My favorite movie about the life of Jesus is the one by Pasolini, the avant garde film maker, entitled "The Gospel of St. Matthew".Made by a non-religious person who respected the themes and questions of faith, this film is more Biblically accurate and authentic than any Jesus film I know of. Too many producers of historical films change dialogue and modify events to suit their own egos, imposing their "vision" of a story, rather than being faithful to the story itself.
Pasolini read all four Gospels straight through, and he claimed that adapting a film from one of them "threw in the shade all the other ideas for work I had in my head."
Pasolini's film does not embellish the biblical account with any literary or dramatic inventions, nor does it present an amalgam of the four Gospels (subsequent films which would adhere as closely as possible to one Gospel account are 1979's Jesus, based on the Gospel of Luke, and 2003's The Gospel of John).
Pasolini stated that he decided to "remake the Gospel by analogy" and the film's sparse dialogue all comes directly from the Bible.
Given Pasolini's well-known reputation as an atheist, a homosexual, and a Marxist, the reverential nature of his film was surprising, especially after the controversy of La ricotta.
At a press conference in 1966, Pasolini was asked why he, an unbeliever, had made a film which dealt with religious themes; his response was, "If you know that I am an unbeliever, then you know me better than I do myself. I may be an unbeliever, but I am an unbeliever who has a nostalgia for a belief.
Pasolini employed some of the techniques of Italian neorealism in the making of his film.
Most of the actors he hired were non-professionals. Enrique Irazoqui (Jesus) was a 19-year-old economics student from Spain, and the rest of the cast were mainly locals from Barile, Matera, and Massafra, where the film was shot (Pasolini visited the Holy Land but found the locations unsuitable and "commercialized"). Pasolini cast his own mother, Susanna, as the elderly mother of Jesus. The cast also included noted intellectuals such as writers Enzo Siciliano and Alfonso Gatto, poets Natalia Ginzburg and Juan Rodolfo Wilcock, and philosopher Giorgio Agamben.