photo & text by nacrowe
forget about how awesome the MARTIN SCORSESE film was (review HERE). in my mind opinion reducing the compositions found in PASSION (GEFFEN, 1989) to that of a soundtrack is criminal. this holds up on its own with no need for external stimuli whatsoever. not that i don't adore THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (UNIVERSAL, 1988). it is one of my three all-time favorite films (the other's being EAST OF EDEN and CABARET).
what makes this PETER GABRIEL album so fascinating and so utterly unique is how seamlessly he blended textures, instruments and vocals from the deep musical traditions of PAKISTAN, ARMENIA, MALI, TURKEY, INDIA, EGYPT, KURDISTAN and SENEGAL among other locales. it still paradoxically sounds absolutely contemporary while being steeped in substantial depth that feels eternal. tracks such as "THE FEELING BEGINS," "IN DOUBT," and "PASSION" are such deeply evocative affairs. they are the aural equivalent of a deep yearning to transcend, which makes sense given the religious subject matter for which it was composed. "A DIFFERENT DRUM" and "OF THESE, HOPE" are pure expressions of joy, elation and ultimately transcendence. you get the sense of being put on a higher plain of consciousness. its otherworldly music.
i first heard this album as a child and i still very much hold it very dear. it reminds me of going to church when i was younger and the unbounded enthusiasm and wonder i once took in the world. life seemed magical. im too jaded now, but as an adult id put GABRIEL with this record in the pantheon of great film composers, right there alongside BERNARD HERRMANN and ENNIO MERRICONE. its that great.
the ensemble of talent utilized her is likewise incredible, most notably that of NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN (PAKISTAN), YOUSSOU N'DOUR (SENEGAL), BAABA MAAL (SENEGAL) and LAKSHMINARAYANA SHANKAR (INDIA), all arguably at the peak of their powers. there is real sensitivity on the part of GABRIEL to make this music cohesive yet entirely personal, showcasing each artist in the best possible light.
if i sound overly effusive, its because this was a singularly powerful musical effort that made a great film an absolute revelation, pun intended. i could not recommend such anymore passionately.
artwork by nacrowe
sometimes there is art that cuts so deep that they inevitably remold your worldview. i count MARTIN SCORSESE's 1988 film THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST on that list. it makes me question the root of any belief i hold. it compels me to examine the nature of doubt each time i watch it.
based on the NIKOS KAZANTZAKIS 1955 novel, this film like its source material explores the dual nature of christ: the idea of him being fully human and divine at the same time. the film really gets at the heart of the origins of faith and the struggle that comes with the weight of power and responsibility, as jesus would've felt when learning of his fate that he had to be sacrificed for the benefit of all humanity. its that struggle that continually draws me back to the story, not so much the religious overtones. but if you are of the religious persuasion, as KAZANTZAKIS (greek orthodox) and SCORSESE (catholic) most definitely are, the film is a helpful dissection of the root of belief since the film asks what happens if jesus had chosen NOT to die on the cross, but fulfill his human desires of connection by finding love and raising a family. if anything the film explores and answers that "why."
now i don't want to give the film away, more just to say most emphatically that if you haven't seen it you must. it is expertly acted by WILLEM DAFOE as jesus christ and HARVEY KEITEL as judas iscariot. DAVID BOWIE even makes a masterful appearance as pontius pilate. the dialogue was masterfully written in the modern vernacular of the time, which gives the film a raw edge that allows the themes to cut deeper as opposed to using king james english as other films by CECIL B. DEMILLE and others had done before (think THE TEN COMMANDMENTS), which is equally a construction. there is no doubt that during that period a common carpenter would've spoken a common pedestrain form of aramaic, so the dialogue choice is beyond apt.
the film also has one of the most evocative scores ever courtesy of PETER GABRIEL which i would put up their with anything ENNIO MORRICONE or BERNARD HERRMANN ever produced. the score infuses vocals and instrumentation from the region into a lush evocative soundscape that instantaneously draws you into the world of the film. PASSION: MUSIC FOR THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST is required listening.
months ago the DEER GOD team had the pleasure of attending a joint exhibition at LAST RITES GALLERY in manhattan put on by METAL BLADE RECORDS for polish painter SYLWIA MAKRIS and sculptor TOMASZ GOORNICKI and the artwork they produced for polish metal band BEHEMOTH's recent I LOVED YOU AT YOUR DARKEST record.
i had the pleasure of speaking with GOORNICKI about his sculpture (pictured below) depicting an uncrucified christ and no doubt, he was quick to state it was influenced by both the KAZANTZAKIS novel and SCORSESE film. he felt in poland that faith unfortunately was a matter of national identity and that inherent in true belief is a sense of doubt. his sculpture was an attempt to draw people into examining the dual nature of christ and the significance of his sacrifice by invoking doubt (no cross, no stigmata = no sacrifice). some would call that heresy, as the sculpture could not be exhibited in poland apparently due to fear of retribution, but i would say that his work requires self-examination and thoughtfulness for it to bear fruit, which is the sign of any good art. at least in my opinion.
check out the film and if this topic sparks an interest, you must read the novel.
photo by lj avalos