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Jesus of Montreal ( ) is a 1989 film by Quebecmarker film director Denys Arcand.

Plot and allegory

The film revolves around a group of actors in Montrealmarker, Quebecmarker hired by a Roman Catholic site of pilgrimage ("le sanctuaire") to present a Passion play in its gardens, with an actor named Daniel playing the role of Christ. The sanctuary is implied to be Saint Joseph's Oratorymarker (although this organization actually refused permission to film there). However, the actors' interpretation of the life of Jesus is unconventional (including, for example, the statement that the biological father of Jesus was a Roman soldier, who left Palestine shortly afterwards), and although the challenging production becomes the toast of the city, the Roman Catholic Church strongly objects to its Biblical interpretation and forcefully stops the performances.

The film is structured so that Daniel's story parallels that of Christ. In the opening scene, one actor points to Daniel, calling him "a much better actor", which echoes John the Baptist foretelling the arrival of Jesus the Messiah. The first actor's head is later used in an advertisement, parallelling John the Baptist's beheading. The actors then gather for the Passion play, some of them leaving safe jobs to do so, recalling Jesus gathering the disciple. Daniel wrecks an advertising casting session, just as Jesus casts the money-lenders out of the Temple. His arrest and court appearance before an indecisive judge, played by the film's director himself, parallels Jesus' appearance before Pontius Pilate. The ambitious lawyer, who lays out a grand commercial career for Daniel, looking down from a skyscraper at the city, refers to the temptation of Christ by the devil atop a high pinnacle. Jesus' miracles, as well as His resurrection and ascension to Glory on the Father's right hand, are paralleled by the gift of Daniel's body as an organ donor, and the founding of the church becomes the plans for an experimental theatre company.


Jesus of Montreal won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival and the Genie Award for Best Canadian Film of 1989. It has twice been placed second on the TIFFmarker List of Canada's Top Ten Films of All Time, and was nominated for the 1989 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.


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