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The Last Temptation of Christ

September 5, 2010

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Actors: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey

Synopsis: Jesus (Willem Dafoe) is enticed by one last vision of a ‘mortal life’ by the Devil, while dying on the cross.

Review: This is a wholly affecting treatise on the physical and psychological trauma Jesus would have had to suffer in his acquiescence of the role of self-sacrificing Messiah. In a sense, the title of the film is misleading, because although the final third of the film does engender Jesus’ last ‘flirtation’ with a normal life, the film in its whole tackles the prime empathetic notion of Jesus’ significance to Christianity – the reconciliation of his duality as both Man and God (hence the continual dichotomy between matters of body and soul).

Even in the dialogue-heavy, first two thirds of the film, Scorsese is able to make the almost academic bent of his thesis tenable, mainly by freeing the narrative and characters from any abstract biblical or reverent standard of exposition, permitting the actors to speak in their native accents and letting Jesus’ actions and teachings seem very naturalised.

Scorsese elevates the material where necessary through widescreen, pulverising cinematography and through creating a hauntingly desolate and savage sense of place for the Holy Land, in keeping with the spartan spiritual terrain Jesus internally traverses. Peter Gabriel’s excellent score also does an excellent job of articulating the spiritual peaks and troughs of Jesus’ story. (April 2006)

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