Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Nativity Story

I went into this movie with trepidation. On the one hand was the subject matter: a story that absorbs me, no matter how many times it receives screen treatment; on the other were the lukewarm reviews, and a director at the helm who made the morally confused movie Thirteen, about two out-of-control teenage girls and one girl's helpless, useless mother. This doesn't inspire confidence in the adaptation of Christ's birth and its surrounding events.

Fortunately, the director succeeded in making a good film. It offers beautiful cinematography and attention to detail. We see the thought processes of the Wise Men play out on-screen, and realize how arduous was their journey to see the newborn Messiah. We also see the trials Joseph and Mary endured: local gossip about Mary's pregnancy, the turmoil Joseph probably experienced after discovering she was with child, Mary's parents' anxiety and confusion, and the fears the couple shared about their future. Most impressive was the journey of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, and the obstacles they overcame in making it. One rarely gives this thought, but their trek was a great undertaking, first to Bethlehem, and then the subsequent flight into Egypt. Their plight makes me appreciate them all the more for their sacrifices and hardships.

Overall, I recommend this movie. But it wouldn't be an honest review, without mentioning the flaws. The final fifteen minutes or so seem rushed, as if the production team went overboard in trimming the film down under two hours. In addition, we're treated to a scene in the marketplace on the road to Bethlehem, in which a palm reader predicts Mary's birthing of a son. This event serves no purpose, other than the novelty of having occultic practices depicted for the Christian audience's enrichment. Some minor, unjustifiable biblical inconsistencies occur, such as when only one angel appears to the shepherds at Jesus' birth; scripture reveals that a heavenly host manifest itself. Also, the Wise Men decide of their own volition not to return to their homeland by way of Jerusalem; the Gospels say that they were warned about Herod in dreams, precipitating their deviation. Such flaws crop up in the film's latter portion. The worst mistake is the choice of actress as Mary. She's a pretty girl, about the right age, but her expression has all the animation of the figures carved into Mount Rushmore. No matter the situation--from an angelic visitation, to the shepherds and Magi attending her like servants, it is as changeless as a statue's. In contrast, the actor who plays Joseph provides a much superior performance.

I'm not attempting to deter anyone from viewing this film. It's worth seeing at least once. But with closer attention to scriptural accuracy, an unhurried ending, and a livelier actress in Mary's role, we'd have more than just a good movie; we'd have a great one.

No comments: