Sunday, July 10, 2011

Review of The Gospel According to St. Matthew

Jewish date:  8 Tammuz 5771 (Parashath Pineḥas).

Today’s holidays:  Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Mel Blanc (Church of the SubGenius).


Yes, I am reviewing The Gospel According to St. Matthew, yet another Gospel-based film, one specifically based on Matthew and currently watchable on Hulu.  Happily (or unhappily, depending on your point of view), there is not much to say.  Other than ṣara‘ath (often mistranslated as “leprosy”) being confounded with a facial deformity, it follows Matthew closely, warts and all, especially the warts.  While authenticity is good, absolutely nothing is done to fill in the gaps in the original text and make it more understandable.  You will find nothing to explain why anyone did anything which is not in the Gospels.  Everything I complained about the Gospels being anti-Semitic is there, without the least sign of reflection on the part of those who made this film on what Jesus’s opponents actually believed or why they were opposed to him; Jesus is depicted as obviously right without question.  Pilate and the rest of the Romans get off easy here, too.  Only two things are particularly unusual:

1) The visual style is bad, even taking into consideration that this movie was made back in the 1960s, when video was often still in black-and-white and special effects were crude.  The scenery is dull.  The clothing is dull.  The headgear looks especially stupid, and none of it looks like anything your humble blogger has seen in any depiction of Second Temple Period Israel.  Anyone who has opened up Ezekiel knows that angels do not look like young women, but no one who made this movie seems to have considered having the angel at least dress differently from everyone else.

2) To the credit of the lead actor, Jesus is unusually lively for a Gospel film.  Jesus in the Gospels is frequently angry, and in this movie, it actually shows.  It is a controlled anger, a disgust for everything he complains about, which underlies all his speeches.  Jesus also comes off as a bit crazy.

Recommendation:  If you need to review Matthew and have a strong stomach, this is a good film to watch.  Otherwise just skip it; you will not miss anything.



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