“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.” - Nikos Kazantzakis.
Christianity is a difficult trudge through the bog of tribulations, sin, temptation, hope, love, faith. It’s a personal imposition that is placed at either the hands of one self or at the hands of others. The mental and spiritual mechanisms are in constant motion, demanding attention, requiring a constant state of upkeep. Whenever one falters in its task, the path alters. However, this is true of living a life, regardless of whether or not one is religious, in this case a Christian, or not.
Growing up as a Christian and continually living as one, adds to what most non-religious people see as an additional burden or inversely something that grants purpose to one's life. It’s difficult to describe the internal spiritual and mental conflict that brews at a constant rate, that is until one is truly challenged. Therein lies the most important question for Christians day in and day out. How and why is it that a flawed human can live a life of contradictions, saying one thing and doing the other, disobeying God and obeying God, why is it impossible to be perfect? Rather, what does it take to be perfect?
This is at the heart of The Last Temptation of Christ. A deeply important and deeply personal film from the ever so great Martin Scorsese. Adapted from the book of the same name, the film observes the humanity within Christ during the years of his ministry up until his death on the cross. But, before his eventual death he has a vision. A vision that sees him married to Mary Magdalene, a vision that sees him with a family, a vision of a fulfilled life, a vision of a life as a man. As the title suggests, the last temptation is the one we don’t know about, the one we never read about, and the one we will never know about.
The arduous time Christ spent in the desert is a passage that is often labored over in sermons across the country. It’s a time in Jesus’s life that holds considerable weight, this is when he is tempted by Satan. The film does more than its due diligence for this sequence. Satan appears to Jesus in four forms. A snake, a lion, a flame, and a tree. This sequence, from the perspective of a Christian, is incredibly poignant in its power. For perspective sake, scripture and teachings from a pastor or priest only gives Christans a glimpse of what that time was like for Christ, as God, not as man. The film flips that on its head, not only in this sequence, but at the tail end when he encounters Satan once again. However, this time around he presents himself as an angel sent from God.
We will never know what it was like to live as Jesus Christ, or anyone from that time period for that matter. Christians all around the world will always be reminded of their shortcomings and the battle of faith that comes along with it. And this here is the magnificence of The Last Temptation of Christ. A film that tackles and wrestles with Christ and what he means as a belief, as an idea, as a man. It’s immensely profound and it truly paints the ever so exalted divine figure of Jesus Christ into a human that can be truly understood. And for that it’s one of the greatest accomplishments in the entire history of Christian art, however, a large majority of Christians, specifically American evangelical Protestants, that know about this film vehemently hate it.
Films I watched this week, 3/1 - 3/7:
I Care a Lot - J Blakeson: 1/5
Eraserhead - David Lynch: 4/5
The Last Temptation of Christ - Martin Scorsese: 5/5
Funny Games (2007) - Michael Haneke: 4/5 — (This is an exact copy of the original but remade in english)
Shrek 2 - Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon: 5/5
Shutter Island - Martin Scorsese: 4.5/5