– A Man Of Divinity And Humanity Essay, Research Paper
Scorsese s Christ – A Man of Divinity and Humanity
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Jesus Christ, son of the God, is the central icon of Christianity. It is through the teachings and practices of Jesus Christ that we learn the values and virtues of the religion. His enduring life represents forgiveness and mercy. According to Kramer, it is on his life and passion that all Christian views of death are based . He is often called the savior and it is through his suffering that all Christians will receive eternal life in Heaven. The different accounts of Jesus Christ s life are given in the New Testament of the Holy Bible. His life was a living testimony of God s love and more importantly his plan. In John 3:17, the plan of God is outlined: For God did not send his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. It was God s plan that Jesus be born in human flesh through the divine conception of Mother Mary. In accordance with this plan and (according to the gospel of Luke) he grows up with humankind, becoming through the years a prophet, teacher and healer. Our salvation was to come from his suffering and death.
The summer of 1988 witnessed the most intense religious controversy in the history of Hollywood with the release of Martin Scorsese s film The Last Temptation of Christ. In Scorsese s adaptation of the novel by N. Kazantzakis s novel, is markedly distinct from previous representations because it highlights the human aspect of Christ. It is the emphasis on this human side that is the common focus of most contemporary critiques of both the film and the novel. This film, by choosing a fictional Christ as its protagonist and an imaginary last temptation : as its crisis, constantly challenges a viewer s belief in the biblical Christ. In this essay, I will argue the image of Jesus constructed by Scorsese emphasizes the duality of Christ s nature, fully realizing both his humanity and his divinity. Throughout Scorsese s film his human Christ was unsure whether he was an ordinary man or a manifestation of God, he was unsure whether his mission was to engage and live like a normal man with temptations and sins, or to save a nation and to reform religion.
The film opens with a prologue stating: The Last Temptation of Christ is aims to be a fictional exploration of the eternal spiritual conflict the battle between the spirit and the flesh. (The Last Temptation of Christ 2 mins.) It is interesting how the film proposes that Jesus is the manifestation of God in human form. It is the human side of Christ that makes him a target for temptation, therefore no different than you and I. From the very beginning, the film did not take a reverential approach, usually characterized by inspirational reading of scripture, grandiose spectacle and welling music, (Variety) but rather a prologue which emphasizes the eternal conflict between body and spirit that we all have in common with Jesus Christ.
The film characterizes Jesus as a carpenter building crosses for the by the Romans in Crucifixion. Early on the film, we see the relationship of Jesus with his Judas being one of his closest apostles. The friendship between the two characters are develops until Jesus Christ asks Judas to betray him thus fulfilling God s plan for his suffering.
Jesus: I wish there were some other way. I m sorry, but there isn t. I have to die on the cross.
Judas: I wont let you die!
Jesus: You have no choice. Neither do I. Remember, we re bringing God and man together. They ll never be together, unless I die. I m the sacrifice. Without you there can be no redemption. Forget everything else, understand that.
Judas: No! I can t. Get somebody stronger.
Jesus: You promised me. Remember, you once told me that if I moved one step from revolution you would kill me. Remember?
Jesus: I ve strayed, haven t I? Then you must keep your promise, you have to kill me.
Judas: If that s what God wants, then let God do it. I won t.
Jesus: He will do it, through you. The temple guards will be looking for me where there aren t crowds. Go to Gethsemane and I ll make sure that they find me there. I am going to die. But after three days, I ll come back in victory. You can t leave me. You have to give me strength.
Judas: If you were me, could you betray a master?
Jesus: No. That s why God gave me the easier job, to be crucified. (The Last Temptation of Christ 35 mins)
In a way, this is one of the moments when the film takes a very radical stand on the role of Judas in the Christian theology. Judas portrayal of defending Jesus and not willing to turn him in is very contradictory to what the Bible states in which Judas turns Jesus Christ to Pontius Pilate for the price of gold. The conversation between the two men provides a number of tensions. First, Judas battles with himself because he is not willing to betray a master. Secondly, Jesus Christ is seen to contemplate his actions very much like a mortal, that he too is tempted to live the normal life, but he understands that his crucifixion is essential to God s plan to save the world.
The film takes as it s core subject matter Christ s greatest temptation of all. The issue of sexuality is foregrounded in the very beginning. The first scene when we are introduced to Christ s friend Mary Magdalene is in a brothel house in which she is performing various sexual acts for her customers. Immediately, then, the film narrative sets up and visualizes the inner torment of the spiritual life. According to Martin Scorsese it is essential to establish this scene particularly to show the proximity of sexuality to Jesus, the occasion of sin. Jesus must have seen a naked women-must have. So why couldn t we show that? And I wanted to show the barbarism of his time, the degradation to Mary. It s better that the door is open. Better there is no door [in Kazantzakis s novel, Jesus stayed outside the door]. The scene isn t done for titillation; it s to show the pain on her face, the compassion Jesus has for her as he fights his sexual desire for her. (Burnette 121) Mary Magdalene becomes an instrument to show the greatest weakness of Jesus Christ as a human, his ability to love. After the brothel scene, the film implies that Magdalene s prostitution is somewhat a consequence of Christ s neglect. Jesus Christ inability to consummate his relationship at the end of the scene frustrates Mary and adds on to Christ s inner conflict. Jesus Christ then changes Magdalene s life as he saves her from an angry Jewish mob attempting to stone her for adultery.
The voice and image of Mary Magdalene is also crucial in scenes and events to follow because it is one of the vehicles by which the devil will try to tempt Christ to give up his divinity and become a regular human. When Jesus Christ meets John the Baptist, he is told that he must set out on a pilgrimage alone in the desert. In one of God s first temptations with the devil, he sees a snake that speaks with Mary Magdalene s voice. In a way, this sets up Jesus Christ s last temptation in which appear as a vision at his last moments in the cross. It is the very last attempt to the devil to try to convince Jesus Christ to give up his stature of Son of God and offer him the pleasure of living a normal life. At the foot of Jesus cross, a little girl appears trying to persuade him to live an ordinary life in which he can spend his life with Mary Magdalene. In this last vision, Mary is dressed in white symbolically representing her newfound purity and her rejection of her old carnal profession. The very last moment of Christ life he sees the last temptation: a clever ploy of the devil: if only Christ will forsake his Messianic destiny, he can not only achieve the sexual fulfillment he secretly yearns for but do so within the sanctified bond of marriage (Friedman 154)
The Last Temptation of Christ is a film that questions the religion in a very sophisticated manner. It does not try to debunk Christianity but rather proposes a fundamental question about the role of Jesus while he was here on earth. Through the film, the dilemma of Christ s inner conflict is suggested through the different temptations, his hesitation to complete God s plan, and his struggle in living a life of humility and divinity . The film does not re-write the biblical myth but rather suggests another possibility. At the end Scorsese s Jesus finally complete God s plan. He resists the temptation, and fully accepts his divinity and his redemptive mission of being the savior.
Peter Brunette, eds., Martin Scorsese: Interviews (conversation with the filmmakers series (University Press of Mississippi, 1999).
Cart, The Last Temptation of Christ, Variety, August 10 1998.
Marie Katheryn Connelly, Martin Scorsese: An analysis of his featured films (North Carolina: Mcfarland & Company, Inc., 1993)
Lawrence Friedman, The Cinema of Martin Scorsese (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1997)
Kenneth Paul Kramer, The Sacred Art of Dying (New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1998)
Martin Scorsese, dir., The Last Temptation of Christ, with Willam Defoe, Universal, 1988.