Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Jesus of Montreal

(Canada/France, 1989)

I’ve been interested in this film for years, and now it’s out on DVD. The interest comes because it was filmed at about the same time as Millennium was filming in Toronto. I was nominated for a Genie Award for best screenplay for a Canadian play, and Jesus of Montreal was my main competition. The voters wisely chose to give just about all the awards to this film.

It’s interesting to contrast this with that great galloping gob of gore, The Passion of the Christ. The plot: 5 actors are asked to update a traditional passion play in light of new discoveries by Biblical scholars and archaeologists and historians. The play they come up with is very good, and painfully honest, and of course the higher-ups in the Church hate it. What it points out is that, assuming he even lived (which can’t be proven historically), we don’t know shit about Jesus and his life. He’s born, in a highly unlikely manner, and pow! he’s off to Egypt, where he apparently grew up. There’s a story about him confounding the elders in the temple. Then here he is, ex-carpenter and now rabble-rouser, disturbing the peace. Soon we begin to realize that, of the very little we think we know about Jesus, about 75% of it is wrong, 24% is lies (miracles), and maybe 1% (his teachings) might be true. This is according to people who have devoted their lives to studying the man and the period.

That part is fun enough in itself, but there’s even more fun in seeing how the life of the man who is playing Jesus is paralleling the story of Jesus. This isn’t hammered home, and no attempt is made to draw exact lines, but you can’t help noticing that one woman around him is like Mary, and another is like Mary Magdalene. And there is the violence against the moneylenders in the temple, and Satan taking him up to a high place and tempting him. And a neat twist on the resurrection …

All in all, maybe a tad too long, but well done and worth seeing.