March 16, 2011

The Last Temptation of Christ - 1988

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Paul Schrader
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey, Harry Dean Stanton, David Bowie

"God loves me. I know he loves me. I want him to stop." Based on the 1960 novel of the same name (and not the Gospels), the film tells the story of Jesus of Nazareth (Dafoe) struggling to reconcile his humanity with his divinity before going on to gain a following and preach his Father's word up until the crucifixion.

I could be nitpicky, and complain about how Dafoe is the sole blonde/blue-eyed individual in the piece, or how redheaded Keitel didn't shed his Brooklyn accent and Bowie was still very British. However, to do that would miss the point of the film entirely. Unlike a certain anti-Semitic film made a few years back with a similar premise, this wasn't about watching Our Lord and Savior physically beaten for an hour and a half. In fact, that bit of the film lasts less than five minutes of the overall runtime. Inspired by a novel given to him in 1972 by the woman who went on to play Mary Magdalene, Scorsese set out to make a film demonstrating that at the end of the day, even Jesus was still a man, and was tempted in the ways everyone is, to the point of having a personal crisis of faith, and initially not accepting that he is the Messiah or that he needs to be crucified to redeem mankind. Dafoe was a great choice castingwise, as he has the emotional depth and fortitude to do what the role demands of him. Keitel also comes through in spades as a man suffering his own private hell, knowing he must betray his greatest friend in the name of God. While the movie does run a bit long at 2 hours 40 minutes, it's something everyone should see, no matter how close or far that God is from one's heart. A

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