The Gospel According to St. Matthew
is a 1964 Italian film
directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
. Its original Italian
release title is Il Vangelo secondo Matteo
, literally "The Gospel of Matthew", as the atheist
Pasolini was uncomfortable with calling Matthew
a saint. The dialogue is primarily taken directly from the gospel, as Pasolini felt that "images could never reach the poetic heights of the text." He reportedly chose the Gospel of Matthew
over the others because he had decided that "John
was too mystical, Mark
too vulgar, and Luke
Pasolini had previously been sentenced to jail for the allegedly blasphemous and obscene content of his contribution to the anthology film RoGoPaG
. As a reputed atheist and Communist
, the reverential nature of his film was surprising, but Pasolini himself said "If you know that I am an unbeliever, then you know me better than I do myself. I may be an unbeliever, but I am an unbeliever who has a nostalgia for a belief."
Pasolini used some of the techniques of Italian neorealism
. All of the actors are amateurs: Enrique Irazoqui (Jesus) was a 19 year old student from Spain
, and the rest of the cast was mainly locals from Barile
), where the film was shot (Pasolini visited the Holy Land but found the locations unsuitable and "commercialized").
The score of the film is eclectic, ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach (e.g Mass in B Minor and St Matthew Passion) to Odetta (Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child).
The film was widely touted in Italy, and proved one of Pasolini's most popular, both with critics and the public. Roger Ebert said in his movie review, "Pasolini's is one of the most effective films on a religious theme I have ever seen, perhaps because it was made by a nonbeliever who did not preach, glorify, underline, sentimentalize or romanticize his famous story, but tried his best to simply record it."
On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 92% certified "fresh" rating.
At the 1964 Venice Film Festival
, The Gospel According to St. Matthew
was nominated for 3 awards, including the Golden Lion, and won 2, the OCIC Award and the Special Jury Prize.
The Gospel According to St. Matthew was released in the United States in and was nominated for three Academy Awards: Art Direction, Costume Design, and Score.
- Bart Testa, "To Film a Gospel ... and Advent of the Theoretical Stranger," in Patrick Rumble and Bart Testa (eds.), Pier Paolo Pasolini: Contemporary Perspectives. University of Toronto Press, Inc., 1994, pp. 180-209. ISBN 0-8020-7737-4.