Jesus of Montreal (film review)

Jesus of Montreal

Film review[1] by Gwydion M. Williams.[2]

Films about religion used to be dull and priggish. More recently – and with the notable exception of Pasolini’s The Gospel according to St Matthew they have tended to be both silly and pointlessly offensive to people’s deeply held religious feelings. This film manages to avoid both traps.

It concerns an actor who is given the task of modernising a passion play, a play depicting the crucifixion of Jesus. But he goes much further than anyone expects, upsetting the authorities.

Meanwhile, real life events start shadowing the Gospel life of Jesus. Thus, the actor is tempted with a profitable career as a conventional actor, against a backdrop of a view of the city from a skyscraper

There is a lot of humour in the film – but it also gets close to the real feelings that the founders of Christianity probably did have. Naturally, events culminate with the actor’s death. As for the resurrection – well, I won’t give the plot away, but you get an intelligent conclusion. Also one that avoids the sort of routine special-effects supernaturalism that you find in far too many films nowadays.

The larger social context is also interesting. It is a French Canadian film, and the position of the French-speaking minority in English-dominated North America does have a parallel or two with that of the Jews in the Roman Empire at the time of the historic Jesus.

One or two religious extremists have objected to the film. But I think that it will appeal to most Christians, as well as to the non-religious and members of non-Christian religions. I saw it at the London Film Festival, I hope that it will be going on wider release soon.

[It is available on disk, and has a small but enthusiastic following.]

This article appeared in January 1990, in Issue 15 of Labour and Trade Union Review, now Labour Affairs.  You can find more from the era at


[2] Using the pen-name Walter Cobb