Tarkovsky on 'The Gospel...'

What do you think about Pasolini's Gospel according to Matthew? That's also a kind of historical film.

"Of course. I like the picture. I like it precisely because its director did not succumb to the temptation of interpreting the Bible. The Bible has been interpreted for two thousand years and no one can reach unanimous agreement. So Pasolini did not set himself this task, he just left the thing in the form in which it was born. Many feel that the image of a militant cruel Christ was made up by the author of the film. Not true! Read the Gospels and you will see that this was a cruel, cantankerous, irreconcilable man. Moreover with what genius was it written! On the one hand he's God and the Church has been relying on him for two thousand years, but he succumbs to doubt in the garden of Gethsemane. What could be simpler than to call for help from his father and avoid dying on the cross, but he doesn't do this. He is all back-to-front..."


I actually don't see Christ as cruel in this film. He seems to me as a poet, who's inhabiting his own work of art, crossing over what he doesn't like in the angry way that any poet does and he seems to have earned the right to do so with his cheekiness to take the world as a raw material and rearrange it according to his own creative view. It's actually the first thing that made me look at Jesus in this way and made me start admiring him as an artist - I was never particularly fond of christianity, ideologically.


I tend to disagree with your opinion about the movie as an uninterpreted product. All movies about Jesus, by their very nature, are interpretations, including Gibson's The Passion.

While Pasolini clings uncompromisingly to only the material found in Matthew's Gospel, his Jesus speaks in rapid-fire, harsh patter, as if he were firing a shopping-list of instructions to his disciples and followers. Granted, the movie has artistic and theological merits, yet lacks the humanity that underlines any realistic depiction of the one who is "wholly God of God and wholly man of man."

The Visual Bible: Matthew (1997) staring Bruce Marchiano as Jesus (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0301359/), was also based solely on Matthew's Gospel and featured the chapter and verse on-screen for reference as the screenplay progressed. Marchiano's Jesus displayed more humanity, love of life, compassion and genuine personal struggle than in Pasolini's version. Marchiano's Jesus is simultaneously portrayed as extravagantly loving, patient and compassionate, yet uncompromisingly furious towards the Pharisees in his final "Woe to you, Pharisees, teachers of the law..." speech.

Pasolini's portrays a perfectionistic depiction of Jesus, something that might've compensated for the inevitable guilt that someone as complex as Pasolini would've struggled with - Pasolini had a deeply traumatic childhood and wrestled with homosexuality. I get the impression that Pasolini was trying to work out his deep inner issues through his movies.




I know that it's well over a year after you've done so, but you posted more or less what I wanted to post after reading the post with which this thread was started.
I agree with what you had to say completely. You can't make a Bible movie, even one that has a script that sticks word-for-word to the text of the Book that it is dramatizing, and it not be an interpretation. It's just plain foolish to say otherwise. So many decisions go into what is ultimately seen and heard on screen.
Using the Visual Bible's Matthew as an example is perfect. Both that film and Pasolini's film base their scripts entirely on the Gospel of Matthew, yet you end up with two completely different end products.
I'd love to get a group together and watch the parallel scenes together and discuss the different interpretations.
I wish more Bible movies would do what those two, The Jesus Film (based on Luke), and The Gospel Of John have done and just dramatize the text. The artistic license often taken in changing the Bible stories usually ends up with a much inferior and less compelling story.


Well, I'm not sure that I agree with Tarkovsky on a number of things in this and other quotes that have been cited on IMDb with regards to art ...

Pasolini's film is an interpretaion from the actors chosen, professional and amateur, to the costumes and scenery and the music. I think Pasolini has been more sparing in his presentation of the Gospel but it is a presentation nonetheless.

I disagree with Tarkovsky's view of Christ in the film and in the Gospel. I suspect that his view, like mine, says more about him than the figure of Jesus Christ.

Movement ends, intent continues;
Intent ends, spirit continues