Daniel Coulombe (Lothaire Bluteau) is engaged by a Montreal priest to improve on the parish's tired passion play. He is quietly excited by the possibility and invites a group of old friends to join him in revitalizing the ancient tale. They will stage the performance outside by torchlight on the crest of Mount Royal with the lights of the vast city flickering below. The script is modern, visceral, and engages the audience. The actors all manage to improve their life situations if not their finances: a man gives up dubbing scripts for porno movies; a woman leaves an abusive partner to become the Magdalene.

At first, the priest is pleased by their efforts, but he looses confidence and credibility when Coulombe finds he sleeps with one of the women actors. The play is a huge success, but nameless clerical authorities are disturbed by the vibrant sexuality and the avant garde performance; in the absence of support from the priest, "they" revoke the right to perform.

The defiant troupe performs anyway, hoping the police will be sympathetic. A naked Coulombe is arrested off the cross in the midst of his crucifixion scene. A scuffle ensues and he suffers an accidental head injury. Taken by ambulance to a busy hospital, he is neglected, but recovers enough to sign himself out, only to collapse in a subway station. Attended by the two dismayed and disoriented women, he is again taken to hospital where he dies.


A hauntingly beautiful film. The late twentieth-century actors come to live the experiences of Christ and his disciplines in their real lives as much as in their play. Stock answers are provided to the perennial questions--What if Jesus were to return? Would we recognize him? Would he be treated in the same way? The responses are unsurprisingly gloomy, but there is humor, warmth, and comic affection in the friends' rediscovery of joy in acting well, in caring for each other, and in doing something fine.

The arresting police are embarrassed by Coulombe's nakedness and his religious purpose; he is amused. The ambulance drivers have the insouciance of Shakespearean gravediggers and the hospital scenes with their well intentioned but distracted staff are tediously true.

Coulombe bears the name of the physicist who explored electrical current, a word so close to "colombe" which is French for "dove." He is an unassuming, ordinary person, the quietest of the lot, the least expected to lead or to meet a violent end. Like the carpenter's son, he is killed for a gentle but riveting message. And yet, like the ghost of Pentecost, he is the most able to inspire others to speak in meaningful tongues.


In French, with English subtitles. Cannes Jury Prize (1989) 12 Genie Awards (Canadian Oscars) including Best Picture (1990); Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Film, 1990.

Primary Source

MCA Home Video Canada, MAXFILMS