Neither blasphemous nor offensive, this faithful adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis' book sees Christ torn between divine destiny and an all too human awareness of pain and sexuality, departing most dramatically from the gospels in the last 40 minutes, a clearly fantastic sequence in which Jesus is led from the cross by an angel who offers him a normal life as husband and father. The performances - especially Keitel (Judas) and Bowie (Pontius Pilate) - are excellent; the recreation of biblical times is effective and plausible; and the percussive ethnic score for the most part admirably complements the superb photography. The dialogue, however, is often astonishingly banal and the miracles mundane. More seriously, Scorsese fails to illuminate the soul of Christ - essentially what the film is all about. Nevertheless, it remains a sincere, typically ambitious and imaginative work from America's most provocatively intelligent film-maker.
Cast and crew
Harry Dean Stanton