Proof Review: The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)

Release Date
August 12, 1988
Director
Martin Scorsese
Screenplay
Paul Schrader
Based On The Novel By
Nikos Kazantzakis
Distributed By
Universal Pictures
Budget
$7 million
Drama
Rated R
164 minutes

The Last Temptation Of Christ

Raised with a moderate Catholic upbringing, the words of the Bible and its stories are familiar to me. Upon viewing the Last Temptation of Christ, I expected controversy and blatant back-handed views. Not that Martin Scorsese does not warrant more credibility, but from hearsay, The Last Temptation was known for testing people’s faith and offering radical ideas. Following my viewing, I fail to see the major controversy and even though the film starts off by warning of its fictitious nature, the entire film still solidifies the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made by dying on the cross.

Considering myself a realist, I enjoyed The Last Temptation for the sole fact that it makes Jesus look human, yet still divine. This version of Jesus is somehow easier to accept than the Jesus that was an all holy miracle worker who did no wrong and died for us without question. With no attempt to be sacrilegious, The Last Temptation simply makes you emote the same exact agony that Christ endured. Scorsese allows the viewer to become enlightened right alongside his image of Christ. You recognize the various versions of the Bible stories and the twists on each. Christ may not be De Niro’s Johnny Boy and Jerusalem may not be the dirty streets of New York, yet Scorsese’s girt and dauntlessness turns a familiar story into a brand new icon.

In no way do I look upon The Last Temptation of Christ as factual, but it is a fresh interpretation of the life of Jesus. Unique and neoteric, the film does lack in certain areas, specifically the flow of the film. At certain points, the chaotic nature of the story confuses the unsuspecting viewers, in particular the desert scenes where Jesus waits by himself and the ending where Satan offers Christ the life of a regular human, the very last temptation offered to Christ. These segments of the film are handled in an extremely trippy way and loses the viewer for that moment of time, leaving them to slowly catch back on as the film progresses.

Willem Dafoe delivers a performance that should precede him, but with few fans diehard enough to travel back to the late 80’s for a Dafoe appearance, this performance is lost to time. Harvey Keitel continues his Martin Scorsese collaboration (from Mean Streets before, to Taxi Driver following) to give an empathetic guise to the Biblical character of Judas, whose new fictitious stature gives off a completely new radiance and an almost “misunderstood” demeanor to the entire embodiment of Judas. Keitel handles the part gracefully and delivers one of his career best performances, even outshining Dafoe at times.

Surrounded by controversy, The Last Temptation of Christ offers an entertaining fictitious spin on the New Testament. Martin Scorsese handles the film masterfully, producing a film worthy of the annals of The Passion of the Christ. Those that are devout Christians will probably steer clear, but for those that are open to another take on the story of Jesus Christ, The Last Temptation is exactly that, but with dimension, heart, and a cameo from the young and baby-faced David Bowie as Pontius Pilate.

 

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