Jesus of Nazareth is a carpenter in the Roman-occupied Judea. He is torn between himself as a man and his knowledge that God has a plan for him. His conflict results in self loathing, and he collaborates to construct crosses Romans used to crucify Jewish revolutionaries, an act that brands him a traitor in the eyes of his fellow Israelites.
Judas Iscariot belongs to a nationalistic splinter faction which wishes to revolt against Roman rule (see Sicarii or Zealotry). He is sent with orders to kill Jesus for being a collaborator. Judas suspects Jesus is the Messiah, and asks Jesus to lead a revolution against the Romans. Jesus tries to tell Judas that his message is love, that love of mankind is the highest virtue that God wants. Judas joins Jesus in his ministry, but Judas tells Jesus that he will kill him if he strays from revolution.
Jesus also has an undisclosed history with Mary Magdalene, a Jewish prostitute. Mary asks Jesus to stay with her, which Jesus seriously considers before leaving for a monastic community. Jesus later saves Mary from an angry mob which has come to stone her for her prostitution and working on the sabbath. Jesus persuades the crowd to spare her life—instructing "he who is without sin [to] cast the first stone"—and instead preaches to them using many of the parables from the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus develops a following of disciples, but throughout this time he is still uncertain of his role and his status as Messiah. He travels with his disciples to see John the Baptist, who has heard of Jesus' reputation. John baptizes Jesus, and that night the two discuss their differing theologies. John believes that one must first gain freedom from the Romans before the world of God is declared, while Jesus believes that love is more important. Jesus then goes off into the desert to see if God really speaks to him.
While in the desert Jesus is tempted three times by Satan. Jesus resists all these temptations and instead has a vision of himself with an ax chopping down an apple tree. He appears as a vision to his waiting disciples where he rips out his heart and tells them to follow him. With newfound courage as the Messiah he proceeds to perform many signs and wonders: giving vision to a blind man, turning water into wine, and raising Lazarus from the dead.
Eventually his ministry reaches Jerusalem where he is enraged by the money changers in the temple and throws them out. The angry Jesus even leads a small army to try and take the temple by force, but instead halts on the steps and begins bleeding from the hands. He realizes that violence is not the right path, and that he must die in order to bring salvation to mankind. Confiding in Judas he asks his best friend and strongest apostle to turn him in to the palace guards, something that Judas does not want to do. Nevertheless, Jesus implores that this is the only way and a crying Judas acquiesces.
Jesus joins his disciples for the Passover seder—the Last Supper. After the meal, while in the garden of Gethsemane, Judas leads the palace guards to take Jesus away. Peter cuts off the ear of Malchus and Jesus performs the miracle of reattaching it. Pontius Pilate tells Jesus that he must be put to death because he represents a threat against the status quo, the Roman Empire. Jesus is flogged and a crown of thorns is placed on his head. He is led to Golgotha, where he is crucified.
While on the cross, Jesus sees and talks to a young girl who appears to be an angel. She tells him that he is not the son of God, not the Messiah, but that God loves him, is pleased with him, and wants him to be happy. She brings him down off the cross and leads him away.
She takes him to be with Mary Magdalane, and the newly married couple make love. The couple has a child and lives an idyllic life. Mary unexpectedly dies, and the sobbing Jesus is told by his angel that all women are "Mary", and thus he is betrothed to Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus. He starts a family with them and lives his life in peace. When he encounters the apostle Paul preaching about the Messiah—that is, about Jesus—he tries to tell Paul that he is the man that Paul has been preaching about. Paul (who in this film has slain the resurrected Lazarus in his earlier life as Saul) rejects him, saying that even if Jesus hadn't died in the cross, his message was the truth, and nothing would stop him from proclaiming that.
Near the end of his life, Jesus' former disciples visit him on his deathbed with Jerusalem (representing the world) in ruins in the background. Judas comes last and calls Jesus a traitor. It is revealed that the angel who released him from the crucifixion is in fact Satan, who has been tempting him into this life of comfort as a mortal man. Jesus realizes that he must die to bring salvation to mankind. Crawling back through the burning city of Jerusalem during the Jewish Rebellion, he reaches the site of his crucifixion and begs God to let him fulfill his purpose and to "let [him] be [God's] son."
Jesus is instantly back on the cross -- the "fantasy" of escaping death on the cross, of being married, of having a family, and of the disaster that would have encompassed mankind was not real. It is the dream of what would have happened had Jesus truly left the cross behind.[original research?]
Jesus cries out as he dies, "It is accomplished! It is accomplished."
Friday, February 19, 2010
This is an excellent and very enlightening review of this film broad and raw in showing the slices of life bursting forth in this rural and nnot so peaceful setting seething beneath the not so apparent surface.Theother Rossellini productions mini reviewed and commented on give further persoective the review as a whole. His holy simplicity is the allurement of his art. The untrained performances of the non actors add to the entire setting and mood of simplicity and raw energy.
Though already written before I was aware of the series, I am now submitting this as an entry in the For the Love of Films: Film Preservation Blog-a-Thon of Ferdy on Films & Self-Styled Siren. A full-fledged entry will be appearing on the Dancing Image on Sunday, the last day of the blog-a-thon. Stay tuned.)Despite seeing many of his films, I've never really responded to Rossellini the way many cinephiles do. His holy simplicity has occasionally struck me as, well, just plain simple. Flowers of St. Francis (a blind buy on my part, and a satisfying one) is charming and Voyage in Italy compelling - though I wonder if Antonioni didn't eventually pick up Rossellini's ball and run further with it a few years later. Europa 51 I found embarrassing and remain rather mystified as to how its obviousness is supposed to be transcendent. Open City and Germany Year Zero are effective and absorbing but they're films I respected without being enthralled by. Neither one seemed to capture the lingering, simple, pure power of Bicycle Thieves (though both are overripe for revisiting, especially in the wake of the recent Criterion releases). Paisan was compelling in the abstract but I found its actuality too messy. Unlike Rossellini's acolytes (one recalls the zealous cineaste in Before the Revolution who admonishes the protagonist, "Remember, Rossellini is a god!") I was always unable to take the raggedness of his work in stride, to embrace it as not just a necessary evil but somehow fundamental to the work's appeal.All of which is preface to my enthusiastic viewing of Stromboli. Rossellini's first film with his new (and newly controversial) wife Ingrid Bergman, it's bursting with energy, invention, and showmanship. The film ripples with rich tensions, between its desire to simply document village life and its allegorical overtones, between frustration with Bergman's spoiled character and sympathy with her own frustrations, between the melodramatic extremes (heightened by the literally incessant music which at one point pounded consistently for about half an hour!) and documentary naturalism. Certainly between Bergman's professionalism and glamor and the untrained "performances" of the nonactors in the movie - a healthy balance is struck here, with the real people convincingly inhabiting their characters and a terrific Bergman dialing down her polish while turning up her acting chops. The provincial folks and the Hollywood goddess gel remarkably well.The centerpiece of the film perfectly demonstrates the subtle synthesis of Rossellini's artistry with his method of understated observation. A squad of fishermen are out at sea, as they are every day, but this time Bergman's character is out there with them to observe their activity. Slowly, as they pull in their nets, shapes begin to emerge beneath the watery surface, and then a chaotic explosion of whitewater and flailing fins. I had experienced this scene years ago, excerpted in Martin Scorsese's "My Voyage to Italy" and been blown away. Oddly enough, I couldn't quite remember why anymore. Now it came flooding back - these fish are gigantic! Their capture and seizure is brutal, violent, beautiful; the set piece is so strong that it overpowers everything else. Allegorical readings are possible but unnecessary - the forcefulness of the scene empowers the rest of the film rather than vice versa. The way a note will shift the "meaning" of a piece of music without our being able to articulate exactly why, so this sequence prepares the way for Bergman's journey across the volcano in the film's climax.The ending is very abrupt, but of a piece with the movie's ragged, punchy, honestly intense and intensely honest effect. This is that rare and satisfying discovery - when an auteur's appeal becomes apparent not in a mitigation of their usual approaches but in taking these approaches to their extreme and making you see, in the burning light of their purity, what they were up to all along. The film is like its titular volcano, not exactly dormant, not exactly active, but rumbling, quaking, occasionally erupting in spurts - in short, living but limned in by all the limitations which usually encumber life though they need not extinguish its flame.It occurs to me that, in speaking in abstract and vague terms about the movie's appeal, I may be doing it a disservice. Perhaps a better approach would be to tackle it in clear, precise, yet pungent language, language which mirrors the film's own aesthetic. This may be the case, yet having seen it about a month ago, I'm trying to recollect its fragments, like lava rocks in the wake of an explosion.