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HE WHO MUST DIE (CELUI QUI DOIT MOURIR) (director/writer: Jules Dassin; screenwriters: André Obey/Ben Barzman/based on the novel “The Greek Passion” by Nikos Kazantzakis; cinematographer: Jacques Natteau/Gilbert Chain; editor: Roger Dwyre/Pierre Gillette; music: Georges Auric; cast: Gert Froebe (Patriarcheas), Melina Mercouri (Katerina), Pierre Vaneck (Manolios), Jean Servais (Fotis), Carl Mohner (Lukas), Gregoire Aslan (Agha), Teddy Bilis (Hadji Nikolis), Rene Lefevre (Yannakos), Fernand Ledoux (Grigoris), Maurice Ronet (Michelis, the Mayor’s son), Roger Hanin (Pannayotaros), Nicole Berger (Mariori); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Henri Bérard; Kassler Films (Indusfilms); 1957-France-in French with English subtitles)
Powerful Christian allegory based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ brilliant novel The Greek Passion.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Exiled American director Jules Dassin(“Topkapi”/”Phaedra”/”Never on Sunday”) films in Crete, in black and white, this powerful Christian allegory based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ brilliant novel The Greek Passion. Despite its not too subtle symbolism and obvious message of Christian hypocrisy, it succeeds because it’s a sincere effort and the arty direction is affecting. Melina Mercouri, Dassin’s wife-in-waiting, in her second film, ably plays a widow whore with a heart-of-gold, who is chosen to play Mary Magdalene for the town’s Passion Play.

It’s set in 1921, at the end of World War I, in a small Cretan town, when the economically depressed Greece was occupied by the Turks. The preparations for a Passion Play, performed every seven years, are halted when a starving neighboring mountain village of refugees, whose village was ravaged by the Turks, led by their patriarch (Jean Servais), come to ask for food and assistance but are met with hostility by the town leaders. Though the townsfolk are willing to help their suffering fellow Greeks, the town council, led by the wealthy Mayor Patriarcheas (Gert Froebe), fear this might upset the truce they have with the Turkish governor (Gregoire Aslan) and also bring on an economic hardship or diseases if they are allowed to stay for any length of time. The result is the townsfolk are divided in their opinions, but are spurred on by their autocratic priest (Fernand Ledoux) to get rid of the refugees. They do so with the help of the Turkish military leader (Carl Mohner).

This conflict over the Christian values expressed by the Passion Play gets played out for real. The drama is presented in a provocative and ironic manner, but like an old-fashioned western there’s a clear divide between the good and bad guys.

The actor playing Christ (Pierre Vaneck), a tongue-tied shepherd, tries to live up to his part, and along with the mayor’s rebellious son (Maurice Ronet) feed the starving strangers encamped in the nearby hills. But the town priest cannot accept anyone going against the wishes of the church, and he conspires with the Turkish occupiers to stop this rebellion by having the actor playing Christ executed.

The drama tells us if Christ returned to Earth he would most likely be crucified again.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”