24 Frames: The Last Temptation of Christ (Martin Scorsese, 1988)
If you, who are organized by Divine Providence for spiritual communion, refuse, and bury your talent in the earth, even though you should want natural bread, sorrow and desperation pursue you through life, and after death shame and confusion of face to eternity.
Martin Scorsese once said that Michael Powell, his late friend and mentor, is the key to understanding his theology. He frequently mentions Powell’s The Red Shoes as one of his favorite films, and like so many of Scorsese’s own works, that film concerns the concept of the God-given vocation. Carl Jung said that vocation “destines a man to emancipate himself from the herd and from its well-worn paths.” Like William Blake, Jung sees vocation as a law of God from which there is no escape, and the one who is called “must obey his own law, as if it were a daemon whispering to him of new and wonderful paths.” “Why do you want to dance?” Boris Lermontov asks Vickie at the beginning of The Red Shoes. “Why do you want to live?” is her reply. In Hans Andersen’s fairy tale, the red shoes symbolize sexuality. In Powell’s film they represent Vickie’s passion, her calling, her entire being. Lermontov uncompromisingly considers his art “a religion,” and Scorsese has admitted that he feels a kinship with him to the point where he dreams about him at night on a regular basis. Like Scorsese, Lermontov believes that however painful a divine calling may be, refusing it is infinitely more excruciating.
Scorsese uses the color red in a more consistently sublime manner than most living directors – equaled only by Italian master of horror, Dario Argento – and always it refers to his Catholic background as well as to Michael Powell. In Christianity, red signifies the blood and heart of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man who died on the cross; whereas blue, the holiest of colors, signifies God, the Father, and by extension faith, joy, truth, insight, and wisdom. In the films of Martin Scorsese, as in The Red Shoes, red is connected with the passion and the pain of the God-given vocation. It is the color of blood, the color of renouncing worldly matters in order to completely embrace one’s own calling and “wait upon the Lord without distraction,” as St. Paul wrote.
When Vickie falls in love with Julian, Lermontov warns her: “You cannot have it both ways. A dancer who relies upon the doubtful comforts of human love can never be a great dancer! Never!” Julian, on the other hand, asks her to give up dancing, in effect asking her to amputate her soul. At the end of the film Vickie is torn apart by Lermontov, who begs her to obey her calling, and Julian, who wants her to renounce it so she can be his wife exclusively. Because she does not choose, the red shoes, the symbol of her holy gift, take over and destroy her. The color of vocation becomes dangerous when she considers sacrificing her true purpose in life on the altar of love and marriage. In Scorsese’s films, the red color carries the exact same meaning, and it takes on ominous overtones whenever a God-given vocation is compromised or refused.
The increasingly popular tendency to consider Jesus Christ merely as a historical person is unfortunate and impoverishing because it robs the New Testament of its valuable archetypal significance and power, its enduring spiritual importance. “Wherever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed. The living images become only remote facts of a distant time or sky,” Joseph Campbell said. “When a civilization begins to reinterpret its mythology in this way, the life goes out of it, temples become museums, and the link between the two perspectives is dissolved.”
At the center of The Last Temptation of Christ, as of all Scorsese’s films, are the eternal and universal aspects. The trials Christ has to go through resemble the trials of countless heroes of myths and fairy tales. You see the mythological journey “reflected everywhere you look, not just in your own career but also in literature like the Odyssey, in the Hindu and Buddhist scriptures, in the Koran,” says Catholic scholar Kevin Orlin Johnson. “And you find the same view of the universe revealed in the Bible. It’s the major theme of the Church’s art and ceremonies, too. From the Church’s point of view, this journey through life is governed by God’s plan of creation, sanctification, and salvation: what you might call the “Cycle of Redemption”.
The Last Temptation of Christ and Life Lessons both concern the choice between vocation and domesticity, and the schism between the two reflects the difference between realism and myth: do you opt for the ordinary everyday life most people take for granted, or do you feel compelled to choose the painful and lonely road less traveled that goes ever so much deeper? Real art, as Lionel Dobie says to Paulette, is “not about talent, it’s about no choice but to do it.” For many of Scorsese’s characters, the comfort of a home, a family, and an ordinary human life is not possible if they are to fulfill their divine purpose.
The Passion of Martin Scorsese: A Critical Study of the Films – Annette Wernblad
A cereja do bolo? Thelma Schoonmaker disse que viu Michael Powell chorando duas únicas vezes nos anos em que estiveram juntos, uma foi na queda do Muro de Berlin, a outra foi assistindo A Última Tentação de Cristo. O que torna isso tão interessante é o fato de Leo Marks fazer a voz de Satã no filme e é claro que ele não foi colocado alí gratuitamente. Jesus Fucking Christ no mundo do Scorsese tem um encontro com Leo Marks em Peeping Tom (Pressburger é João Batista? Rá!). Pelinhos arrepiados por isso. Ajuda o fato de Paul Schrader ter voltado a ser parceirinho de roteiro, afinal, os três filmes mais powellianos do Scorsese tiveram a ajuda dele: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull e este Cristo. Hoje não dá nem para cogitar que eu pudesse gostar de Scorsese antes de me aprofundar em Powell (Deus e seu filho são um só, oras), é o mesmo que um ateu frequentar a missa todos os domingos – é possível, é claro, mas absolutamente incompleto.
Cristo: Archangel, move back. Move back, you’re blinding me.
Satã: Jesus. I’m the one you’ve been waiting for. Remember… when you were a little boy? You cried, “Make me a god! God, God, make me a god!”
Cristo: But I was just a child then.
Satã: You are God. The Baptist knew it. Now it’s time you admit it. You are His Son. The only Son of God. Join me. Join me. Together, we’ll rule the living and the dead. You’ll give life, and you’ll take life. You’ll sit in judgment, and I’ll sit next to you. Imagine how strong we could be together.
Satã: We’ll see each other again.
Nota 1: Apesar da aura de vários outros filmes pairarem sobre este Cristo, o clima visual acaba mesmo sendo uma mistura de King of Kings do Nicholas Ray com Gone do Earth de PnP. Por exemplo, o início de A Última Tentação de Cristo é praticamente uma réplica do início de Gone to Earth, onde os protagonistas de ambos têm pais que são carpinteiros e onde já vemos a silhueta de Jennifer Jones dentro de um caixão da mesma forma que também já vemos Dafoe crucificado enquanto estão na carpintaria paterna.
Nota 2: Não conhecia esse Kevin Orlin Johnson – mas certamente conheço um Kevin Johnson em Lost. É uma referência a este Kevin Johnson? Orlin é uma espécie de especialista em construir interpretações cristãs dos mais diversos contos e histórias clássicas, do Peter Pan, por exemplo, ele fez uma análise de que todo ambiente da Terra do Nunca na verdade seria um purgatório da vida pós morte. Ele me deu impressão de ser uma versão contemporânea de C.S. Lewis com a diferença que Lewis botava em prática suas teorias.
Nota 3: Muito me intriga o fato de Irvin Kershner interpretar o pai de dois dos mais importantes apóstolos de Cristo, quer dizer, Judas ruivo e Pilatos Bowie possuem as suas explicações, mas o Kershner é uma presença que realmente me intriga.