Thursday, November 30, 2006

@ the movies: The Nativity Story

Mary, Joseph and their faithful donkey taking a break on their long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census. 100 miles is nothing for us today but 2000 years ago that meant a trip by foot!

The Nativity Story opens in theaters on Friday, December 1, 2006.

I had the opportunity to see the film in a pre-release screening as a guest of Grace Hill Media. I recommend it highly.

For those who believe, the film will be a devotional experience amidst the busyness of the Christmas season reminding us what Christmas is truly about. For those who are skeptics, I hope they will still nonetheless the film and grasp the earthiness of the Christian story: God came to earth in the form of a baby to parents and people with dirty feet and rough hands.

Mary and Joseph growing closer while on the journey to Bethlehem.

The Bible account of the Nativity is very brief. The part the film covers can be found in Matthew and Luke.

The film has to engage in some speculation as to what the story was beyond what we have in the Gospel records.

For instance, what was the relationship between Mary and Joseph like?

How would Mary react to hearing: "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

How would Joseph react to Mary telling him this?

I was very moved to watch how Michael Rich (screenwriter) and Catherine Hardwicke (director) unfold and develop the relationship between Mary and Joseph with humor and sensitivity.

The second thing that impressed me was the effort the film makers took to create an authentic look and feel to make the culture and history of the era come alive.

Particularly potent was the oppressiveness of the Roman Empire. Seeing the film helps me to understand why in the Gospel records, the followers of Jesus had such a hard time with him being the suffering Savior and not the revolutionary who would overthrow the Romans they so desperately wanted.

Finally, I loved the the usage of the Magi as comic relief. The film makers worked in all the relevant material from the Bible regarding the Magi and some of the speculation regarding what the astronomical phenomena they saw that drew them to Bethlehem. But they cleverly went beyond that and put in some humor through their bantering with each other.

Take the time out to go into a movie house to see this film. You'll be glad you did.

Images were obtained from the Yahoo! Movies Production Photos Page for The Nativity Story

UPDATE: The KPCC movie review radio show gave the film mixed reviews. One of the reviewers felt the film was a somewhat conventional telling of the story. He mentioned that the film was probably more ethnically real in that many of the actors cast for the film are of the right skin color for that region of the world. He also praised the production design that gave the film an authentic and gritty feel consistent with that time in history. The other reviewer liked the script and story details beyond the Biblical text but felt the director's visual style was poor and sense of pacing was not up to par. It was quite fascinating to hear that reviewer say, though I'm not a religious person I find the whole idea of what the Nativity means to be such a powerful concept. Both felt the 3 Magi's performances and use of humor to be a breath of fresh air.


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