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The Last Temptation of Christ - "God Doesn't Like This Movie" 

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

"This film is not based on the Gospels. It is only a fantasy research on the eternal conflicts of the spirit."

Director Martin Scorseses Disclaimer.



 In 1988, the release of The Last Temptation of Christ, Martin Scorseses adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis controversial 1955 novel The Last Temptation, was greeted with an unprecedented storm of protest and outrage.   The film, which was produced by Universal, marked the last time (for at least a lengthy period) that a mainstream studio would invest in the development of a film on such a controversial subject and, perhaps, heralded a change in American (and global) perceptions of religious belief that still resonates today.

Scorsese is on record as saying he had wanted to make a film about the life of Christ since he was a 10-year-old Catholic child, and, in the mid-sixties, he even wrote a screenplay, entitled Jerusalem, Jerusalem, in which the Passion of Christ takes place in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.   In 1972, actress Barbara Hershey gave Scorsese a copy of Kazantzakis novel, which is when the seed of an idea began to formulate in the directors mind.   Over time, he came to the decision that the film he made about Jesus would focus on how it felt to be both fully God and fully human.

 The film (and novel) gives an alternative account of the life of Jesus Christ; one in which he is plagued by doubt and torn between a desire to lead the domestic life of a normal man and his duty to be the Messiah.   At the beginning of the film, Jesus, who is played by Willem Dafoe, builds crucifixes for the Romans.   Throughout the film he is unsure of his status and of his identity and uncertain of his ability to lead, and he is tormented by the voice of God.  While this depiction of Jesus alone would arguably have been enough to generate vigorous protests, it was the final section of the film, in which Jesus is led from the Cross by an agent of the Devil to lead the life of an ordinary man, that sparked controversy on a scale which Universal and Scorsese had clearly failed to foresee.


Next: How the Film Came to be Made (2 of 4)














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