Only Pier Paolo Pasolini, an artist who was an atheist, a Marxist, and a homosexual could have made such an authentic and effective film on the life and death of Jesus Christ. Perhaps it was because the story was adapted by a nonbeliever who did not preach, glorify, sentimentalize or romanticize the famous story; and instead did his best to simply record it. Unlike previous cinematic depictions of Jesus' life, Pasolini's film does not embellish the biblical account with any literary or dramatic inventions, nor does it present an amalgam of the four Gospels. Pasolini stated that he decided to remake the Gospel by analogy and the film's sparse dialogue all comes directly from the Gospel of Matthew, as Pasolini felt that "images could never reach the poetic heights of the text." He reportedly chose Matthew's Gospel over the others because he had decided that "John was too mystical, Mark too vulgar, and Luke too sentimental."
Pasolini's Christ is played by Enrique Irazoqui, a Spanish economics student who had never acted before, and simply arrived to talk to Pasolini about his work. For his other roles, Pasolini cast local peasants, shopkeepers, factory workers, truck drivers, and for the role of Mary at the time of the Crucifixion, Pasolini casted his own mother. The shooting of non-actors, on real locations followed the style of the Italian Neorealist movement, which was a style that attempted to give a new degree of realism to the cinema. This was certainly the case with The Gospel According to St. Matthew, which chronicles the life of Christ as if a documentarian on a low budget had been following him from birth. First and foremost Pasolini considered himself a poet, painter, philosopher, and political journalist before a film director, as all of his films are built of images, expressions and words that sometimes function more as language than as dialogue. To view The Gospel According to St. Matthew is to understand that there is no 'one version' of the story, and like all great art, the life and death of Christ is a classic story that can be interpreted and explored by several different people, from several different faiths, throughout all different parts of the world.