Martin Scorsese’s 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ has fallen under the suspicion of Russian prosecutors on the wave of recent global fuss over religious sentiment.
Russian Institute of Culturology checked the controversial movie for signs of extremism, but it found no evidence of anything illegal.
The film, which has caused massive dispute among religious activists worldwide after its release back in the 1980s, is now being examined for possible inflammatory sentiment in Russia.
The investigation was initiated at the request of Viktor Grin, deputy general prosecutor, who claims the film “insults the feeling of millions of [Christian] believers and has a negative impact on public morals.”
The Prosecutor’s Office “is currently conducting a psychological and linguistic probe of the film’s concepts,” RIA Novosti news agency quotes the spokesperson for the office as saying.
The leader of the watchdog For Human Rights, Lev Ponomarev, expressed his concern with the decision to probe Scorsese’s film.
“We are a secular state, and Prosecutor’s Office should not intervene in culture,” he said. “There may be a discussion in the society. There are many controversial films and public discussion will only be for good,” Ponomarev added.
Experts of the Russian Institute of Culturology engaged in probing the film for extremism say they haven’t found anything unlawful in it, RIA Novosti reports, quoting to the Institute's director, cinema critic and historian Kirill Razlogov.
“Our institute has come to the conclusion that such works should not be subjected to investigation, as this is a work of art and not a political statement,” he said. He added that despite the fact that the film mismatches Christian dogmas, it still contains nothing blameworthy.
The Culturology Institue’s position was supported by the president of the Film Experts and Film Critics Guild of the Cinematographers Union of Russia, Andrey Shemyakin, and Cannes winner, director Pavel Lungin.
The Last Temptation of Christ is based on a controversial 1953 novel by Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis. The film interprets the life story of Jesus Christ and offers a disclaimer, saying that the storyline is not based on the Gospels and thus differs from the commonly accepted view on Jesus’ life.
Both the book and later the film were accused of blasphemy and caused religious protests. The Last Temptation of Christ was temporary banned or censored in several states including Turkey, Mexico, Chile, Philippines and Argentina. The fuss around the movie secured the film Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.
The film stars Willem Dafoe as Jesus Christ, Harvey Keitel as Judas Iscariot, Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene, David Bowie as Pontius Pilate, and Harry Dean Stanton as Paul.
Russian NTV channel screened the film in 1997 amid protests.