Culver Pictures

A nativity scene from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1964 film The Gospel According to St. Matthew reflects the qualities that made the film unique. The wisemen (center) adoring the infant Jesus, Mary (at left) and the surrounding flock of shepherds don’t look like Hollywood actors posing on an artificial set—and they’re not. Pasoloni pioneered a neorealist style in Jesus films, shooting Gospel at Mediterranean locations and employing local peasants as his cast members. Such techniques, combined with the film’s novel focus on a single gospel account, gave the film an air of historical veracity.