The Conflicted Lamb: An Exploration of Jesus Christ as a New Wave Protagonist in The Last Temptation of Christ

By: Mark Hue

“The Conflicted Lamb: An Exploration of Jesus Christ as a New Wave Protagonist in The Last Temptation of Christ”

In a 1995 interview with The New York Times, director Martin Scorsese elaborated on his personal taste for cinema by saying, “The villain is always more interesting. I may like the hero, like in ‘Shane,’ which I saw when I was 11, but the villains were more interesting in terms of the choices they have to make in terms of action, conflict, drama.” While Scorsese’s specific love of villains may not relate to this analysis stemming from the era of filmmaking where he got his start, the notion does align with the general sentiments of New Wave cinema. From the sexually promiscuous Benjamin Braddock rebelling against the materialistic expectations of his parents in The Graduate to the idealistic Michael Corleone falling into the ethical trappings of his mafia family in The Godfather, American New Wave films, taking cues from the French New Wave, sought to portray morally complex protagonists railing against cultural hierarchies that restricts them to certain narratives just as film and genres specifically do as well. These two movements coming out of the 1970s and 1960s respectively existed to challenge both filmmaking and social norms alongside the concurrently occurring Cultural Revolution, pushing the medium in a less conservative and commercial direction while providing openings for now-famous directors like François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard in France and Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola in America to burst on the scene. Scorsese’s own Travis Bickle in 1975’s Taxi Driver was a racist and sexually perverse vigilante who saw himself as the hero fighting against the political corruption and the violent and dirty streets of New York City, and the director has continued, beyond the era of the American New Wave, to give viewers morally problematic heroes like Henry Hill and Jordan Belfort well into the 2010s. Perhaps Scorsese’s most intriguing protagonist that straddles the moral line, however, is one that has universally been portrayed otherwise as the embodiment of goodness and righteousness: Jesus Christ. In his 1988 adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel which relays the Gospel narratives through the lens of a more humanistic Christ played by Willem Dafoe, Scorsese and frequent screenwriting partner Paul Schrader wanted their audience to connect with a more complex Jesus that internalized and lived out humanity’s shortcomings while also dealing with his divine nature. But the film also does not shy away from exploring the utilitarian function of Christ and in turn religion in society, both conversations the Cultural Revolution and New Wave movements would likely have been interested in exploring, which resulted in the controversy surrounding both the novel and film. Pulling from the American New Wave tradition, Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ presents a morally questioning Jesus, alongside other purposely altered depictions of biblical figures, who is struggling with his prophesied role as the Messiah through narrative and filmic constructions that both facilitate and complicate explorations into Christ and religion’s necessary roles in functioning societies.

From the beginning, Jesus is seen fighting against and physically suffering due to his destiny and his relationship with God. The film begins with the opening passage from Kazantzakis’ novel which partially describes a “merciless battle between the spirit and the flesh.” This alluded to conflict is what pains Jesus, corroborated by his opening narration which read, “The feeling begins. Very tender, very loving. Then the pain starts. Claws slip underneath the skin and tear their way up. Just before they reach my eyes, they dig in.” During Jesus’ fits of physical pain from his spiritual relationship with God, the camera films Dafoe overhead, a technique with will be used throughout the film that, according to Karen D. Hoffman writing on the philosophical significances of the film, “might be intended to indicate that we are viewing him from God’s perspective, as the human Son of God” (144). While suffering has always been present in the Christian theology as a path to salvation as in the Book of Job and in Christ’s own crucifixion, Jesus, the ultimate sacrificial figure, is biblically rarely shown to wail against his suffering or God as he doe sin this film. This Jesus also further complicates the idealized view of Christ with his insistence on building crosses for the Romans “to crucify all of his [God’s] Messiahs,” according to Jesus’ inner narration that places the audience in the empathetic and subjective position of hearing his thoughts. While his actions in facilitating Roman crucifixions are an obvious reversal of his eventual crucifixion, they also serve as Jesus’ way of rebelling against God’s plan to sacrifice him, similar to other New Wave protagonists like Benjamin Braddock’s affair with Mrs. Robinson to defy his parent’s expectations for him or Bobby Dupea departing from his family to work a blue collared job in Five Easy Pieces. Jesus, just as some of the other biblical characters that are shown here, is less idealized and more morally ambiguous as is in accordance with New Wave tenants.

The opening of Jesus serving the Romans also introduces the viewer to Jesus’ two closest confidants in Judas Iscariot and Mary Magdalene, both figures whose portrayals here differ from biblical tradition in a more positive light. Judas, played by Harvey Keitel, is Jesus’ first follower and seemingly only friend in this interpretation of Scripture. While he is critical of Jesus’ reluctance and compliance with the Romans, Judas still supports him because of what Jesus supposedly will become even as he is ordered to kill Jesus by Jewish Zealots. Even as this portrayal of Judas is more sympathetic from the start, he is still morally complex through his insistence on violence to free his people. Immediately following his first scene with Jesus, Judas is seen killing a few soldiers and escaping punishment, actions that contradict Jesus’ preceding initial teachings of love and acceptance. Mary Magdalene, on the other hand, is shown to be a victim of Jesus’ Messianic destiny. When Jesus goes to meet her in a house of prostitution, his line “The worst things I’ve done, I’ve done to you” implies that, as was true in the book, Jesus rejected Magdalene as a romantic partner because of his role as the Messiah. Through that lens, blame for her fate to become a prostitute could then be placed at the feet of Jesus, again complicating the implications of his destiny by showing the resulting moral consequences. Even as Judas and Magdalene initially both have complex relationships with Jesus, their bonds with Jesus will be shown to be his most concrete as he becomes a public figure.

Before Jesus’ ministry begins, however, he provides the viewer with more details about his internal struggles when he reveals his perceived sinful nature to a man named Jerobeam after Jesus stumbles across a funeral in the desert. Speaking together on a clifftop, Jerobeam compliments Jesus’ connection to God, as he himself has strived his whole life for a chance to hear the Lord. Jesus, however, counters this notion by explaining that God wants to push him over a cliff, followed by a very performative camera motion that connects God and spirituality with the filmic form as seen earlier with the overhead shot. Jesus goes on to explain how he is a liar and a hypocrite who looks away at the sight of a woman, an action that “ruins Magdalene,” but perhaps the most revealing aspect is that his morality stems from his fear of God when he says, “You want to know who my God is? Fear.” The idea of fear of God in Christianity has a dichotomy of meanings, with fear being glorified as “the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1.7) and condemned because “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1.7), so, if anything, this aspect of Jesus’ character is mainly pulling from the Christian tradition that Last Temptation has the reputation of denying. What complicates the matter is that Jesus, being “undefiled” and “separated from sinners” (Heb. 7.26), is supposed to transcend these types of internal conflicts in biblical terms, but his lack of purity does bring him more into line with New Wave protagonists who internally struggle with their morality and identity, i.e., Harry Caul in Coppola’s The Conversation and Benjamin Braddock respectively. Paul Schrader discusses the dilemma between Jesus’ divine and human nature in a New York Times article following the film’s release saying, “‘Last Temptation’ concerns ‘the most fundamental issue of Christianity, the identity of Christ, this conundrum of the dual nature,’” and, ‘“The human part’ […] always gets short shrift because it’s uncomfortable to deal with’” (James). This idea of contrasting nature becomes more prevalent in Jesus’ teachings when he begins his ministry.

As Jesus starts to spread his teachings and build a following, his actions become more performative, meaning more theatrical in contrast to the New Wave’s focus on realism as an aesthetic, while his message is constantly evolving. From the beginning of the film, Jesus has been preaching the message of love as if it is ingrained in his system like his Messianic destiny, an idea emphasized by his line, “If I was a woodcutter, I’d cut. If I was a fire, I’d burn. But I’m a heart and I love. That’s the only thing I can do,” but this teaching is undermined by the actions of some of his closest followers. Judas has already been shown killing Roman soldiers, and the first time the viewer sees Peter, the lead Apostle in the Gospels, he is taking part in the near stoning of Magdalene, which is contrary to biblical accounts. Even John the Baptist, God’s chosen predecessor to Christ, represents an Old Testament style of justice when he says, “On the day of the Lord, blood will flow from wood. The stones of the houses will come alive and kill their owners.” When Jesus attempts his first speech to a crowd following him saving Magdalene from stoning, he inadvertently convinces them to revolt against the rich and feed of their desire to overthrow the Romans, a change in action Jesus’ teachings have not called for yet in the narrative. During his speech, Jesus comes off almost like a modern-day televangelist with overacting to boot. This style of preaching not only continues the trend of the spiritual as performative that here comes off as too insincere for the crowd but also the conflict between the body and the spirit embodied in Jesus, with him trying to appeal to their inner spirituality while they only pursue a baser action in warmongering. Some of the preceding imagery does seemingly condemn Jesus’ teaching. After arguing with Judas about the importance of the spirit versus the body, Jesus is seen conjuring up an apple, a biblical symbol of temptation. To find a clearer message to preach, Jesus decides to go into the desert.

While in the desert, Jesus faces three satanic temptations that take humanistic forms that further complicate Christ’s establish benevolent morality. Prior to the temptations, Scorsese again uses an overhead shot of Jesus marking a circle in the ground to foreshadow the forthcoming spiritual encounters. The first tempter is a snake, a classical form of Satan, but it is speaking with Magdalene’s voice. The snake asks Jesus to “find love” in a family, implying his missed opportunity with Magdalene. Even as Jesus overcomes this challenge, the notion of entering into a loving relationship is still being used to question the dual nature of Christ and what human pursuits Jesus can indulge in. A lion with the voice of Judas is the second tempter, and he condemns Jesus’ greed by selfishly choosing not to raise an army in Israel, a concept presented by Judas earlier that seems altruistic on the outside but also entails the violence that Jesus currently rejects; however, Jesus does threaten to “cut his throat,” foreshadowing his final resolution. Satan lastly comes as a pillar of fire and presents Jesus with an apple tree, which produces a fruit full of blood that Jesus eats. John the Baptist then appears to present Jesus with an ax to cut down the tree. Now, Jesus has come over to the violence he formally decried and returns to invite his Apostles “to a war” and to “turn an ax against the Devil’s kingdom,” suggesting a war against external temptations and sin.

This war comes as Jesus goes around curing the sick and casting out demons portrayed through Scorsese’s employment of filmic tinkering. Jesus and his apostles march in glorified slow motion into a demonically possessed crowd as if they were a band of action heroes. When Jesus cures a blind man, there is a noticeable edit as Jesus takes his hands away from the blind man’s face as if the miracle is acting through the edit. Later, when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, slow motion is used again. As with the filmic elements before, Jesus’ utilization of divine powers comes off as performative to further separate the spiritual from the body. The film does suggest that Jesus as a human is minimally involved in these miraculous employments. Earlier when discussing with Judas his plan to spread his message, Jesus suggests that “I’ll just open my mouth and God will do the talking,” implying that his speech is a pure creation from God. Going back to the raising of Lazarus, Dafoe’s facial expression when he sees Lazarus reach out his hand is one of shock, as if Jesus is also astounded by his own actions. Dafoe himself comments on this notion of a yielding Jesus in an interview where he says, “It’s a passive role. Stuff is being acted on him, and he is reacting” (LMU School of Film and Television). Jesus’ miracles, then, are another example of him being subservient to God which goes to further humanize Jesus like New Wave protagonists that are mere servants of higher powers. Harry Caul, in particular, comes to mind, as he is employed by business moguls to spy on people. These miracles and leadership roles also show Jesus beginning to show how religion has a function in this society. As is later suggested by Jesus’ final vision, this ministry that Jesus is carrying out is what is holding off Jewish annihilation by the Romans.

Jesus’ return to his home in Nazareth during his ministry is met with mixed results from his townsfolk and his mother. When Jesus preaches here, he again delves into his televangelist-esque persona but now with the inclusion of his violent message. Just like in the biblical telling, the people of Nazareth reject him since he only presents teaching instead of miracles (physical versus spiritual), causing Jesus to express his disappointment through anger as the crowd approaches him demanding a miracle. Jesus responds by telling them that “You’re filled with hate, get away! God won’t help you!” A close read of this particular quote also invokes Scorsese’s attempts to make the dialogue “contemporary” (The Movie Show) in order to connect with the audience. While it may not be verbatim what Jesus speaks in the Bible, this interpretation effectively highlights the rage of this humanistic portrayal and challenges the view of a benevolent Christ as perpetuated by Jesus’ teachings earlier in the film. This notion of benevolence is profoundly troubled when his mother comes to meet him on the road out of the city, begging him to come home, but Jesus acts like he does not even know her, only putting faith in his mission. For many Christians, Mary is one of the most venerated figures in Scripture outside of Tridium (God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit), so her being cast aside here raises questions about Jesus’ compassion, even if just in the confines of a mother-son relationship. A troubled family dynamic was a common theme of the American New Wave, especially in The Godfather series and Five Easy Pieces, and here, Jesus’ conflicts extend to both God and his mother. While he is initially rebelling against God because of his destiny, his eventual acceptance of his mission then leads him into conflict with Mary who does not want him to suffer the consequences of being the Messiah.

These consequences come to the forefront when Jesus goes to Jerusalem and starts to grapple with the idea of his crucifixion. Scorsese has already planted the seeds of Jesus dealing with his death from the beginning when Judas asks Jesus in their first scene together how Jesus would pay for his sins, to which Jesus responds, “With my life.” Later, before Psalm Sunday, Jesus reiterates this idea of his sacrifice more concretely for Judas, who then takes the opportunity to call Jesus out on his constantly changing messages by saying, “First it’s love, then the ax, and now you have to die.” Jesus in turn can only reassure him that this is God’s plan of which Jesus only knows what is required of him, but he is suffering his own internal struggle when he reaches Jerusalem, even as he is glorified by the masses. He asks God to “Let me die here […] while I have the strength,” even going so far as to wish for his followers to violently rebel against the Romans and the Temple guards instead of him being crucified. When the occasion does boil over into violence, Judas takes Jesus aside, and Jesus asks Judas to betray him. This action may be the most biblically and publicly troubling because of Judas’ status as one of the greatest sinners in history, a tradition going back at least to Dante’s Inferno. Even Jesus says in Matthew, ‘“woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born”’ (Matt. 26.24), but the Judas in the film has already been established as Jesus’ closest confidant and friend, making a betrayal of that magnitude seem unlikely and again morally complicating the characters. Jesus goes so far as to praise Judas above himself for his coming actions because “God gave me the easier job…to be crucified.” Now, Judas goes from betraying Jesus to making the ultimate sacrifice, at least in Jesus’ eyes, by selling out his friend, but this notion does not stop Jesus from continuing to be weary of his own death.

Once in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus now faces the last moment of contemplation before he is led off to die, making for one of the most humanistic and empathetic scenes in the whole movie. To be fair, the biblical version of this scene does also paint Jesus as reluctant when he asks God to “let this cup pass from me” (Matt. 26.39), meaning to save him from crucifixion. Scorsese’s Jesus, however, goes even farther by sobbing on the ground and begging God for a miracle, referencing other instances where God saved his servants: “You made many miracles for others. You opened the Red Sea for Moses. You saved Noah. You took Elijah to heaven in a fiery chariot and now you’re asking me to be crucified.” Here, Jesus seems almost antagonistic towards God by pointing out His perceived hypocrisy. This Jesus also does not submit in the same way as biblical Jesus who concedes “yet, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26.39). Instead, Dafoe’s Jesus receives a vision of John the Apostle, who has partially acted as a symbol in the film for the utilitarian use of religion. Before, when Jesus was being tempted in the desert, John argues with the other Apostles that Jesus’ teachings are important “Because people believe them.” Here, vision John presents Jesus with a chalice to represent the passing on of Jesus’ message that can only happen through his crucifixion. The image of the chalice as a proceeding tradition was also expressed in the Last Supper scene, where Jesus passes around the chalice as an example for them to repeat. Even as Jesus does concede to be taken away by soldiers out of compassion for others, this vision invokes the functionality of religion, as seen earlier in the impact of Jesus’ ministry, which will again be explored during Jesus’ final vision.

Once captured, Jesus goes through a quick and performative trial that again utilizes filmic elements to represent divinity. After the scene in the garden, the film immediately cuts to Jesus’ meeting with Pilate, skipping over his religious tribunal with the High Priests. Pilate again reinforces the idea of society’s expectations, only this time it is from the Roman point of view as he tells Jesus, “It simply doesn’t matter how you want to change things. We don’t want them changed.” Because of how Schrader and Scorsese have used the writing and filmmaking to already put Jesus through a New Wave-esque lens, his threats here in uprooting the cultural foundations the Romans have established come off more like Braddock and Bickle’s rebellions in their respective films. When Jesus is moved to be tortured, Scorsese uses emphasized sunlight and a panning camera to show that this is divine will in motion both literally and figuratively. Scorsese also brings back the overhead camera shot to also invoke God’s perspective. The public trial also uses a panning camera with no dialogue because, for Scorsese, the particulars of these events do not matter because Jesus’ fate is already established as moving forward. Even the walk to Golgotha is abridged; although, the only shot Scorsese has of Jesus carrying the cross through Jerusalem is in slow motion which, like before, shows the divinity acting through the filmic in this scene. This repeated connection between the filmic and the spiritual again emphasizes Jesus as embodying the serving vessel through which God’s will is acting in the world.

The culmination of Jesus’ spiritual subjugation comes to a flashpoint when he is finally on the cross and the titular “last temptation” facilitates Jesus’ ultimate, though fueled by ignorance, rebellion. Like in the garden, Scripture is invoked in a moment of humanity when Jesus asks God “why have you forsaken me?” Unlike in the Gospels, where onlookers say Jesus is calling to the prophet Elijah, Jesus here seemingly actively decrying God for leaving him, and this doubt triggers all of the sound to leave the scene, a filmic trick signally a spiritual action, and causes Jesus’ “guardian angel” to appear who says that God sent her to save him from death and “let him live his life.” Jesus accepts this proposition and walks away with the angel, looking away from the people he was meant to save. This whole proceeding section of the film can be viewed as a type of New Wave rebellion where the characters are trying to escape conventional morality. For example, 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde shows its two titular protagonists living on the fringes of society in order to express their individuality through immoral acts of crime and violence. 1970’s MAS*H also covers a similar theme, showing how its close-knit group of soldiers are comedically able to unwind and act out in ways they would not be able to back in America. Jesus, through his “escape” with the angel, is now able to act on the whims denied to him by God and his societal expectation of being the Messiah, the first of these whims being his desire for Magdalene.

Suddenly, Jesus and the angel are in a forested region, where Magdalene is waiting to marry Jesus through the kind of spiritual aura seen earlier in the film to suggest divine manipulation. Their time as a couple goes by quickly, as they live together in a shack and conceive a child. Similar to the torture scene, Scorsese uses harsh sunlight, minimal dialogue, and quick passages through time and space to hint to the audience that these experiences are spiritual and artificial, and when Magdalene suddenly dies, she is also consumed by a bright light, which corroborates the angel’s statement later that “God killed her.” Even if the viewer were to believe in the events of the vision, the angel’s consoling words to Jesus perpetuate contrasting notions to the Christian ideas about love that Jesus has himself perpetuated earlier in the film. She says, “There’s only one woman in the world. One woman with many faces. This one falls, the next one rises,” devaluating the individual importance of Magdalene, similar to how Jesus has been devalued as a man, by describing women in the rhetoric of conquest as empires that “fall” and “rise.” Another significant aspect of this scene is that Jesus is wielding an ax in frustration and agony. This symbol that has previously empowered Jesus and his forceful approach to spreading his message is now made as useless as his messages about love were to some of the crowds he preached to. Slowly, agency is being taken from Jesus and being placed more firmly in the hands of the angel and eventually God.

The next major challenge Jesus faces to his current beliefs comes in the form of Paul as he explains to Jesus the utilitarian role Christ and in turn religion serves in society that has already been partially established by Jesus’ ministry. Jesus, now married to two wives as a continued show of his descent from his destined and archetypal role, walks with his family when he sees Paul, formally Saul who was previously seen killing Lazarus after his resurrection by Jesus, as he preaches the Gospel. Recognizing the “lies” Paul is spreading, Jesus confronts him saying that he is a liar and that God saved him from the cross. Paul counters by saying that it does not matter if he is Jesus or not because “The resurrected Jesus will save the world and that’s what matters.” He continues by saying, “I created the truth out of what people needed,” and, “You don’t know how much people need God. You don’t know how happy He can make them. […] He can make them happy to die, and they’ll die.” Here, Paul is emphasizing the power of religion and the necessity it is in people’s lives, and “The Messiah” is the fulfillment of that necessity. In this, Jesus’ role is not that of an individual but of a symbol. Paul does not acknowledge Jesus’ claim that he is happy for the first time in his life because that individuality means little in the grand scheme of what Christians call “salvation history,” or God’s plan to save humanity throughout history. This lack of individuality and emphasis on communal duty connects back to Jesus’ vision of John in Gethsemane and the New Wave in that their protagonists wail against a society that valued them for their social and industrial utility. For example, Benjamin Braddock is faced with a destiny of being placed in the workforce after graduating, and Michael Corleone slowly becomes more involved with the familial criminal business that he was originally trying to avoid by joining the military. The figure of Jesus does play into that familial pressure in that he is trying to please his “father,’ but that film is more focused on exploring the social function Jesus and religion have in people’s lives. 

The importance of Jesus’ role becomes readily apparent when a time jump shows Jesus on his deathbed as Jerusalem is in flames. While Jesus has been living his domestic life, the world around him has gone to shambles. His absence from his destined post has directly resulted in negative effects on society. He is visited by his Apostles who reveal that they have still been spreading the message Jesus originally brought to them, but without the Messiah, their mission has fallen flat. Judas, Jesus’ harshest critic, shows Jesus that the guardian angel is actually Satan tempting Jesus away from his rightful path. Through this lens, Jesus’ new life that, while morally flawed in certain aspects when considering his polygamy, is still a generally accepted normal life for a man, even during the times of the Old Testament, has now been denigrated to acts of immorality and evil. The association between this average human lifestyle and the divinity that Jesus’ represents is furthered by Judas’ quote to Jesus that “If you die this way [in this life with your family], you die like a man.” Judas is directly condemning Jesus’ humanity, as it is his humanity that has caused the world to be destroyed. 

Jesus, now seemingly awakened to the truth, starts to manically speak to God as asks for forgiveness because of him being “a selfish, unfaithful son” that “didn’t fight hard enough,” now rejecting any of his former individuality to be the Messiah, and his pleas succeed. Jesus is transported back to the crucifixion, and unlike when he and the viewer left the scene, the diegetic sound of the chaotic crowd has returned. Now, however, Jesus begins to smile and triumphantly proclaim, “It has been accomplished,” as he dies. He has fulfilled his duty to God and to society, which has served as his only purpose in life. The functionality and the New Wave aspects of this ending peak in the final shot where the dead Jesus is engulfed by distorted film reel. While Scorsese has admitted that the flickering of the film reel was unintentional, it does emphasize the artificial nature and technical aspects of the film that then relate to the functional life of Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus in this film shows that even as one may want to escape the social institutions they have been placed in, their ultimate destiny is being relegated to that position. Scorsese’s own Travis Bickle continues his life as a taxi driver as if all of the vigilante violence he committed either never happened or amounted to nothing, while Bonnie and Clyde were destined to be killed because of their continued rebellion outside of the social order as well as their historical fates. In a similar way, Jesus’ rebellion against his destiny as the Messiah eventually led nowhere, and he comes to the conclusion after seeing the damage his absence has caused to accept his duties in the historical and filmic confines. 

The Last Temptation of Christ’s similarities to the New Wave go beyond even narrative likenesses. In the Criterion director’s commentary, Scorsese discusses how he struggled to gain studio approval for the project and ended up with a small budget. The film also led to public outcry upon release, including a theater in Paris being set on fire and, according to Roger Ebert, Scorsese receiving death threats. These occurrences paint Last Temptation as, like many New Wave films, a polarizing piece of filmmaking that shocked conservative mainstream audiences with its subversive content. While these comparisons are apt, the film’s portrayal of a protagonist struggling to maintain his agency and individuality in a controlled environment more ideally plays into the tenets of the period Scorsese hails from. There is arguably a way to read this film as more redemptive, with Jesus coming to realize benevolence, but Scorsese’s focus on Jesus’ struggle with his inner desires when compared to God’s expectations placed on him makes his story much more humanly empathetic and tragic. He spells this idea out in an interview when he says, “If the human nature [Jesus] fights the divine nature [God], then the human nature is suffering and struggling just exactly as we do” (The Movie Show). Dafoe’s Jesus is presented as a reluctant tool of a higher power that must conform or suffer the damnation of the world, highlighting the deterministic fate of Christ that plays right into the hands of New Wave narratives. 

Work Cited

Bryne, Ciar. “The Church vs the Cinema: Philip Pullman’s Blasphemous Materials?” The 
Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 28 Nov. 2007, Accessed 7 Dec. 2021

Dafoe, Willem. “The Hollywood Masters: Willem Dafoe on The Last Temptation of Christ.” 
LMU School of Film and Television, 26 Feb. 2018,
. Accessed 7 Dec. 2021. 

Ebert, Roger. Scorsese by Ebert. University of Chicago Press, 2009. 

Fleishman, Jeffery. “The Culture War Started 30 Years Ago by Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Last 
Temptation of Christ’ Is Alive Today.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 1 Aug. 2018, Accessed 7 Dec. 2021.

Hoffman, Karen D. “The Last Temptation of Christ and Bringing Out the Dead: Scorsese’s 
Reluctant Saviors.” The Philosophy of Martin Scorsese, edited by Mark T. Conard, University Press of Kentucky, pp. 141–163. JSTOR,
j.ctt2jcjcq.12?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents. Accessed 7 Dec. 2021. 

Jacobson, Harlan. “Interview: Martin Scorsese: The Director on His Passion Project, The Last 
Temptation of Christ.” Film Comment, 1988,
. Accessed on 7 Dec. 2021.

James, Caryn. “Paul Schrader Talks of ‘Last Temptation’ And His New Film.” The New York Times, 1 Sept. 1988, p. 19.

New American Bible. American Bible Society, 2010. 

Scorsese, Martin. “The Last Temptation of Christ: Martin Scorsese Interview.” The Movie
Show, 1988, Accessed 7 Dec. 2021. 

Weinraub, Bernard. “Martin Scorsese, Attracted to Excess, Still Taking Risks …” The New York 
Times, The New York Times, 27 Nov. 1995,
. Accessed 7 Dec. 2021.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest