Re-visiting Denys Arcand’s Jesus of Montreal (1989)

Metatextuality, Metaphor, Hermeneutics and Resurrection


  • Lloyd Baugh professor, Gregorian University, Rome



Hermeneutics, Intertextual Analysis, Metaphor, Film Esthetics, Christology, New Testament, Resurrection


Representing the historical Jesus and the Christ-event is a challenge cinema has taken on from its beginnings, developing both direct and metaphorical images of Jesus. Denys Arcand’s Jesus of Montreal (1989) holds a unique place in this canon because it proposes a direct portrait of Jesus and a metaphorical representation. This paper, updating and taking an earlier study of the film in new directions, is structured in four sections. First, it analyses the film as a metatextual, two-level narrative approach to the Jesus story; secondly, it considers some of the more significant parallels between Arcand’s film and the Gospel; thirdly, the paper uses Arcand’s film to open up new meaning in the Gospel text; and fourthly, it examines how the film offers an original and provocative way of representing the resurrection. Where indicated or helpful for the analysis of Arcand’s film, other films in the Jesus tradition are commented upon.

Author Biography

Lloyd Baugh, professor, Gregorian University, Rome

Lloyd Baugh teaches theology and lm at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. A Canadian Jesuit priest, he did his Doctorate in fundamental theology and lm at the Gregorian. He has taught also in Canada, the USA, England, the Philippines and Madagascar. Author of Imaging the Divine: Jesus and Christ-Figures in Film, his areas of teaching, research and publication include: the Jesus lms; theological themes in cinema; prayer experience and interreligious dialogue through lm; and the cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski. He has completed a book-length manuscript analysing the theological and moral issues in Kieslowski’s Decalogue lms.


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A Short Film About Love (a.k.a. Krótki film o milosci) (1988, dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski)

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966, dir. Robert Bresson)

Breaking the Waves (1996, dir. Lars von Trier)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005, dir. Andrew Adamson)

Godspell (1972, dir. David Greene)

The Gospel According to St. Matthew (a.k.a. Il Vangelo secondo Matteo) (1964, dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini)

I giardini dell’Eden (1998, dir. Alessandro D’Alatri)

Intolerance (1916, dir. D.W. Griffith)

Jesus (1999, dir. Roger Young)

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973, dir. Norman Jewison)

Jesus of Montreal (a.k.a. Jésus de Montréal) (1989, dir. Denys Arcand)

Jesus of Nazareth (1977, dir. Franco Zeffirelli)

La ricotta (a.k.a. The Cream Cheese) (1963, dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini)

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988, dir. Martin Scorsese)

Mary (2005, dir. Abel Ferrara)

The Matrix (1999, dirs. Andy and Larry Wachowski)

The Passion of the Christ (2004, dir. Mel Gibson)

Ro.Go.Pa.G. (a.k.a. Rogopag, Laviamoci il cervello; Let’s Have a Brainwash) (1963, dirs. Roberto Rossellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Ugo Gregoretti)

Son of Man (2006, dir. Mark Dornford-May)

Superman Returns (2006, dir. Bryan Singer)



How to Cite

Baugh, L. (2009). Re-visiting Denys Arcand’s Jesus of Montreal (1989): Metatextuality, Metaphor, Hermeneutics and Resurrection. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 21(3), 277–297.