‘The Gospel according to Saint Matthew’: Pasolini’s film about Jesus that the Vatican hated so much | Opinion

Film frame
Still from the film “The Gospel according to Saint Matthew”, by Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Pier Paolo Pasolini, who would turn 100 next March, was not only a film genius with his controversial films, but one of the coolest intellectuals I have ever met. He was also a writer, semiotician and poet. He was a sweet man but extreme in everything: in sex, in politics, in religion, in art. He was an atheist and a convinced communist, although he respected all creeds and ideas.

The Vatican at that time hated him and especially hated his film about the life of Jesus, The Gospel according to Saint Matthew, in which he wanted his mother to play the role of the Virgin Mary. It seemed to the Vatican a communist film, when communism was seen under the leadership of the Church as the devil incarnate. Only with the arrival of Pope Francis did the hitherto execrated film receive the ecclesiastical blessing. The new pope confessed that The Gospel according to Saint Matthew by Pasolini “was perhaps the best film ever made about Jesus.”

The idea of ​​the atheist and homosexual Pasolini to make a film about the life of Jesus was a pure chance. The filmmaker was 42 years old and was invited to Assisi to a writers’ congress. It happened that I too had been invited to talk about a curious topic: “Jesus the writer.” I remember that Pasolini sat next to me and when in the program he saw the title of my presentation, he said to me between curious and incredulous: “But if Jesus never wrote!” I asked him to wait and see that he had written. The filmmaker had never read the gospels. When I told the story that Jesus had written only once and with the finger of his hand in the dust of the temple floor to save an adulterous woman from death by stoning, intrigued Pasolini told me: “But you have not told what wrote”. I explained to him that the Gospels do not count it and he, restless in the chair, as if angry, whispered to me: “But the apostles were crazy for not telling the only thing that Jesus wrote in his life!”

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After the congress, Pasolini wanted to stay one more day in Assisi to read the Gospels. He started with the first, Mateo’s, and was so fascinated that he interrupted reading and immediately started filming The Gospel according to Saint Matthew, which would be one of the immortal works of Christian art.

Pasolini, who in those days when being homosexual could cost his life, a bit like today in Brazil, although even more then, he assumed himself as such in public and curiously this led him to death young until today without fully deciphering. On the day of the writers’ congress, we all went to lunch together. Around Pasolini, a group of women immediately gathered, as always, to be by his side. Later he would confide in me: “And to think that my sorrow is that I will die without knowing the soul of the woman.”

Pasolini was controversial even in his poetry. And it was precisely his poem published on the front page of the largest newspaper in Italy, Corriere della Sera, which cost him his sudden expulsion from the Communist Party. The day before there had been a confrontation in Rome in Via Julia between policemen and students of the University. About 100 policemen were injured by the cobblestones torn from the street and thrown at them. In his poem, Pasolini condemned the students. According to him, the policemen were the proletariat, children of poor workers in the south of the country, who could not study, while the students were from rich bourgeois families who could afford not to work to attend university.

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Since then, politically, Pasolini was execrated and even today his death in a park on the outskirts of Rome remains a mystery, apparently at the hands of a homosexual friend of his, although the truth of the facts remains in the dark and perhaps we will never know the truth.

Pasolini was killed young, but his work is still alive and he was a prophet when he wrote that the suburbs that were beginning to be created in the peripheries for the poorest workers would be “nests of violence in the hands of drugs and the state police.” . Precisely what is happening today in the favelas of Brazil and in many of Latin America, where 80% of those executed by the police are always black and poor.

They left little time to live for the filmmaker who proclaimed freedom as the air we need to breathe, because he was dangerous with his films and his poetry, with his provocations and his prophecies. He was an atheist and nonconformist, but he was always with all his arts against ignominy and hypocrisy. Closer to the mystery of Christian Christmas than so many who boast of being believers, while allowing millions of people to go hungry this Christmas and suffer the lashes of hypocrisy condemned by the prophet Jesus, who accused the Pharisees of “placing on the shoulders of the weakest weights that they themselves were unable to bear ”.

Merry Christmas of peace and harmony to all readers and may 2022 be no worse than this one that ends. Is that asking too much?

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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