Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Nativity Story

Watched The Nativity Story on DVD. This was shown in cinemas on 1 December 2006 but was not shown in cinemas in Malaysia. I bought the DVD in Singapore and was surprised that it has a PG (Parental guidance) rating. The nativity story, a PG rating? The reason became clear at the beginning of the movie. On a moonlight night, a group of soldiers raid a village, breaking into houses to murder all children under 2 years of age on King Herod’s order. Actually snatching the children, because there was no scene of killing and no blood or gore. There are two exciting scene in the movie and this is one of them. The rest of the movie moves at a slow sedentary pace that the 101 minutes run time feels like 300.

My impression of the movie is like looking at a snapshot of a family album. Each shot shows a picture, reminds you of something, and tells you more of the scene. There was a snapshot of Zechariah praying in the Temple. A voice whispers that he is going to be a father. Zechariah whispering back that his wife is old, and that he is old. Then he was struck dumb. Change of scene, Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) in Nazareth playing with other children. Next scene, Roman soldiers’ brutality in collecting taxes, then picture of Joseph (Oscar Isaac) watching Mary. Next snapshot of Joseph helping Mary’s family.

Next, Joseph's engagement to Mary, and Mary running out, “I don’t know the man, I don’t love him.” Change of scene, Mary resting under a tree, an angel (look like a man with a shiny white tunic) spoke to her, telling that she will be with child, and that Elizabeth was pregnant. Next, family meal and Mary wanting to go to visit her cousin Elizabeth. A short journey and Mary met Elizabeth (Shohreh Aghdashloo). Elizabeth felt her baby moved.

Snap, Mary wondering if what the angel said is true. Next, Elizabeth in labour, and out come John the Baptist! Snap, Mary going back to Nazareth very pregnant. Mary’s father very angry. Joseph coming forth to say that he will not denounce her, thus there will be no trial and no stoning of a pregnant unwed teenager. Next, villagers acting and looking with distain at two of them.

Snap, soldiers announcing a census. Next, Joseph leaving the village with Mary, sitting on a donkey to Bethlehem for the census. Then there was a long, long, long journey to Bethlehem via Jerusalem. There were camera shots of Joseph, Mary, and the donkey going up hills, coming down hills, on desert, on grassland, on rocky ground, and crossing a river. The second excitement in the movie was when Mary fell off the donkey while crossing the river!

Snap, Mary starting having labour pain when they are nearing Bethlehem, and Joseph desperately looking for shelter for them in the village. Finally ended with the animals in a stable. Baby Jesus was born. Here the cinema shots change until it looks like a Christmas card picture nativity scene, except there was no snow and no Christmas tree.

The movie portrays that part of the gospel well. I saw a short glimpse of Mary as a wistful teenager, angry at being married, scared at being pregnant, and finally accepting Joseph as her husband. Joseph came out strong in the movie. “All my life, I wanted honour,” he said. He came across as a disciplined man, a strong man, a compassionate man, and a man of honour. I also have glimpse of an evil looking Herod, the nasty Romans, and the Magi from Persia.

In fact, I like the three Magi the best. From their observatory in Persia, they discovered the coming alignment of stars, their decision or indecision to follow the stars, and their discovery of Jesus, the three Magi evoke the most interest in me and the three actors showed some three dimensional acting.

Unlike Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ which gave me post traumatic shock. The Nativity Story did not evoke any feeling in me except to recognise the story being played out on the screen. I would have liked to have seen more into the inner life of both Mary and Joseph in this most important period of their lives. This is a good movie to watch with the children to introduce them to that part of the gospel story. The film is directed by Catherine Hardwicke from a screenplay written by Mike Rich.

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Blogger ling said...

sounds like a movie i'd wanna watch! thanks for sharing, if not i wouldn't know its existence.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Hello ling,

I believe you will enjoy this movie.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Sivin Kit said...

I plan to watch it with Gareth with I am free.

10:46 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...


capital idea. I love watching movies with my children and discussing with them afterwards.

2:57 AM  
Blogger Bob K said...

A great movie .. a very human glimpse of the key players in the Nativity story. I loved the way Mary was portrayed, not as the Theotokos, but as a vulnerable teenaged girl given a massive task to carry.

Contrasting this with The Passion, and the whole drama of the story of Christ unfolds in a dramatic fashion. The beauty of the birth and the extreme violence of His death. And today, we, the Church embody His ressurection and His Kingdom.

Totally blows me away.

7:22 AM  
Blogger lilian koh said...

Watched this in S'pore end of last year. What I was moved by was the sense of God coming into peoples lives. Especially in the midst of turmoil, 'God comes near' in the most surprising ways. Each of the 'waiting' people was visited by God. He was inviting each of them to something new.....

10:00 AM  

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