Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Making The Perfect The Enemy Of The Outstanding

Much to my chagrin, some folks are foolishly staying away from The Nativity Story because it is not a fully realized catechism of only the purest Catholic doctrine. There is nothing charitable I can say about such an attitude.

The Paragraph Farmer has some thoughts about this.

excerpt (but do read it all):

Hardwicke and her ecumenically-minded crew probably didn't spend much time arguing with each other over whether Mary suffered labor pains, or whether her virginity was (is) perpetual. Unwilling or unable to confront the theological implications of Mary as "the new Eve," they answer the first question affirmatively, but with a short labor, and ignore the second question as beyond the scope of their project. Meanwhile, Castle-Hughes portrays Mary as a devout teenager whose own mother has confidence enough to assure her anxious betrothed that she has never broken a promise. I'd call that a good start. Director Hardwicke also understands that holiness need not be (indeed, most often is not) ethereal, which means she gets that, too (and whether she meant to doesn't matter).

Fr. Geiger apparently wants the young Queen of Heaven to be more obviously set apart from other women (perhaps with some of the regal self-possession that Cate Blanchett used so effectively as Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings), but that's because he knows how the story ends. This is a film about beginnings.

Moreover, it's a thoughtful big-budget effort that deserves better than to be lumped with Touched by an Angel episodes or the TV-grade drama made famous by Hallmark Hall of Fame specials (Emmett of the Unblinking Eye dissed the new film that way, but he's entirely too smug. Hallmark specials aren't known for authenticity, and The Nativity Story is lovingly packed with details of first-century Jewish life. Hardwicke also handles Persian stargazing technology with several shots that even a legendary cinematographer like Caleb Deschanel would have been proud to call his own. As a bonus, the Magi explain the significance of their gifts for Jesus).


So go see the movie, if you haven't already. You won't be sorry. Hollywood has never done a better job of telling the original Christmas story.

One thing I think is silly is this: if the young Mary glowed with such Galadrielesque supernatural light that it would be obvious to us as moviegoers, then why don't we have a New Testament in which her Nazarene neighbors are "worshiping" her before Jesus is even conceived? It's sort of hubristic to think of yourself as so spiritually pure as a spectator that the transcendent sanctity of the Mother of God is supposed to hit you over the head with its obviousness. In the movie, Mary is played in a humble and subtle understated way which does not in any way go against her true sanctity, which flows from this very humility. The words of the Magnificat are: "He looks on His servant in her lowliness", not "He has come to His glowing Galadriel". In some of the comments I've seen about the way Mary was played in the movie, is there some degree of contempt for this very lowliness?

1 comment:

Matt W. said...

I agree. The Catholic pharisees are out in full bloom since the release of The Nativity Story.

Their religious scrupulosity is of the devil. They should be ashamed of themselves.

God Bless & Keep up the good work.