than the son of God. For one moment, he is shown crying and screaming, begging God for another way out of his death (This was one of the many things that made the film offensive to some christian groups). Eventually, everything goes as clockwork; he is betrayed by Judas (played by Harvey Kietel, who foolishly keeps his New York accent when it takes place in ancient Israel), questioned by Pontius Pilate (strangely, but nicely, played by David Bowie) and finally tortured and humiliated by the Romans and the Jews. While on the cross, he askes "God! Why have you forshaken me?". To which almost immediately, a vision of an "angel", appearing in the form of a little girl, comes to him. She tells him that God doesn't want him to suffer and that he can come down from the cross. Jesus is then convinced that he isn't the savior of mankind. Throughout the last half-hour of the film, Jesus is given the most horrible temptation of all: the choice to become a normal human being. Developing a marrage with Mary Magdalene (a somewhat risque sex scene that caused an uproar of controversy), children and a happy life. However, things start becoming out-of-place. He visits a meeting conducted by the apostle, Saul/Paul (Harry Dean Stanton) who tells Jesus that he betrayed his father and caused all this grief among Israel. Then his deseciples, including Judas, visit him as an old man and tell that he is a coward for getting down off the cross. Can Jesus overcome temptation and return to death? I dunno. Watch and see!
Jesus as a normal man is something to see and view. This is why it go so much attention. What the brilliant Scorsese displays is how temptation is everywhere and we must avoid it, much like the bible says. Most intelligenly is how the film stays away from the already overly typcast Jesus that everybody figures is; brave, strong, our savior, when really he was as human as probably you and me. Towards the end, Jesus begs to be crucified and he learns that the "temptation" was all in his head and that he never left the cross. He then smiles and yells "It has been accomplished!", before expiring. The most errie scene is the final shot in the film, which Scorsese along with the editor claimed was "unintentional" and there's no doubt that it was (as soon as Jesus expires, the film gets inked and light is shown through, ruining the film strip. scary, huh?) Peter Gabriel's music score is nicely brought a mixture of African/Arabic chanting (similar to Hans Zimmer's approach in both "The Thin Red Line" and "Black Hawk Down"). The final song is a little out of place however and sounds more like the beat to a U2 song. Whatever.
I recommend this to any person who is sick and tired of the stereotypical Jesus everyone protrays, and that includes Mel Gibson's "Passion".
on May 2, 2004
I will never understand why some people feel that they have the right to critique a movie they have never seen. If you have a thirst for knowledge than maybe you should expose yourself to a view outside of the one the christian church offers. If your faith is strong than this movie will not affect you. Everyone is entiled to their own taste and opinions, but don't let the opinion of others influence you. Those who believe in God know that God gave us free will so that we could choose for ourselves.
on March 12, 2006
To fathom the depth of this film, one should might first recall the school church scene in Monty Python's "Meaning of Life" where the vicar is excrutiatingly reminding the congregation just how really big, powerful, and awesome Christ is. Yet that scene underlines the difficulty in reducing Christ to the bigscreen; how could the screen ever be big enough for him?
And this is Scorcese's accomplishment. His "LTC" puts a much more human face to Christ. One can understand this vision of God: stricken by human foible, marred by errors in judgment, and somewhat frustrated because life was not unfolding exactly the way he thought he wanted. Yet piercing that most human journey is the certainty that his life had meaning. This is a Jesus Christ to whom every person regardless of religion can easily identify. Make some noble sacrifice for your family or friends - or a stranger - and you will understand my point.
Scocese convincingly conveys that particular message. The acting is relaxed - daring in a film about JC but normal for a film about ordinary people facing life's turmoils. The cinematography is breath-taking; the stark desert's immense charm is perfectly captured and underscores the large stakes in JC's very personal human battle. The editing is crisp and little dialogue is wasted.
While Mel Gibson's "Passion" may be more concerned with fact, Scorcese's accomplishment is more attentive to the life of everyday man. If one wants to see a crucificion and witness Christ's physical suffering, watch "Passion". If one seeks some more empathic means to grasp at what Christ may have endured in terms all can grasp, watch "LTC".
on June 30, 2004
One of the most hilarious reviews written here by a costumer can be found easily on this page, just move the mouse down. The reviewer calls the people that have seen "The Last Temptation Of The Christ" "sick hypocrits".
According to him we are "blasphemers to say and believe that Jesus had ever given into temptation of satan by ignoring His duty on the cross (author's note: we all know that Jesus was in great pain when he had his last temptation) and marrying Mary Magdalene and having children. You really wanna see what BLASPHEMY truly is: This piece of filth! Do not watch it! You'll be sorry if you did! That's why I didn't watch it." (LOL)
Hilarious, no? The reviewer clearly doesn't know anything about forgiveness. Well, I forgive this reviewer (I learned how to forgive not from the Bible, but from "The Last Temptation Of Christ") for calling me (and U2) "sick hypocrits".
Okay, now about the movie. I rented it when I was fifteen and I was so moved by it I watched again 5 times before returning to the videostore. Thanks to "The Last Temptation Of Christ' I "found" Jesus. Martin Scorsese's films are great and this one is my personal favorite. Willem Dafoe is the best actor to play Jesus in cinema history. Harvey Keitel gives us a Judah who has feelings and even loves Jesus. Barbara Hershey, David Bowie and Harry Dean Stanton along with the girl who plays Satan act excellent. And Peter Gabriel's music for this film is as passionate as art itself, it's above brilliant!! The DVD extras are great. Very cool stuff. For the people who have seen "The Passion Of The Christ" I beg you to see "The Last Temptation Of Christ". If you're afraid God may punishing for watching such a act of faith -- please put the blame on me. Mea culpa.
on May 28, 2004
First of all, this area is SUPPOSED to be for reviews of this movie, not dire warnings of damnation if one watches it. It is JUST a movie....something tells me Jesus and his believers can survive it. Please don't turn this forum into a religious debate.
I think anyone who purchases this DVD edition of the film should definitely go back and listen to the director/actor/screenwriter commentary included with the film. In it, Marty and the screenwriter explain why they used the actors they did, and why they used today's vernacular. They had the characters speak this way so that the viewer is more aware that the players in the New Testament WERE human, just like us. Marty believed that the stilted English of the King James Court, with its "thou's" and "ye's" (and having absolutely NO relation to the way people spoke at the time) serves to distance modern viewers from the pain and doubt that both Jesus has his followers underwent.
Marty also was desperate to counter the prevalent depiction of Jesus in film that has him 100% "divine", with a golden light shining behind his head, with the divine little smile and the gentle words. He wanted to use the idea in the Bible that Jesus was also fully human, subject to both physical AND mental anguish. The latter is the point that Gibson missed in his film. Anyone who has ever lost a child or had to make an agonizing decision knows that mental anguish can be as painful as any physical torment. This movie is about the true temptation Jesus underwent, to deny God and run away from his destiny. All of us can identify with that.
I find this Jesus far more compelling than the Jesus I grew up with in Sunday school. This Jesus is not perfect. He hurts and has soubts and depressions like I do. And yet he gives his body and mind to God in the end.
on May 17, 2004
This review is for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
I have decided only to review the special features of the DVD, given my religious beliefs and that many feel that they have heard enough from those who find the film problematic.
The audio commentary of the film was surprising. The director mentions that those who consider the film sacrelige are correct in a manner of speaking. The film is based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis and not the Bible. This is enough to remove the major controversey. The commentary was recorded exclusively for the Criterion Collection in 1997. The commentary is by Director Martin Scorsese, Actor Willem Dafoe, Screenwriter Paul Schrader, and Jay Cocks.
There is research material taken from Biblical Archeology Review magazine, National Geographic and others.
There are also dozens and dozens of production stills and a video of location scouting in Morocco.
There is also a video interview with Peter Gabriel who composed the music for the film.
on May 17, 2004
"The Last Temptation of Christ" is a very strange film. Parts of it are heavy with literal symbolism, and other parts are rather traditional biblical Hollywood fare. While these two approaches jar against one another, this is definitely not the Jesus of the scriptures, nor the Jesus of scholars. Scorsese's LTC (and the novel on which it's based) asks us to believe that until His trial in the desert, Jesus doubted the things which God put in His heart to tell the world, and shows the evolution of his character, ostensibly over a period of three years, from his retreat into a monastery to the Crucifixion, from an anxiety-ridden young man (whose fear of his own destiny compels him to become a crossmaker for the Romans so that God will reject him) to one filled with certainty. There seems something wrong in this, for starters, but I think the problem is with the script's manner of conveying this change.
But the most interesting character is by far Judas (Harvey Keitel), whose Brooklyn accent we have to negotiate before realizing that Keitel's performance is, in a way, the centerpiece of the film. His Judas is a Zealot assassin, a hardened killer filled with hatred towards the Romans and who is asked by his Master to love his enemy and turn the other cheek. Judas scoffs. But he believes. When Jesus tells him he has seen his own crucifixion in prophecy and asks that Judas help him fulfil that destiny, Judas asks why. Jesus replies: Because God gave me the easy part. It's as if to say, even in that act of "betrayal" (scholars mostly don't think it actually happened) was devotion and following the will of God. Judas trusts him and God to the point of doing the most difficult job of the entire story: turning Jesus over to the Jewish authority.
Technically, I don't know if it's Scorsese's or editor Thelma Schoonamaker's fault, but half the time it seems like we're entering a the middle of a scene, or the scene is truncated before our emotions are allowed to connect with it. There are some notes which struck me as strange: The Sermon on the Mount is filmed partially with a handheld camera. There's are bits of leaden schlock, too: the Angel, the snakes, the Lion, the flame representing Satan. But Peter Gabriel's eclectic score is one of the best ever, and there are some very powerful moments--Jesus resurrecting Lazarus, his trial in the desert, or the penultimate delirium scenes in which Paul and then Judas berate His spirit for entertaining the Devil's final temptation...However, overall it is too uneven and an ambitious failure.
on April 26, 2004
Do not expect a movie of Jesus with a storyline based on the christian occidental and oriental fundamentalistic treatments, or on the the so-called "according to the gospels" Zefirelli's film, or even more, something like the recent "approved by the Holly Curch" version of Father Gibson. Instead, should you expect more than that, a "free of tighs", a truly artistic and conceptual work. The Nikos Kazantzakis' book is well adapted by director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader, and tremendously rounded with a musical part which became a master piece from Peter Gabriel, who earned an Oscar for it. Locations, story and music, blended to the bones, become lirical and undisoluble. Most of the actors are 5 stars, but they didn't hesitate to participate on the film, even knowing that their actoral career could be at risk.
Then, is the story controversial? It is supposed to be, as it is based on a personal concept of a human Jesus trying to reach dinivity, not by definition, but by means of a truly spiritual transformation from the foundings, that can only be reached by the resign to all flesh temptations, even resign to salvation of his body when at the cross. Could have Jesus dare to resign to the divinity that reached by means of the crucifiction in the name of the human kind as the Son of God, and would have choose to embrace mortality because of his human weakness if any? This film is about such hypothesis.
The film was literally "crucified" on the "arenas" where it was exhibited at the end of the 80'. Its exhibitions caused violent acts in USA and France, the champions of liberty. In other countries, sadly as it was expected, exhibition was totally prohibited or potential viewers were thread with religious punishments. Even at the Cannes Festival, the film and Scorsese himself suffered discrimination and untolerance.
Controversy and free thinking shouldn't mean that. But didn't all that has happened before? Michelle de Servet, who had a honest philantropic concept of religion, an anti-ministry conception of both of the Churchs in the middle age, the catholic and the protestant, claiming them to get back to the man kind spiritual needs, and dare to interpret the gospels accordingly, just got himself to be prosecuted and finally killed.
Overule the temptation and watch over the film and find yourself how you qualified it: a blasphemous "never-thing-again-on-it" movie, or a honest and artistic personal respectable film.