In his film Rossellini examines the similarities between Christ’s times and modern life in the West and comes to the conclusion that there is a surprising similarity in the structure of political powers in both historical periods. Following Rossellini’s film we can easily discern in the Ancient Judea and today in US the political coexistence of the right wing ideologists (in Christ’s times the Judaist clergy demanding his punishment by death because of their fear of popular revolt and losing their leadership position in the country, and today – the neo-conservatives trying to repress the popular indignation for the irresponsible rich through propaganda, money an police force) and, on the other side, the secular pragmatic power personified by Pontius Pilate who resembles the American liberal democrats in the 21st century with their tendency to yield to American neocons like Pontius Pilate to Judaist clergy

According to Rossellini’s interpretation, Pilate has intended to make a genuine effort to save Christ’s life. In the shot above we see the private meeting between Pilate and Christ and observe how the Roman prefect of Judea tried to find a “compromise between Christ’s life and his death” – between what Pilate understood as Christ’s “extreme political rhetoric” and the “objective” possibility to avoid his crucifixion. Pay attention to the position of Christ’s figure – he is modest and straight, and the twisted posture of Pilate who cannot turn towards Christ (he has turned towards “oral consumption” – wine and food). So, to turn towards Christ could be to express too much respect for the pauper-prophet, which, according to Pilate, he doesn’t deserve. The solution for him is to turn his neck instead of body, and we see how Pilate’s abruptly turned neck is stressed. We appreciate his “touching humanistic effort” – he could be feasting on grapes and wine more comfortably – without Christ’s presence.

Pilate is trying to persuade Christ to soften his rhetorical pathos, and then Judaist conservative clergies would not be so alarmed and fearful that Christ speeches will create a mutiny. Why to provoke these people, Christ can preach the same things he is already preaching, only to tone it down, a bit softer, milder and gentler. It is necessary to be Christ to refuse Pilate’s seemingly reasonable offer, his touching care about the prophet’s life. It’s very important to keep making humanistic efforts, even when they are not going too far (we can do only what we can, what is important it’s to try). Pilate’s “humanism” is of a liberal brand, it’s a Barack Obama humanism. But right wing clergy “humanism” – to crucify Christ in order to save your own social position (and “prevent deaths and suffering of people whose rebellion will be bloodily subdued” is conservative “humanism”). It is a Donald Trump “humanism” – to save your power and wealth together with people who support you, you have to sacrifice those who are alien to you and whose interests are opposite to yours (simple as pimple and habitual as obituary).

Posted Nov 6 2011 –   Roberto Rossellini’s “The Messiah” (1975) – Right Wing Religious Ideologists, Secular Liberal Government and Christ of the People  by Acting-Out Politics

Posted Dec/11/’14 –   “The Messiah” (1975) by Roberto Rossellini  by Acting-Out Politics