The Last Temptation of Christ

The Last Temptation of Christ ★★★½


As a committed Christian who has spent years simultaneously excited and dread-filled at the prospect of watching The Last Temptation Of Christ, I’m surprised that it didn’t affect me more. I expected a challenging and confronting watch, something that would deeply unsettle and provoke, and instead found it all a bit too easy. The disclaimer at the start does its best to ward away accusations of blasphemy, and thus I can’t subscribe to the indignation the film recieved upon its initial release. Scorsese’s film is an adaptation of a historical novel, not the God-breathed gospels, and thus its incarnation of Jesus is not a literal stand-in for the one Christians worship. Additionally, the portrayal of Christ is actually quite reasonable to my mind, never contradicting scripture by showing him sinning, but rather showing him grappling with anxiety, doubt and temptation — human battles that the bible itself confirms he fought. I understand the horror one might feel watching Jesus engage in a sex scene, for instance, but the offended must have totally missed or ignored that this scene takes place in an alternate “what if?” scenario. Really, almost every spin on the story a Christian could be upset about is clearly contextualised and carefully executed. 

What isn’t so carefully executed is the manner in which the script and screen tell these spins on the story, relying too heavily on expository dialogue that plainly states what the characters are feeling and struggling to create a seamless tone. The story is too coherent to be so rushed and the tone is too straightforward for the filmmaking to be so eclectic. There’s a fascinating dialectic between the old story and milieu and the distinctly modern soundscape of eerie electronic music and transparently British and American accents, a contrast that does convey the timelessness of Christ’s story but doesn’t make for smooth cinema. Make no mistake, The Last Temptation is a constantly interesting and occasionally incredible work, just not a very cohesive one. 7/10 

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