Roberto Rossellini’s “The Messiah” examines the similarities between Christ’s times two thousand years ago and today’s life in the West and comes to the paradoxical conclusion of a surprising similarity in the structure of the political powers in both historical periods. Following Rossellini’s film we easily discern in Ancient Judea and (by analogy) today in US the political coexistence of
Christ as the Epitome of Psychological Normalcy
the right wing ideologists (in Christ’s times the Judaist clergy demanding his death because of fear of popular revolt and danger of losing their leadership position, and today’s neo-conservatives trying to subdue a growing popular indignation for the irresponsible rich through propaganda, money and police force) and secular pragmatic power (personified by Pontius Pilatus who resembles the American liberal democrats in 21st century with their tendency to yield to American neo-cons like Pontius Pilatus bowed to the Judaist clergy).
The appearance of Christ in a certain historical epoch followed a wave of people’s desperate yearning for change in the conditions of life. It is as if Christ came to help people liberate themselves from the despotic rule of the wealthy minority. But by the very logic of his images Rossellini makes it clear that the murder of Christ marks the attempts of the “deciders” to crush people’s dream of liberation. When after Christ’s death theological skies opened as a wide gate into the future and Saint Mary falls to her knees and starts to pray we come to understand that the project of existential Christianity is dead and Christianity as a religious cult is born – it’s as if, social justice can be realized in the area of values/beliefs/hopes but not inside real life.
Rossellini’s “The Messiah” is so amazingly close to our life today when people of the planet are again in a desperate need for change in the conditions of life – when they are protesting against invented wars, financial collapses created by money-elites and “austerity measures” with which the rich minority again keeps robbing the populations. Rossellini’s film helps us to grasp that extraordinary phenomenon of Christ is inseparable from life, suffering and dreams of the people looking for justice and equality. Today Rossellini’s film is even more relevant than at the time it was made in 1975.
Please, visit: www.actingoutpolitics.com to read about Rossellini’s film (with analysis of shots) and also read essays about films by Godard, Resnais, Bergman, Bunuel, Kurosawa, Bresson, Pasolini, Antonioni, Fassbinder, Cavani, Alain Tanner, Anne-Marie Mieville, Ken Russell, Bertolucci, Maurice Pialat, Jerzy Skolimowski, Ozu, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Moshe Mizrahi and Ronald Neame.
By Victor Enyutin