Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Pasolini in Palestine

Peter Chattaway has a fascinating post on FilmChat (an absolute must-read blog for those of us interested in films with religious interest) as follows:

Pasolini's Matthew coming to Vancouver

It's about a retrospective entitled The Passion of Pier Paolo Passolini which features the following item:
Seeking Locations in Palestine for "The Gospel According to St. Matthew"
(Sopralluoghi in Palestina per "Il Vangelo secondo Matteo")
Italy 1964.
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
With: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Don Andrea Carraro

Pasolini ended up filming The Gospel According to St. Matthew in southern Italy (Mel Gibson would use some of the same locations forty years later for The Passion of the Christ), but he originally planned to shoot in the Holy Lands. This diary-on-film has Pasolini and his team visiting Galilee, Jordan, Damascus, Bethlehem and Jerusalem – and coming to the conclusion, with disappointment, that Matthew would have to be made elsewhere. B&W, VHS video, in Italian with English subtitles. 52 mins.
Peter comments, "Has this behind-the-scenes short ever been included on any of the various DVD versions of Matthew? If so, then that's the copy I want!" Me too. I've never even heard of this behind-the-scenes film before.

Update (Thursday, 10.33): Tyler Williams comments on I am actually less of a fan of this film than everybody else is, though I do see things to admire in it. Tyler comments:
Even the way Pasolini presented the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is fascinating. Jesus doesn't say the sermon in one setting, but gives parts of the sermon in various contexts -- the scenes shift between day and night, between inside and outside shots, Jesus with and without a scarf, etc. In my mind (and perhaps only in my mind!) this suggests that Pasolini wanted to present the sermon as more of a compendium of Jesus' teachings, not a long sermon that took place at one time. And the "blessed are the cheese makers" line is brilliant! Oh, so sorry, that's Monty Python.
In my article, "The Synoptic Jesus and the Celluloid Christ: Solving the Synoptic Problem Through Film", Journal for the Study of the New Testament 80 (2000): 31-44, I discuss the way in which the Sermon on the Mount is depicted in the different Jesus films, including Pasolini, arguing that in different ways each of the Jesus films finds it necessary to rework, re-locate, omit, redistribute pieces of the Sermon.


Stephen Martin said...

I recently purchased the DVD for GASM and it only contained a bio of PPP which looked like it was done in the early 70s. BTW, I screened the film as part of my course on Jesus this past semester (students were to write a comparative review of 2 of 10 films... ). Pasolini's was seen as "close to the bible" by students, although not strong enough on special effects, too many head shots, too "old fashioned" (and of course in B&W) and so not "relevant" to today's generation. Discouraging, to say the least. I wonder if anyone else has experience showing this wonderful, disturbing film to undergrads.

Mark Goodacre said...

Yes, whenever I have shown it, undergraduates hate it. I have not yet had an experience of a single student enthusing about it. Sometimes they even laugh at parts of it, e.g. the scene Scorsese likes so much when Jesus walks in determined fashion across the fields and then speaks conspiratorially to the disciples. But mostly they just think it's boring. One Christian student was deeply troubled by it because she said it was so very different from her image of Jesus that it began to make her wonder whether her image of Jesus was anywhere near the mark.