Enrique Irazoqui as Christ in
The Gospel According to St. Matthew
It's interesting that the only film that tells the life of Christ on the 1001 movie list is Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew. Pasolini was a controversial figure politically and with his personal life. He was murdered in 1975, ran over by someone driving Pasolini's own Alpha Romeo, a case that was never fully resolved. Pasolini's career film output include the extremely bawdy version of The Canterbury Tales, which I did like and his intentionally repulsive, Salo, which I did not.
The Gospel According to Matthew depicts the life of Christ from the time that Mary is told by God that she is going to give birth to the Son of God through Christ's life and resurrection. The film is shot in black and white and includes a lot of close-ups. Much of the dialogue (In Italian) is taken directly from the Book of Matthew. Most of Jesus's greatest hits are here: the virgin birth, feeding the multitudes, performing healing miracles, John the Baptist foretelling Jesus's coming, the apostles, Judas's betrayal, the Last Supper, the crucifixion, the resurrection., etc.
The film is told with minimal sets, at least in the fist half and feature almost exclusively outdoor scenes. The music is used sparingly, but effectively when it is. Enrique Irazoqui doesn't have the usual appearance we may associate with Jesus, but he definitely has the right countenance and I found him effective in this role.
Jim Cavizel as Christ in The Passion of the Christ
The section that takes up the last twenty or so minutes of The Gospel According to St. Matthew is where Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ begins. We start with Jesus being betrayed by Judas and being captured. Then we see Jesus being persecuted and condemned by the Jewish High Priests and tortured by the Roman Guard...repeatedly. When we finally reach the crucifixion, it is a relief that the torture has come to an end.
The Passion of the Christ was an unexpected phenomenon the year it came out. An R-rated, torture filled film in mostly Hebrew and Latin does not usually spell blockbuster, but the evangelical crowd took this one to heart. How one sees this film could differ greatly due to your religious bent, though I found it needlessly excessive in the excruciating violence, though maybe that was the point. No matter what one thinks of Gibson personally (lots of baggage here, like Pasolini), there is no doubt he is a good director. The flashback scenes of Jesus's life and the scenes with Pontius Pilate are most effective. I also found the albino Satan creepily effective.
This is the second time I've seen The Passion, and don't plan to watch it again. The Gospel According to Matthew, I think I'd like to give another go at some point.
Now where did I put my VHS copy of The Greatest Story Ever Told?