The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

4 Stars

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

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Plot

Born in a stable to a virgin mother and a carpenter father, Jesus Christ (Enrique Irazoqui) - the self proclaimed Son of God - travels the world spreading the word of God before dying a martyr.

Review

From this mini-group of ten films (films 191 to 200 on the Empire 5-star list), The Gospel According To St. Matthew was the only one I had reservations about watching. For a start, foreign language, black and white images and overtly biblical themes would be enough to deter your casual film-watcher so I flicked on the film with a certain amount of trepidation.

I read a whole bunch of reviews before watching the film saying how director Pier Paolo Pasolini depicted Jesus as a instigator of Marxism - which I wasn't too surprised about since Pasolini was a renowned Atheist. Anything for an attack on the Christian church, I thought.

Getting into the film though, and I realised there was very little analysis to do. Having been rigorously taught the teaching of Christianity as a young child and during my education, The Gospel According To St. Matthew depicted Jesus exactly how I learnt him to be in my education.

Pasolini was just doing what any great filmmaker does; he took a story - in this case the Gospel of Matthew - and turned it into a big screen production. The only way that Pasolini differs is that he rarely strayed from the backbone of the story - preferring to stick closely to the original scripture rather than adjusting the story for theatrical entertainment.

Of course, the lack of entertainment would be another reason that many people would be put off. There are numerous scenes where Jesus recites proverb after proverb which is just Pasolini's way of moving quickly through Jesus' life. Really, he should be commended with how he managed to fit so many of the miracles into the film.

Again, because the film doesn't stray from the teachings of the Gospel of Matthew and there is little embellishment; the central Jesus character is seen as a simple man of the people which is perhaps the biggest aspect of incorporating the audience in the film. Listening to Enrique Irazoqui speak was utterly enthralling.

The question is though - does the this-is-what-the-book-says-and-not-my-opinion style of directing deem it worthy of a watch? Does it make it a good film, or a terrible waste of two hours? I desperately find myself wanting to hate the film. I hate the fact that it is so difficult to watch, so neutral to a potentially controversial subject and that nothing out of the ordinary happens. It's just the polar opposite of cliche.

Review by on . Film Rating: 4/5