Legion

I remember being struck by the fact that in Scorsese & Schrader’s THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, Jesus (who has drawn a magic circle, like Murnau’s FAUST) is visited in the desert by Satan, who takes not just three forms ~

A snake (which explodes); a lion (which fades away in a dissolve); a column of fire (which dissipates in a gust of wind) ~

Satan also appears via a series of cinematic devices ~

Tracking shot (snake). Scorsese doesn’t shoot this as snake POV — we’re at Jesus’ eye level, not the snake’s, gliding in. But when the snake rears up to address the Messiah, the camera rises also, as if representing the POV of a much bigger, unseen snake.

Cut (lion). Before we see the (rather gentle, wise-looking big cat, voiced by PEEPING TOM scribe Leo Marks), there are two cuts taking us closer to Willem Dafoe’s Jesus, moving straight down the line at him, no angle change, kind of like the Frankenstein monster’s first appearance, or the eyeless farmer’s discovery in THE BIRDS. There’s a (rather appropriate) horror movie theme developing here…

Crane (fire). The camera swoops down majestically just before the Lynchian flame-column appears.

I have no coherent theory to offer here. Other than that Scorsese’s restless imagination and bulging repertory of cinematic tricks compels him to emphasise not the similarity of the three visits (one character, visited by another, three times) but their difference (since similarity is taken care of by the Aristotelian unities at play: time, place and action are consistent, as are theme and character).

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6 Responses to “Legion”

  1. chris schneider Says:

    I think my favorite incarnation of Satan may be Silvia Pinal in SIMON OF THE DESERT. Especially when she gives that lamb a swift kick.

    As for Scorsese’s camera moves … I was reminded, in last night’s FEUD segment, of GOODFELLAS when a prolonged steadycam shot followed Jessica Lange like a toady. Has this become the norm when dealing with characters who behave questionably?

  2. What would Edna May Oliver think of all this?

  3. Love Pinal also. Another desert tempter.

    I quite like Donald Pleasence as the Tempter in Greatest Story Ever Told also, because he’s so very earthly.

    Fiona has been watching Feud but I can’t stand it. I catch odd bits, and don’t like what I see. I’ll try to watch out, out of the corner of my eye, for the steadicam shot.

  4. Here’s my fave —

  5. You devil, you!

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