I really love film. I enjoy trips to the cinema, if I want to watch something on TV it is generally a film; I am a fan of Mark Kermode’s podcast and I was even in the film society at University! My friend Russell is also a film fan and I have recently borrowed a pile of various DVDs off him which included the film “The Gospel According to St Matthew”, directed by Pasolini in 1964.
Pier Paolo Pasolini was an Italian poet, intellectual, writer, filmmaker and political figure. He was something of a renaissance man in his breadth of activity and gifting, but he was also a controversial figure, his communist views being just one source of scandal.
The fact that Pasolini was a Marxist and an atheist makes the reverential approach of the film particularly surprising. The dialogue is taken straight from Matthew’s Gospel and he vowed to make it from the perspective of a believer; though when the work was finished he realised he had made it in a way that reflected his own Marxist worldview. Still, it has been critically acclaimed as one of the best adaptations of the life of Jesus, and despite being quite dated in feel (and subtitled due to it being in Italian), it is very powerful.
I recommend it because it presents a different perspective on a well known story. I am always trying to find new ways of looking at things. The Easter story is so important, so fundamental, but when you are dealing with a story that is so familiar how do you ensure that it stays alive, how do you see new paradigms, keep the material fresh and maintain the impact?
So leading up to Easter this year I had been looking at the story from new perspectives, Pasolini’s being one of them. I have also been reading “The Cross of Christ” by John Stott (a book I cannot recommend highly enough) and I have been meditating on the story of the Centurion who stood at the foot of the cross while Jesus died – especially the passage of Matthew 27:27-54.
We all tell the gospel from a different point of view, our own perspective. Even the four Gospels are highly reflective of the characters that wrote them: the Jewish perspective of Matthew, the punchy account of Mark, the precise account of the doctor Luke, the mystical perspective of John.
The way we tell of our encounter’s with Jesus also reflect our own history and character. The blind man hardly knew anything about Jesus and when questioned he just said what he knew:
John 9:11 He replied “The man they called Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed and then I could see…whether he is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know. I was blind but now I see!”
It is not the whole gospel but it was the good news as he knew it, how it applied to him. There is nothing wrong with us because it is by telling our own story that it remains authentic, and when people see the change in our character they can see something of the power of the gospel.