Okay, at the outset I must point out that some who watch this film might be offended. The passion play that is portrayed in the film contains quite a bit of non-Biblical material that tends to humanize Jesus and de-emphasize his divinity. A literal interpretation of the life and death of Christ, this is not! Also, Catholic hierarchy are deliberately compared to the Pharisees who persecuted Jesus and some Catholics might feel very uncomfortable with this. In addition, in parts of the play, Jesus is played naked. At first, this shocked me, but this was much more accurate than the usual loincloth portrayal of him--shocking, but not sacrilegious to me. So parents might want to think twice about letting the kids see this, or at least the would want to discuss the film with them.
The film started relatively slowly, so I recommend you suspend your judgment until you've seen it all. A relatively unknown actor is asked by a hypocritical priest to re-write and perform the passion play at a shrine in Montreal, Canada. The play is quite a departure from the norm, as some of the actors are clearly not the "nice" sort of folks you'd expect to be doing religious plays. For example, one does voice dubbing for pornographic films and another does crappy ads that rely on her body more than her acting skills (a 20th century variation on followers like Mary Magdalene and other sinners--this was clever). These choices actually made sense as did many of the occurrences in the film because they were meant to be symbolic of the life of Christ. The characters themselves didn't realize this, but throughout the film they mirror the story from the Gospels. After a while, the actor who plays Jesus begins to lose himself in the role--acting out scenes such as chasing the money-lenders out of the temple and the actual death and resurrection of Christ. All the parallels are too many to repeat here, but someone with a decent knowledge of the life of Jesus will often notice the parallels.
In many ways, the final results can be both affirming to believers yet frustrating as well. Frustration at some of the offensive lines of dialog and the way they've made the life of Christ rather revisionistic (saying that salvation is an individual thing--de-emphasizing Christ's part in this and making it more "touchy-feely"). But the script is so very clever and manages to also make Jesus come alive, in a sense, as the central messages are proclaimed well. Plus, after the death of Jesus in the film, it does a good job of showing how the message and legacy continues. Overall, an excellent and compelling film that is sure to make an impact on the viewer.
By the way, this film was released on DVD by Koch-Lorber. While this company has a great track record for bringing independent and foreign films to DVDs, they also usually lack any sort of meaningful bonus materials. For the feature film, I give it an A. For the extras, I give them a D-.
PS--Like the great BARBARIAN INVASIONS (also by the same director and starring some of the same cast), this film was highly critical of the Canadian health care system--showing it was being uncaring and overwhelmed. These two films make an interesting counter-point to Michael Moore's SICKO, which tends to glorify this same system!
Jesus of Montreal
Jesus of Montreal
A small group of actors who are putting on an interpretive Passion Play in Montreal begin to experience a meshing of their characters and their private lives as the production takes form against the growing opposition of the Catholic Church. —Keith Loh
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
October 30, 2021 at 07:20 PM