The Nativity Story

Starring: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Oscar Isaac, Shohreh Aghdashloo
Director: Catherine Harwicke
Screenplay: Mike Rich
Producers: Wyck Godfrey, Marty Bowen.
Genre: Drama, Bibilical, Christmas
Rating: PG
Duration: 101 mins

The Nativity Story chronicles the arduous journey of two people, Mary and Joseph, a miraculous pregnancy, and the history-defining birth of Jesus. The dramatic and compelling film traces the perilous journey of a young couple who must travel from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral home, to register for a census ordered by King Herod. It is a journey of over 100 miles, through treacherous terrain, made much more difficult by the fact that Mary is nine months pregnant.

Perhaps for the first time in film history in the biblical genre, we find a film that portrays Joseph and Mary on a very human level. Many Catholics often place both Joseph and Mary on high pedestals - saintly figures whose holiness are beyond the ordinary person’s reach. The Nativity Story commendably sets them with down-to-earth humanity as ordinary persons, reminding us that saints are also very human and it is in their human struggles that they find holiness.

Combining the infancy narratives found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, the film also expands and infers what is not found in scripture verses, imagining probable scenarios in the lives of the teenage Mary, “God’s favoured one,” and Joseph, a “righteous man,” whose lives are turned upside down when they are called to be parents of the Son of God.

The physical and spiritual journey that Joseph and Mary undergo in the film can be a parallel reflection of our own inner life journeys. Despite their fears, doubts, struggles and uncertainties of the future, their faith in God and his promises pull them through. Models of faith, hope and love, they provide inspiration for anyone experiencing trails, hardships, and misunderstandings. It is a difficult and challenging journey that they endure but one which eventually leads them to wonder and joy, as they welcome into their lives Emmanuel, God with us.

Like Mary who finds consolation in her cousin Elizabeth, we see the importance of spiritual friends or mentors, who can provide us with encouragement, guidance and friendship along our journey in life. And we too are invited to be friend and mentor to our fellow travellers.

In Joseph, we find a steadfast human love that is sacrificing, patient and kind (just as described in 1 Cor 13) as he struggles first over what is the most loving thing to do with Mary’s unexpected pregnancy, and then being her source of strength and faith-companion when he decides to abide by the angel’s call to take Mary as his wife.
The Magi in the film provide some comic relief to the tense emotions found in Mary and Joseph though at times their scenes tend to drag. The portrayal of Angel Gabriel is perhaps the most disappointing depiction of an angel and it is hoped that audiences will not imagine celestial beings as represented in this film. Great effort went into finding appropriate locations and the design of sets in this film to recreate conditions and situations of the time, from the domesticity of making cheese to the use of ancient construction tools. The result is an authentic peek into life of first century Israel.

This peek also includes the oppression that the Jews suffered under the Romans, an oppression that many continue to face today under varied and diverse forms, and from which true redemption is found only in the Messiah.

This is a film that is a wonderful vehicle to spur on discussions with non-Catholics on how we regard Mary and Joseph and their roles in the Church. It is also a chance to share with non-Christians the true meaning of Christmas, and that “with God, nothing is impossible.” Most of all, it is a film that can help us reflect on how our faith and trust in God can result in our own magnificat where we cay say as Mary did, “the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:49)

Suggested Scripture Readings before watching the film: Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2

Sr Wendy Ooi, fsp

No comments:

Post a Comment