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Film / Jesus of Montreal

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Jesus of Montreal is a 1989 French Canadian film about an actor, Daniel, hired to modernize a passion play. He teams up with an actress turned single mother named Constance, and together they round up a small group of players. Although the play turns out to be a hit, it's shut down by the church for being too controversial, and in the eyes of the church, blasphemous.

It was produced by the National Film Board of Canada.


This show provides examples of:

  • Acting for Two: In-Universe; Constance, Martin, Mirielle and Rene all play various roles during their production of the Passion Play.
  • Book Ends: The two women sopranos who are singing at the church during the opening credits (and who also appear auditioning for the beer commercial Mirielle goes to) appear at the end, singing inside a subway station.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Justified; it's the Catholic Church that hires Daniel and the others to put the play on. However, later in the film, it's subverted, as the Passion Play they put on is deemed too controversial by the church.
  • Creator Cameo: Director/writer Denys Arcand plays the judge at Daniel's hearing.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Multiple ones, actually.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The movie opens with a Show Within a Show (dealing with Jesus, naturally), and we're set up to believe Pascal, the star of the play, whom everyone praises, will be the main character. Then, backstage, Pascal sees Daniel, says, "There's a real actor,", goes to Daniel, and embraces him. Daniel becomes the focus of the story from then on.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: There are quite a few parallels drawn between the Gospels and Daniel's life. To wit:
    • The other actor greeting Daniel backstage at the beginning (see Decoy Protagonist above) recalls John the Baptist telling others Jesus is the one to follow.
    • The radio show host and TV host give two completely different accounts of Daniel's history, which parallels the fact the Gospels tell little of Jesus' life between his birth and when he first started preaching.
    • Daniel trashing the beer commercial set is similar to Jesus clearing of the money changers in the temple.
    • The judge at Daniel's hearing (see Creator Cameo above) is similar to Pontius Pilate.
    • Richard telling Daniel of all the things he can line up for him if he's willing to play ball is similar to Satan tempting Jesus in the desert.
    • Finally, as seen under Messianic Archetype below, Daniel dies, but is "resurrected" in that his organs are used as transplants, and his friends set up a theater in his name.
  • Fatal Method Acting: In-universe; when Daniel is on the cross during the last performance, and he's knocked over by an audience member pushing the head security guard of the church into the back of the cross (see Tap on the Head below), he has to be taken to the hospital. At the hospital, Daniel seems to miraculously recover, but when Constance and Mirielle take him to the subway station, Daniel starts acting as if he is Jesus, speaking to the startled people waiting for the train, and eventually collapses. Daniel then gets brought to a second hospital, and he isn't so lucky.
  • Foreshadowing: At the library, when Daniel is doing research, a library assistant comes up and asks Daniel, "Are you looking for Jesus?" When he nods, she responds, "It is He who will find you."
  • Get Out!: Daniel ends up yelling this to Jerzy and the beer company representatives.
  • Hiding Behind Religion: Father Leclerc, the priest who hires Daniel is sleeping with Constance, yet he's the one who criticizes with the way Daniel has updated the Passion Play, and he won't help the other actors out because he's afraid of what the church will do to him.
  • Hippie Jesus
  • In the Style of: In-Universe: When Father Leclerc tries to get the other actors (without Daniel) to put on the play with the original script that had been done before, they make fun of him by performing it briefly, among other ways, as if it was a melodrama, an Actor's Studio production, and something from the Noh theatre.
  • Meaningful Name: Daniel Coulombe. "Daniel" was a Hebrew prophet, and "Coulombe" comes from the Latin "columbus" meaning "dove".
  • Messianic Archetype: Daniel becomes one over the course of the movie, not just in the way he comes to act offstage, but also because after he dies, he's "resurrected" in the fact his eyes and heart are transplanted into other people, and a theater is set up in his name by the others, with the help of Richard, the lawyer.
  • Passion Play: The characters both perform a passion play and live one out.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: This is what Father Leclerc is afraid will happen to him if he backs Daniel and the others; that he'll be sent to Winnipeg to a parish of old people.
  • Running Gag: The radio host and the TV host each say the same thing when seeing the Show Within a Show at the beginning and the Passion Play - the former mentions how much she cried, while the latter says, "I liked it...very much."
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Rene at one point during the Passion Play quotes from Hamlet's famous monologue from Act III, scene 1 ("To die, to sleep, to sleep! perchance to dream"). Also, Father Leclerc, at one point, recites the famous speech that opens Richard III ("Now is the winter of our discontent").
  • Stylistic Suck: The original version of the Passion Play that Father Leclerc hires Daniel to modernize. It's nothing more than the actors declaiming the text in a dull monotone.
  • Tap on the Head: Averted; when a big, bull-shouldered audience member at the last performance is grappling with a security guard at the church who's restraining Mirielle, the head security guard hits the man in the back of the head with his flashlight. Unfortunately for the security guard, that only seems to annoy the man.
  • True Blue Femininity: Both Constance and Mireille wear blue for a good portion of the film. The association with the Virgin Mary was undoubtedly intentional.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Daniel is so outraged by how Mirielle, and other actresses, are treated at the beer commercial audition, he slugs the woman in charge.