A community group in Hoylake, Wirral, are adding a twist to the town’s traditional Christmas Lights this year by projecting the 1964 Pasolini film ‘The Gospel According to St Matthew’ - a radical portrayal of the life of Christ - onto the front of St Luke’s Church in the town’s High Street.
The idea is part of an initiative by the new voluntary organisation, Hoylake Village Life, to "generate more animation and vibrancy" to Market Street, the town’s main retail street.
It is hoped that the screening of the classic film onto a local church will become a talking point for those with different perspectives on the Christmas message.
Pier Paolo Pasolini dedicated his film to the reforming Pope John XXIII - although the film-maker himself was an atheist as well as a committed socialist.
The movie has been described as "reverential", but it also shows Jesus as a strong social critic, and it has been praised by people of all beliefs and none. Pasolini declared: "I may be an unbeliever, but I am an unbeliever who has a nostalgia for a belief."
He decided to stick largely to the text of Matthew's Gospel, rather than create his own dialogue, because he felt he could not match the poetic strength of the original.
Pasolini reportedly chose Matthew's Gospel over the others because he thought that "John was too mystical, Mark too vulgar, and Luke too sentimental."
Sun Times critic Roger Ebert observed at the time: "Pasolini's is one of the most effective films on a religious theme I have ever seen, perhaps because it was made by a nonbeliever who did not preach, glorify, underline, sentimentalise or romanticise his famous story, but tried his best to simply record it."
A sposeperson for Hoylake Village Life explained: "It is intended that this lighting feature will be a sign of more to come, with the group seeking a more creative and sustainable approach to Christmas lighting in future years.
"The idea of creative lighting solutions came out of the group’s concern about the cost and sustainability of putting up ‘traditional’ Christmas lights every year. The traditional high street Christmas lights typically require annual funding support to pay for installation, regular repairs and replacement."
The Pasolini film’s distributors, Palisades Tartan, were contacted and a special ‘screening rate’ was agreed to enable the film to be shown repeatedly after dark over the Advent and Christmas period.
Project co-ordinator, Mark Howard, has worked with national church organisations for over 20 years and sees this as one of the most exciting projects he has been involved with.
“It is always worth looking at things differently. Christmas lights strike me as the ideal opportunity for the churches to engage with their local community more directly. It is a simple way to get people both inside and outside church thinking about the Christmas story in a contemporary social context. These beautiful projected images create an ethereal effect as they move across the building; it is quite moving to watch."
“We are especially grateful to Palisades Tartan and Rev Anthony Clowes of St Lukes Methodist Church, Hoylake, for their support of this project.”
‘The Gospel According to St Matthew’ is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful films ever made, using ordinary local people as actors, and drawing on the traditional rappresentazione sacre form of performance traditionally used in Italian theatre in religious drama. Christ is portrayed by Pasolini as someone deeply concerned with issues of social justice, challenging the political and religious authorities of the day.
The group says it will invite people from the community as well as local and national artists to help create new and innovative lighting projects over the coming years.
More on Hoylake Village Life and the film showing: http://www.hoylakevillage.org.uk/