Offbeat, almost neo-realistic film version of the St Matthew Gospel, pic has many talking points and effective moments. Pier Paolo Pasolini has made a pic poles apart from the many which have told the story of Christ – though remaining faithful in its development and spoken text. It’s probably the first instance in which a Marxist has tangled with this subject matter on film.
Pic was filmed in Southern Italy, and the faces are deliberately those of Italians. Costumes are a simplification of tradition, and settings are also different from those ‘usually’ seen or visualized.
Thesps are all non-actors, and Enrique Irazoqui is a find as the man who plays Christ. Faces have the craggy, unglamorous, rugged look of the working man or peasant. The music is similarly offbeat, containing Negro spirituals (Motherless Child, sung in Russian for example), Russo folk songs, etc.
Lensing by Tonino Delli Colli is a fine standout feature with its grey tone giving it a certain timelessness in keeping with Pasolini’s choice of bleakly beautiful settings.