David Bowe’s postmodern Pontius Pilate, in Scorcese’s film of Kazantzakis’ Last Temptation of Christ, is a world-weary, ironic figure. After his half-hearted interrogation elicits little from the arrested Jesus, Pilate sits down on the stone bench next to his prisoner.
Trying to get Jesus to see Roman reason, he points out that any insurrection, real or imagined, is punishable by death on the cross. The accumulating skulls at the execution site, known as Golgotha, are supposed to deter any form of rebellion, whether spiritual or political.
Three thousand of those ought to be enough, Pilate asserts, for the occupied Jews to give up all hope of challenging entrenched Roman power.
Jesus remains unmoved and Pilate does not even both to ask, as in the Gospels, What is Truth? Instead, Pilate allows Jesus to be brutally beaten and taken out to The Place of the Skull.
Fortunately, in this case, deterrence did not work. The death and resurrection of a man condemned as a criminal redeemed the world.