Saturday, 27 April 2019
Jesus of Montreal
This is a Passion Play that attempts to bring the passion up to date. Set in the grounds of a catholic shrine in the city of Montreal, the shrine's guardian enlists a group of actors to modernise the jaded 40 year-old script that is used in the annual production of their Passion Play. The film is in French with subtitles. We watched this in Holy Week as part of our Lenten programme this year and it worked well.
This film was made in 1989 and it attempts to engage the latest developments in Biblical archaeology to give new spins on parts of the story. Lothaire Bluteau is invited to direct and star in the new production and delivers a compelling performance. The result is the portrayal of a very human Jesus Christ whose quiet but charismatic style draws people into the plot and project.
The way in which Jesus recruits the rest of the cast is strongly modelled on Jesus recruiting his disciples in Galilee and of course they come from a range of questionable backgrounds and filled with scepticism and reluctance. As the story of the production and staging of the play develops, the characters begin to embody narrative elements of their characters in their own lives in modern-day Montreal.
The narcissistic and empty existence of the 'crowd' is made clear. Jesus even suffers the 'temptations in the desert'. Parallels with leading gospel characters become clearer as the the film progresses. The Temple Council, Mary Magdalene, John and Peter are all are present. The film challenges us to think of what constitutes love as Constance (Johanne-Marie Tremblay), in the role of Mary, mother of Jesus, offers the comfort of sex as mistress to the priest who is the guardian of the shrine.
The film certainly challenges and provokes reflection on what the Passion might look like on the streets of our town today. Who would be the main players and what would be the result. For me the narrative falls down because it denies the divine aspects of Christ from the character altogether - but that doesn't mean it's not a good film or that people shouldn't watch it.
The acting is very good and under Denys Arcand's writing and Direction delivers an important and challenging alternative to more recent offerings of the Passion Play. I would encourage you to get hold of a copy and see for yourself and make those parallel leaps from the gospels to your own neighbourhood and town. I'll give it 7/10.