Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Nativity Story

I finally got around to seeing The Nativity Story tonight. Here are some of observations (in no particular order).

For those concered about violence & gore (because you are taking younger children)
  • The violence of the Slaughter of the Innocents is not gory, and is relatively short-lived. And it provides a significant shaping of the political setting in which the Messiah is born.
  • The two birth scenes (Elizabeth's and Mary's) are not graphic and again are relatively short-lived.
Other observations:
  • Overall feelings after first viewing: I liked it. Sure, it is predictable... but then I know the story. But there are some nice moments of humour, warmth, and imagination.
  • There are enough of the traditional, familiar story markers to reassure everyone that the important bases are covered: Herod, wise men, star, shepherds, no room at the inn, (not neccessarily in the order that everyone is most used to) but there are enough imaginative fresh elements weaved into the traditional narrative to keep the interest up.
  • The movie is faithful to the biblical accounts of Jesus's birth. The Nativity Story takes the gospel accounts at face value. It doesn't, for example, engage in all sorts of speculation about how Mary came to be pregnant, the sort of thing you find in secular scholarship and anti-Christian websites. Rather, in The Nativity Story, as in the gospels, Mary becomes pregnant by the miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit.
  • The vulnerability of Mary and Joseph is shown in a fresh way.
  • The movie doesn't offer up religious schmaltz. Thankfully, there are blue eyed blond angels flying around.
  • The Nativity Story does not turn Mary & Joseph into other-worldly superman and superwoman. It's a fine line here. You are walking on holy ground when you are dealing with Mary and Joseph. The temptation is certainly there to portray them in an over-pietistic way. But it's not that way at all. Mary seems like a real, 15-year-old faithful Jewish girl, not a perfect "saint." There is nothing that demeans or belittles Mary. But she isn't shown as spending hours in prayer, either. Joseph, as well, is portrayed as being very believable. In one scene, Mary & Joseph are talking quietly about their experience of the angel. Joseph said the angel told him not to be afraid. "Are you afraid?" Mary asks. "Yes," he admits. "Me too," Mary agrees. This, it seems to me, captures what was surely the experience of the real Mary and Joseph, even as they faithfully followed the angel's lead and trusted God in an extraordinary way.
  • One thing I would have changed would be the choice of music - it was a little too western. I expected more (there is some) eastern / Jewish sounding music.
  • Overall, it's a good version... worth seeing.
Part of the film was shot in Ouarzazate, Morocco, a city on the edge of the Sahara desert that I spent a few days in, many years ago. It was great seeing some of that scenery again.

Scot McKnight, one of my favorite biblical scholars and bloggers, has written a book that comes just at the right time: The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus. It is published by Paraclete Press. It's well worth reading

1 comment:

michael lewis said...

Western music fits with the English dialogue!

Seriously, for artistic credibility, I would rather read a film than hear its characters speak a language that did NOT exist when they were alive.