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Sundance Review: ‘Last Days in the Desert’ humanizes Jesus

February 8th, 2015 Posted in Arts and Life

By Mariah Noble 

PARK CITY—This film was definitely unique.

23F0A19500000578-0-image-a-1_1418217490896Based off an interpretation of what might have happened while Jesus Christ spent time in the desert, “Last Days in the Desert” stars Ewan McGregor in the roles of both Jesus and the devil. It’s unlike most movies I’ve seen that portray Christ, because most of those movies were created by Christian religions.

In most Christ movies, Jesus gets stuck in this flat, stereotypical role because no one wants to disrespect him by giving him much personality. This movie did not follow that tradition. In it, Jesus is a character who laughs and has to overcome weakness and temptation.

As He is finishing His time in the desert, Jesus comes across a family and stays with them a while. Through the experience, He gains the trust of all family members, and the movie highlights the complex issue of communication between a father and son.

It also drew parallels between this relationship and the relationship between the Father and Son in a Christian sense.

Though both care about the other, they have never communicated well and instead confide in and seek advice from Jesus on how to interact with the other. He is with them as they experience contention and loss, and though He tries to avoid with meddling in their lives, His visit alters their fate.

Director Rodrigo Garcia made several interesting choices in producing the “Last Days.”

First, the devil, though taking a few different forms throughout the film, looks like Jesus with jewelry most of the time. I’ve never thought too deeply about how the two would interact, but this film gave an interpretation I probably wouldn’t have come up with. The pair seem to know each other well and converse frequently in a more obvious way that Jesus communicates with his Father.

Another unique feature of this movie is that instead of using the English name of Jesus, his name is pronounced in a more accurately Middle Eastern manner.

And, as I said, the film gives Him more personality than I’ve ever seen. One scene I thought was quite bizarre was when Jesus was gathering water in the desert with the boy. The boy squats down and looks at a dead animal. He proceeds to rip a big, loud fart, and he and Jesus laugh together. Its purpose may have been to portray Jesus in a way that is more human, but I was really thrown off by that scene.

The last thing I want to mention is the ending. As He left the family and returned to Jerusalem, the film omitted most of his Biblical ministry. They showed the crucifixion without the resurrection. They focused once again on His human nature rather than His godlike characteristics.

Overall, I really can’t decide whether I liked this movie or not, but I liked that it made me think. If you see it, be prepared to expand your horizons and consider new ideas about Jesus.


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