Director: Martin Scorsese
Spine Number: 70
Many films that present the life of Christ on screen have never been successful to me. Martin Scorsese’s fifteen year pet project ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ though, is something to behold. What makes Scorsese’s masterpiece so special is how timeless the film really is. The film follows an alternate telling of the life of Jesus Christ where He is a human chosen by God to fulfill His duties. This controversial premise makes the film so incredible because Jesus and His mission are more relatable to audiences as we start to feel and understand the struggles He is going through. Because of this, ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ will age better than films such as ‘Passion of Christ’.
The way Scorsese and company have portrayed Christ in this film is not only brilliant, but extremely controversial. Controversial because the film is extremely unfaithful to the Bible, as the film says in the first frame. People were so offended that, in one instance, French fundamentalist groups torched cinemas screening the film. At the beginning of the film, the screen says, “This film is not based upon the Gospels but upon this fictional exploration of the eternal spiritual conflict.” This really sums up the mission of this movie incredibly well. It’s a tale about a man who is conflicted by faith and temptation trying to explore who he is and what his purpose is. This is a brilliant portrayal of Christ because audiences, even those with faith, can relate to the struggles He goes through during the film. For example, instead of feeling determined by God’s will, Jesus feels tormented by the voice of God in his head. This shows vulnerability and fear, which is also shown when Jesus says, “You know what my God is? Fear.” This shows that He is afraid to do anything sinful or against God’s will because of these voices in his head. Jesus also feels guilt, which is best shown when he makes crosses for the Romans and betraying his kind and He also feels suffering as he grieves about his sins. We see a lot of temptation throughout the film as well, especially the temptation of being with Mary Magdalene. Him fighting the temptations are the most powerful part of the movie as the audience starts to see true, raw emotion in Christ’s battle and struggle to resist and complete God’s will. This is relatable to audiences because plenty of people have gone through moments of resisting temptation and spiritual conflict. The portrayal of Jesus in this film, while controversial and unfaithful to the Bible, is incredible to witness.
Unlike most Biblical films that depict the life of Jesus, ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ has aged really well and is still timeless today. The big factor that makes this so is actually the characterization of Christ. Scorsese does a fantastic job creating a vision that we can empathize and sympathize with. Films such as ‘The Passion of the Christ’ and ‘Son of God’ focus too much on the preachy themes and make Christ a one-dimensional character. ‘Passion’ also focuses way too heavily on the graphic torture and death of Jesus, and it only gained popularity for that sole reason. ‘Last Temptation’ is able to balance themes discussing faith, tolerance and the conflict of love verses hate and combine them with a fleshed out character without feeling preachy and for this reason can be accessible to all regardless of religious beliefs. Audiences can relate to Jesus’ struggle and his flaws. Here, He is seen as a human character with relatable flaws. ‘Last Temptation’ will probably stand the test of time longer than others of its kind.
Martin Scorsese has made a masterpiece with ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’. The film’s controversial vision of Christ is brilliant. We see Him display raw emotions such as guilt and fear and we see that He is flawed like everyone else. By doing this, Scorsese makes Christ a fleshed out character whose journey of spiritual conflict can be seen as relatable to audiences. This also makes the movie more timeless than other films about Christ. Audiences can relate to Jesus’ struggle and his flaws. Other films such as ‘Passion of the Christ’ present Christ as a one dimensional figure. Here, he is seen as a human character with relatable flaws. Scorsese’s film is one to admire and one of the finest films about faith ever made.