[MOVIE REVIEW]A 14-year controversy may be over

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[MOVIE REVIEW]A 14-year controversy may be over

It has taken more than a decade for Martin Scorsese's controversial 1988 film "The Last Temptation of Christ" to arrive in Korean theaters, scheduled for Jan. 25. Local Christian groups, which object to the movie's portrayal of Jesus' human emotions and desires, blocked it from being shown here right after it was made, and again when it was to be released in 1998. The new date is still tentative, in fact, as it has already been pushed back from early last month because of more expected resistance.

Scorsese, who was born a Roman Catholic and who at one point considered becoming a priest, sought to broaden the conventional limits regarding the character of Jesus Christ in "Last Temptation." The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Nikos Kazantzakis (1885-1957).

The director made his name by creating disturbingly real and violent movies like "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull." Later he took an interest in religion; after "Last Temptation" he made "Kundun" (1997), dealing with the life of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader. While Tibetans found nothing in that film to object to, faithful Christians found plenty of reasons to denounce the 1988 film.

"Last Temptation" depicts Jesus not only as a God incarnate but as a man who is all-too-human. Jesus (Willem Dafoe) makes his living by hammering crosses for the Romans to use for their crucifixions. He knows inside that he is the messiah, but struggles with his calling, essentially hearing out his human side. Doubts assail him even when he is nailed to the cross and subjected to the last temptation: renouncing his divinity and living a mortal life complete with sensual love and a family life.

For the most part, the film stays true to the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life. In the end he accepts his fate to save mankind from sin. But interestingly, he calls Judas (Harvey Keitel) his strongest friend, implying that Judas' role was necessary and preordained.

The film's dreamlike cinematography and tension-inducing camera work aptly convey the anguish Jesus suffered. The cast members use their own accents rather than contrived dialects, making the performances more authentic.

The local distributors say they expect to get at least six screens for the film, as long as more radical Christians don't step in again. To appease them, the film starts with a statement that it is fictional. And it ends with an image all are familiar with - Jesus dying for man's sins.

by Chun Su-jin

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