Pasolini’s Christ, sub-proletarian herald

On this day of this month of this year 1964, Pasolini is 42 years old. He is already the author of Gramsci’s Ashes and, that day, Friday October 2, Italy discovers its new film. A “pure work of poetry”, he confided in his correspondence. It is called “Il Vangelo secondo Matteo” (the Gospel according to Saint Matthew); the image is in black and white and the first shows a face of desired beauty, that of Marie, a black veil partially covering her black hair. She is carrying the child we know.

The writer does not believe in God: he has said it enough. He is a Marxist, a layman and an anticlerical who, at the end of the Algerian war and on the eve of the North American invasion of Vietnam, recounts, for two hours, the life of Christ. Ten years earlier, he seemed to announce by some poem: “The true Christ will come, worker. » But this film, then, he did not have in mind.

In a text intended for a Russian newspaper which remained unpublished for a long time, Pasolini explains when it came out: the great drama of the time and of the Western world is cynicism. « ‘The Gospel’ is exactly the opposite of all that: there is no indifference, there is no passivity, there is no renunciation, there is no irony. » The writer loves in Jesus – and particularly as it appears in the words attributed to the apostle Matthew, « the evangelist closest to the people » – his awakening, his tension, his critical passion and his intransigence. “Christ is a sub-proletarian, who is accompanied by sub-proletarians. (…) (He) would have done nothing if he had not been followed by the proletarians. The Pharisees would not have killed him,” Pasolini will reply to the criticisms formulated by the left.

A common enemy…

The writer sought the face of the Just in that of the poets of his time; he finally found it thanks to a meeting with a young Spanish anti-Francoist. The actor, Enrique Irazoqui, will remember in 2017: « When he saw me, he came up to me and said, ‘That’s him!’ He offered me the role. I initially refused because, for me, Jesus was in my country an instrument in the service of Franco. We continued to discuss it, we talked about Gramsci… And I ended up accepting. » And to add that “the film wanted to restore Christ to the people from whom the dominant power had stolen him”. The Franco regime will punish the actor for having thus served neighboring “communist propaganda”. If the writer had gone to Palestine to do location scouting, he had, all things considered, filmed in the peasant regions of his native country – before admitting to Sartre that he would have done it in Algeria if he had had been French.

A month before the release of his feature film, an Italian newspaper asked Pasolini if ​​it was in his view possible to conclude a revolutionary-type alliance with people of faith. He is “undoubtedly possible to find a common enemy” with the genuine followers of the Gospels, he answered: capitalism.


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