Thursday, January 04, 2007

Movie Review: The Nativity

We took the all the kids to see The Nativity in the theater last night.  It wasn't crowded, in fact our family made up over half the audience.  Glad that was the case, I hate to annoy other movie goers by talking, but our kids are accustomed to talking during movies.  I think that is in part because I do my best to verbalize the movie for my blind son.  So the others think they are free to ask questions too, which can be a good thing, but it can get annoying right quick for anyone else in earshot. 
I enjoyed the movie.  It had a few distinctly non-Catholic items, but overall it portrayed the story very well.  It even interjected bits of humor without ruining the sacredness of the scenes.
The issues I had with it pertain mostly to the portrayal of Mary and to the visits by the Angel Gabriel.  It seemed the unshaven and curly haired Gabriel looked a bit too much like a Hollywood Hunk and not quite angelic.  I believe angels are beautiful, but they should be beautiful in a Godly way, or to put it simply; someone a man can think is beautiful and not just "hot" in the eyes of a woman.  But I can forgive Hollywood for not understanding the true meaning of beauty, after all, most Catholics don't get it either.  Also I wasn't fond of the way his voice first came to Mary in the wind.  It sort of left the "Hail, favored one" as a unintelligible windy voice before she saw Gabriel.  And although it isn't a deal breaker, I always envisioned him appearing during the night or early morning while Mary was praying.  Perhaps that is the influence of good art.
My biggest complaint about the movie was the way Mary came across as a pouty and almost disobedient teenager.  Her frolicking with the young boys and throwing seeds (that they were supposed to be planting) seemed rather sinful.  More to the point, the wasting seeds in such a poor culture would be highly doubtful. They rounded out her character nicely in the end, but it seemed very "Protestant" to portray Mary as just a better than average teen who courted with rebellion and disobedience to her parents.
Another part that seemed out of place was Mary's pain in childbirth.  Catholic tradition has it that Mary gave birth to Jesus without the pain promised to Eve after the fall.  But my wife pointed out that the verse in Genesis 3 says that pain will be "multiplied" or "greatly increased" which means that there has to be something there to increase.
The movie did great at what this medium is supposed to do.  Bring the person in touch with the sights and sounds of the setting.  Or to make the characters and setting vivid and real.  Herod was suspicious, jealous and evil.  The gluttony of their eating showed in stark contrast to the poverty of the Israelis.  He was obsessed with power and would have killed his own son if he thought him a threat to the throne. 
The hardships and poverty was very real.  Journeying 100 miles on foot over stone and poor roads made me comment how rough that would be to walk that far in that terrain.  My wife mentioned how rough it would be for a pregnant woman to ride a donkey that far. 
A couple of humorous parts involved the three wise men.  The other line I laughed out loud to was when Joseph and his scandalously pregnant wife were leaving for the journey to Bethlehem.  Many people were giving them the judgmental looks or looking away.  Joseph commented, "I think they will miss us."
Overall, it was a very worthwhile film.  The kids liked it and followed along quite well.  And even the slaughter of the Holy Innocents wasn't as bad as some have claimed.  It depicted Herod's troops taking the young boys from their mothers but no bloodshed was seen.  Only screams and crying afterwards.  It reminded me of the way the killing of the Israeli children was done in the animated "Prince of Egypt".  Lots of commotion, lots of crying and some screaming, but it didn't disturb our young children.

1 comment:

Leticia said...

My children enjoyed the film as well, in fact it set up Advent quite nicely for us. My reaction to the character of Mary was the same as yours, too typical teenager (the expressed goal of the Protestant diretor) but St. Joseph was much nobler, and really shone in this film.
I think we can find something to appreciate and learn from in each of the Jesus films. I preferred Olivia Hussey as Mary, in "Jesus of Nazareth", but it was sorely lacking in special effects, tending to de-mystifiy the Nativity.
I still wish Mel Gibson would listen to his loyal fans, and do the rest of Jesus' life instead of some barbarians, who, in the end, reject Christianity.