Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mary of Nazareth (Ignatius Press)

Mary of Nazareth starts off in a startling fashion. A band of marauders with a group of dogs is going through a small town and capturing all the young girls. Anna and Joachim hear them coming and manage to hide Mary from the men. The dogs, however, are sniffing around and miraculously are unable to find Mary. This is the first hint of one of the underlying themes in the movie - Mary is special. What about the captured girls? They are lined up and inspected by a woman, Herod's wife. She is looking for the one who is to give birth to the Messiah, and wants to kill her. This and other scenes, like Mary taken to the Temple to live were inspired by the writings of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich. It therefore became clear early on that this movie will be a mixture of Scripture, tradition, and creative license.

Fast forward about a decade, maybe two, and we see Mary back home with her parents. Joseph has come to ask Mary to be his wife. They could have went with one of two traditions regarding Joseph. They could have made him an older widower with children from his first wife (my preference). Or they could have went with Joseph who was slightly older than Mary, never married, and remained a virgin his whole life like Mary. They chose the latter. In the first scenes with Joseph, we see him seek the permission of Joachim to talk to Mary and Joachim blows him off. Anna, however, says to go and talk to Mary. This seems out of place given that time, but it made for a "cute scene."  I'm not entirely sure how I felt about the interaction between Mary and Joseph. It was a bit flirty, and just felt like they reduced it to some superficial love story.

The movie continues on with scenes we are familiar with from the Bible. There is the Annunciation, Mary's visit to Elizabeth, etc. The director takes creative license with the story and embellishes the facts, like Joseph getting FURIOUS with Mary for her pregnancy, and Joseph giving up on Mary for what seems like a long time. It was puzzling to me why Mary's parents refused to believe that Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age or the manner in which Mary became pregnant with Jesus. For starters, Anne and Joachim were supposed to be barren as well, so why should it be puzzling that Elizabeth became pregnant. Secondly, her parents said early on in the movie that Mary was special, so why change that all of a sudden? It doesn't fit with the storyline. I'm sure Mary felt some level of ostracization, as was portrayed in the movie, but she shouldn't have felt judged by her parents.

There are parts of this movie that seemed forced and reaching for an emotional moment, and there are parts that leave you raw after viewing them. The scene of the slaying of the Holy Innocents ripped my heart out, and it caused me to really stop and think about those poor mothers and fathers back then whose children died at the hands of Herod. The rest of the movie is a mixture of Bible, tradition, and creative license. We see Jesus as a child get hurt and bleed, which was nice as it's foolish to think that Jesus never got hurt or bled. We see Jesus as an adult performing miracles, preaching, and ultimately dying on the Cross. The final scene of the movie has Mary telling the Apostles about how Jesus disappeared in the Temple for three days, and how she didn't understand at the time, but did now. Mary Magdalene then comes in to tell them that Jesus is risen, and the Apostles run off to see. The move then ends with one last scene of Mary and Jesus, Mother and Son.

As I expected beforehand, I have very mixed feelings regarding this movie. There were times I wanted to scream at the screen, and say, "That's not accurate!" or, "Joseph would have never acted like that!" There were other times I was in awe of how the scene captured the human experiences Mary endured while on this Earth. I waffled between giving this movie a 3.5 or a 4 and ultimately decided on a 4 for one very important reason - the message of this movie. That message is that Mary, greatest Saint ever, wants none of the attention on her and wants it all on her Son. She is there to lead us to Jesus, not the other way around.

This movie was provided to me for free by Carmel Communications in exchange for an honest review. Be sure to check out the corresponding book, Mary of Nazareth: The Life of Our Lady in Pictures. Also, EXCITING NEWS, the actress who played Mary, Alissa Jung, will be visiting 5 cities in North America starting November 15th to promote the movie and blog. The schedule can be found here. Unfortunately, I don't live near any of the cities, but if you are lucky enough to, stop by and see her!