Il Vangelo secondo Matteo (1964)

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s third feature abandons the profane in favour of the sacred in a documentary-like retelling of the story of Christ.

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Film details

Alternative titles

  • The Gospel According to Matthew Alternative
  • The Gospel According to St. Matthew Alternative
  • Evangile selon Saint Matthieu Alternative French


“[It] grips the historical and psychological imagination like no other religious film I have ever seen.”
Alexander Walker, Evening Standard

The emphasis in this adaptation of the New Testament Gospel is on a political reading of the text rather than a reverential one. One of the most lucid works by Marxist filmmaker and writer Pier Paolo Pasolini, his characteristic passion for the beauty of the ordinary – whether in close-ups of the actors, or wide shots of the Calabrian landscape – is augmented by a marked resistance to the spectacular. Even Christ’s miraculous healing of the sick is conveyed using nothing more complicated than editing.

The film was photographed in stark black and white by his frequent collaborator Tonino Delli Colli, and performed by a cast of non-professional actors including the director’s own mother as Mary, and Spanish economics student Enrique Irazoqui as Christ. Only the exalted soundtrack – featuring Bach, Mozart, and Billie Holliday among other – counterpoints the film’s spare, realist style.

Notable screen versions of the New Testament include King of Kings (1961), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and The Passion of the Christ (2004).

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