|The Gospel According to Matthew (Italian: Il Vangelo secondo Matteo) is a 1964 Italian biographical drama film directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. It is a retelling of the story of Jesus Christ, from the Nativity through the Resurrection.
The dialogue is primarily taken directly from the Gospel of Matthew, as Pasolini felt that “images could never reach the poetic heights of the text.”. He reportedly chose Matthew’s Gospel over the others because he had decided that “John was too mystical, Mark too vulgar, and Luke too sentimental.”
Pasolini employed some of the techniques of Italian neorealism in the making of his film. Most of the actors he hired were non-professionals. Enrique Irazoqui (Jesus) was a 19-year-old economics student from Spain, and the rest of the cast were mainly locals from Barile, Matera, and Massafra, where the film was shot (Pasolini visited the Holy Land but found the locations unsuitable and “commercialized”). Pasolini cast his own mother, Susanna, as the elderly mother of Jesus. The cast also included noted intellectuals such as writers Enzo Siciliano and Alfonso Gatto, poets Natalia Ginzburg and Juan Rodolfo Wilcock, and philosopher Giorgio Agamben. In addition to the original biblical source, Pasolini used references to “2,000 years of Christian painting and sculptures” throughout the film. The look of the characters is also eclectic and, in some cases, anachronistic, resembling artistic depictions of different eras (the costumes of the Roman soldiers and the Pharisees, for example, are influenced by Renaissance art, whereas Jesus’ appearance has been likened to that in Byzantine art as well as the work of Expressionist artist Georges Rouault). Pasolini later described the film as “the life of Christ plus 2,000 years of storytelling about the life of Christ.”Pier Paolo Pasolini(5 March 1922 – 2 November 1975) was an Italian film director, poet, writer and intellectual. Pasolini distinguished himself as a poet, journalist, philosopher, novelist, playwright, filmmaker, newspaper and magazine columnist, actor, painter and political figure. He demonstrated a unique and extraordinary cultural versatility, becoming a highly controversial figure in the process. While his work remains controversial to this day, in the years since his death Pasolini has come to be valued by many as a visionary thinker and a major figure in Italian literature and art. American literary critic Harold Bloom considers Pasolini to be a major European poet and important in 20th-century poetry.
The score of the film is eclectic, ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach (e.g. Mass in B Minor and St Matthew Passion) to Odetta (“Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”), to Blind Willie Johnson (“Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground”), to the Jewish ceremonial declaration “Kol Nidre” and the “Gloria” from the Congolese Missa Luba. Pasolini stated that all of the film’s music was of a sacred or religious nature from all parts of the world and multiple cultures or belief systems.