For the third day of "Pasolini, or The 12 Days of Cinema", I had the pleasure of revisiting Pier Paolo Pasolini's third feature film, The Gospel According To St. Matthew (1964). Standing next to Pasolini's first two feature films, The Gospel is on a considerably larger scale as Pasolini adapts the book of Matthew into a film that follows the scriptures with an unmatched level of exactitude. Though it may seem like a departure from Accattone (1961) and Mamma Roma (1962) on the surface, The Gospel is in fact a natural follow up to both films.
Accattone and Mamma Roma both follow the lives of pimps and prostitutes in the then-contemporary world, and the one man who would've loved them and invited them into his kingdom is Jesus. It's plain and simple, but throughout The Gospel According To St. Matthew, Jesus heals the sick, condemns the wealthy, celebrates children, and places the lives of those who were deemed to be degenerates as valued citizens. Jesus is a man inciting a revolution against corruption and hatred, with the core of his message being love.
Pasolini's cinema places Pasolini himself in a Christ-like position as he chooses to elevate the concerns and struggles of the poor and sinful. In the same way that Jesus became a martyr for his cause, so did Pasolini when he was murdered because of the nature of his art. Sure, Pasolini could not have known that he was going to be killed (unlike the Christ, who knew that he was fulfilling prophesy), but this film takes on a prophetic quality in Pasolini's life as it makes his honest sincerity toward the people he chose to make films about apparent within the context of a film that tells of a man who died for treating those very people as equals. Though Pasolini did not rise again on the third day, his art still lives on.
Last year, I wrote a piece concerning the nature of Pasolini's adaptation of the book of Matthew which can be found here: http://filmreviewrealm.blogspot.com/2014/04/a-faithful-adaptation-pasolinis-gospel.html