–by Dr. Laura Wilhelm, LauraWil Intercultural
West Hollywood, CA (The Hollywood Times) 3/7/18 – THE FINAL INQUIRY (2006) directed by Giulio Base presents earnest and energetic actors who raise the religious material well above the usual standard. It is a remake of Damiano Damiani’s 1986 Italian film by the same name starring Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel. The 2006 version brings lesser-known aspects of the Jesus story to light without seeming like a Sunday-school lesson.
Italian heartthrob Daniele Liotti and Mónica Cruz (the lookalike younger sister of Spanish actress Penélope Cruz) star as the young lovers (Titus Valerius Taurus and Tabitha) who both defy death and decide to follow Christianity into what they hope will be a better world. In words this reporter never expected to write, Swedish-born action hero Dolph Lundgren also satisfies as the loyal blond-haired barbarian from Germania named Brixus whom Taurus enlists as his bodyguard.
If this all sounds a little cornball and you still aren’t convinced, know that Max von Sydow and F. Murray Abraham also show up as the aging Emperor Tiberius and Tabitha’s Pharisee father to add a touch of Roman-style gravitas to this almost carnivalesque Italian-Spanish co-production. Said choice recalls the decision to cast seasoned veterans such as Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman in BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT (2008), which became a serious morality play as well as a box-office blockbuster thanks largely to them.
So the good guys (and one good girl) have been assembled. What about the Joker? Possibly that would be Pontius Pilate, here brilliantly portrayed by Bulgarian actor Hristo Shopov, who is better known in the US for playing the same character in Mel Gibson’s 2004 film THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST.
To this day there is no real consensus amongst theologians concerning Pilate’s motives or actions when Christ was crucified. Pilate was a petty bureaucrat in the tiny Roman province of Judaea from AD 26 to 36 who got one of the world’s biggest religious dramas dumped onto his to-do list. His role lends itself to melodrama, even tragedy.
In all four New Testament accounts, Pilate lobbies for Jesus to be spared. When the crowd refuses to relent, he washes his hands to show that he is not responsible for the execution of Jesus.
“I find no guilt in Him,” Pilate baldly says in the Gospel of John. His wife Claudia Procula, who is briefly introduced by Pilate in THE FINAL INQUIRY, also speaks of Jesus as a “good man” who should not be executed after having dreams about him. (Women, in fact, were and are some of Jesus’s most ardent followers).
Scores of films and plays that mention Pontius Pilate have picked up on the ambiguity of this pivotal character ever since. In THE FINAL INQUIRY, Pilate actually colludes with the High Priest, hoping to cover up the Resurrection by attempting to convince Taurus it was all a sham.
Shopov’s Pilate appears quite stern when he mentions the issue of lèse-majesté (treason) in the original French. “My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus responds.
Did Christ oppose the taxes of Caesar and call himself a king? And was this holy figure human or divine?
Of course we never can know. But Taurus is tasked with finding out with his “final inquiry” in Judaea under orders from Tiberius.
Taurus makes his first steps towards Jesus the Christ when he tries to discover the truth. “I came into this world to bear witness to the truth, and all those who are on the side of truth listen to my voice,” Jesus claims at his trial. Then Pilate says three of the most fateful words in the New Testament: “What is truth?” (John 18:38)
It could be argued that any kind of truth, whether worldly or otherworldly, has value of a sort. But the Romans worshiped at the altar of money and power, not poverty and peace. So are we to follow the laws of man or the laws of God?
In our time this generally comes down to personal choice. We can decide whether to eat better or sleep better. But in the harsh and brutal world of the Bible, people usually had to opt for one or the other.
And the grandeur that was Rome is quite lavishly contrasted with the garden that was Judaea throughout this film. They really cannot be compared. Most of us will always prefer one to the other, which is what the two-party political system is all about in our more secular age!
Flashbacks to the Passion of Christ and some of His reputed miracles really flash in THE FINAL INQUIRY. When the hapless Taurus investigates the resurrection of Lazarus he is given drugged wine by two priests, who then put him in Lazarus’s tomb. The priests sarcastically stage a “resurrection” when Taurus revives and comes out of the tomb on the fourth day with Pilate looking on. Quid est veritas, indeed?
“I am , and the : he that , though he were dead, yet shall And whosoever and in me shall never die” (John 11: 25-26). This is no joke for Jesus at least.
On some level, we all want to believe in life everlasting. Even ancient emperors. Even angry husbands and fathers who have their wives stoned and beat their daughters nearly to death.
In the film’s final scenes, Tiberius is smothered with a pillow by Caligula, who is immediately proclaimed the new Emperor of Rome and sets about destroying Christ’s legacy. Taurus and a newly pregnant Tabitha appear as a kind of Holy Family leading the people back in the barren desert. So state and church must both start anew and attract their own kinds of followers as they still must do.
Once Christianity was but one of many minor cults that was tolerated only after the Edict of Milan decreed it in AD 313. That left nearly three hundred years between the death of Christ and the birth of state-sanctioned Christianity to account for.
This makes imaginative tales like seem most welcome to a certain kind of speculative viewer. Anyone who enjoys the blend of fact and fiction seen in films and television shows like (1981) and (now showing on TNT) will probably be on the next plane to Europe or the Middle East after seeing . And wouldn’t this make an enlightening spiritual exercise for the Easter season?