The Last Temptation Of Christ | 1988
The hysterical controversy whipped up over Martin Scorsese’s quite reverential version of Nikos Kazantzakis’ fantasia on the life of Christ now looks absurd. As it was, it took the director years to get the project off the ground, and make the film on a seriously restricted budget, with Morocco standing in for the Holy Land.
The production was based at the Atlas Film Studios near the town of Ouarzazate, southeast of Marrakech.
‘Nazareth’ and ‘Magdala’ were both filmed in the village of Oumnast, about 15 miles south of Marrakech.
‘Jerusalem’ was going to be a set until the filmmakers discovered Meknes (Mekenes), and the Moulay Ismael Stables, much further to the north. These were used for the interior of the Temple, the Passover baths and the palace of Pontius Pilate (David Bowie).
Sultan Moulay Ismael ruled Meknes for 55 years, from 1672 to 1727, during which time he embarked on a massive building programme and turned the city into a spectacular walled capital with over 50 palaces. The so-called ‘stables’ are part of his Villa Imperiale, a huge complex of palaces, gardens and barracks below Mekenes’ Medina. Although called ‘stables’, these high-vaulted rooms were probably store rooms and granaries. The stables were also featured in The Jewel Of The Nile and legendary financial disaster Ishtar.
The final 35-minute ‘temptation’ sequence was filmed in the Atlas Mountains and around the Roman ruins of Volubilis, about 20 miles north of Meknes. The city began to be excavated in 1915, while Morocco was under French rule. It’snow preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.