New York Times - 08/12/1988
"...THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST finally exerts enormous power....[A] mightily affirmative, truly visceral impact..."
Los Angeles Times - 08/12/1988
"...Scorsese varies his calm moments with swirling ones, brimming with visual rapture..."
Premiere - 06/01/2003
"...This is a hugely ambitious and genuinely reverent film..."
Sight and Sound - 04/01/2001
"...One of the most controversial films of the 80s..."
This striking vision from the mind of director Martin Scorsese offers an allegorical interpretation of the last days of Jesus Christ, based on the book by Nikos Kazantzakis. Based strictly on Kazantzakis's book, the film has a very different focus than past portraits of the "Messiah." This Jesus (Willem Defoe) is a man wracked with doubt over his position among his followers and fear of the role God has chosen for him, as well as the pain that must accompany it. He is unsure whether the messages he receives come from God or Satan, and he is tempted by a mortal life filled with earthly possessions and sensual love, resulting in a controversial, though genuinely sympathetic, account of Christianity's most revered figure.
Scorsese establishes a dreamlike mood by combining Michael Ballhaus?s photography with a transcendent soundtrack by Peter Gabriel in order to fully explore the idea that perhaps Jesus was both God and man. Rather than train his assembled cast to deliver their lines in historically accurate dialects, Scorsese lets each individual speak with their true accent, which makes for an initially jarring, yet eventually moving, experience. In addition to Defoe, Barbara Hershey, David Bowie, and Harvey Keitel all deliver sincere performances that fulfill Scorsese's vision even more completely.
Despite controversy surrounding the production, Scorsese's film is an honestly felt and in many ways sympathetic contemplation of Christianity.
Essential Cinema |
Good Vs. Evil |
Social Issues |
Shot on location in Morocco and Egypt.
Scorsese first became interested in filming this project in 1971 when Barbara Hershey gave him a copy of the Kazantzakis novel during the filming of BOXCAR BERTHA.
There is a disclaimer of sorts at the beginning of the film, which states that the film is based upon a fictional exploration of man's "external spiritual conflict," not on the actual Gospels.
The original score was performed by, among others, Adzido Dance Company (African Percussion); Bill Cobham and Manny Elias (Drums); and Djalma Correa (Brazilian Percussion) and Nathan East (Bass Guitar).
The beginning of the film has a quote from Nikos Kazantsakis's book: "The dual substance of Christ--the yearning, so human, so superhuman, of man to attain God...has always been a deep inscrutable mystery to me. My principle anguish and source of all my joys and sorrows from my youth onward has been the incessant merciless battle between the spirit and the flesh...and my soul is the arena where these two armies have clashed and met."
Even before the film was released, it met with controversy from various Christian groups protesting the way Christ was depicted (even before most of the protesters had seen the film). The outcry came predominantly from Fundamentalist groups who had heard that the film contained a sex scene between Jesus and Mary Magdelen. In reality, the scene in question can hardly be referred to as that; it is understated and not explicit. It is also in the section of the film devoted to Christ's final temptation, where Satan tempts him with a mortal's life, and he behaves as a mortal in order to have children.