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The Nativity Story

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SDG   

FWIW:

We really, really need a worthwhile cinematic version of the infancy narrative / Christmas story.

This past Christmas season, rewatching the first half of Jesus of Nazareth with my kids as I typically do, I found myself once again just really frustrated with some of Zefferelli's inexplicable flaunting of his flouting of the canonical story.

Bizarrest of all, I think, is having the Magi not only bypass Jerusalem and Herod and head straight for Bethlehem, but making a plot point of the omission by having Herod fuming about feeling insulted that they "cross my borders" and don't come to see him.

What the HECK?

And then, after such a numinous annunciation scene, stumbling over how to depict messages from heaven in subsequent scenes: clumsy voiceover for Joseph's first dream, having the Magi stand in for the angel in place of Joseph's second dream, and then (moving on from the infancy narrative) having John the Baptist stand in for God the Father at Jesus' baptism.

That said....

The infancy narratives don't offer a fraction of the info of the passion narratives -- and for Catholics and Orthodox the significance of tradition for certain implications around the infancy narratives is HUGE. So there is ENORMOUS room to screw it up.

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Does anyone have any information on Hardwicke's religious beliefs, or lack of?

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FWIW:

We really, really need a worthwhile cinematic version of the infancy narrative / Christmas story.

I mentioned this on another thread: at a closeout of a video store in my area, I happened to obtain "The Nativity (1978)" a made-for-TV film with a fantastic cast: teenager Madeline Stowe in her first major role as Mary, Leo McKern as Herod, pre-Raiders John Rhys-Davies as "Nestor", and Jane Wyatt as Anna.

Bought just after the Christmas season this past year, but I am truly chomping at the bit to catch it first thing next year.

BTW, I have mixed feelings about Catherine Hardwicke. Missed the skateboard film. _Thirteen_ was good, as a raw, uncompromising quasi-doc about the underbelly of valley-girl culture... forgive me if I can't foresee the transition to Biblical epic here.

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Matthew or Luke?
Both, a'course.

pity. takes away the power of each, and shoves two different stories into a single mold.

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MattPage   

I blogged the news on the script here and a few copmments on Hardwicke's choice here

Not seen either or Lords of Dogtown. I have a mate who likes skateboard films so I might sit down with him one nigth to watch it, but I guess 13 is really the film of Harwickes's to see?

Matt

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SDG   
pity. takes away the power of each, and shoves two different stories into a single mold.
Nah. As different as they are, there is clearly a common tradition underlying the Matthean and Lucan infancy narratives. I think I remember Joseph Fitzmyer (? Raymond Brown?) addressing this back in my seminary days. In any case, viewing the two synoptically (to coin a phrase!) has far too long and well-established a history in Christian exegesis and spirituality for me to be dismissive of the whole approach.

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I like the idea of one of my blog's commentors:

Q'orianka Kilcher as Mary.

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SDG   
Q'orianka Kilcher as Mary.
Ha! Wouldn't that just be the pretty pink bow on my New World / Passion of the Christ comparison!

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She's last year's flavor of the month, but considering how fast kids grow up nowadays...

Keisha Castle-Hughes ?

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Blogged it -- and since the Virgin Mary was quite possibly 13 when she conceived Jesus, it kinda makes sense for this film to be directed by the director of Thirteen! :)

And yes, I cannot think of a single significant big-screen treatment of the Nativity that wasn't either a tiny prologue to a much larger film (e.g. The Greatest Story Ever Told) or a way-offbeat art-house flick (e.g. Je vous salue, Marie or The Baby of Macon).

The two TV-movies produced in the late '70s were pretty lame, as I recall. Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth gives the Nativity something like a full hour, maybe more, out of his six-hour mini-series, and it is interesting in that I think it is the first movie to depict the LABOUR PAINS that Mary presumably would have gone through (unless you are a fundamentalist with regard to ancient traditions regarding Mary's "painless" birth, etc.). But then Zeffirelli follows the scene of labour with a scene of shepherds droning on and on and sharing a piece of dialogue (one of those things where one character starts a sentence and the other finishes it) about the angels they saw. So he goes from unprecedented realism to banal and ponderous piety in a heartbeat. Rather disappointing.

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and since the Virgin Mary was quite possibly 13 when she conceived Jesus,

You know, I believe that there is good evidence/research that Mary was not so young when Jesus was conceived and born. Of course, I don't have the links/info at my fingertips, but my father-in-law is an OT scholar, so I will try to get the goods from him. This may simply be another one of the popularly believed "urban legends" of the Bible. If true, this would mean that Kilcher would be fine to play Mary, and Stowe would have been perfectly believable, age-wise, as Mary in the '78 production.

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M. Leary   

Why doesn't Hardwicke should just turn "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" into a film? Some great material there.

The writer of the script calls the incarnation "such a timeless story of faith and hope." I don't know what it is about this that makes me shudder a bit. I can already see that at the bottom of the poster.

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M. Leary   

I am sure when this film comes out we will wade into some discussion/debate concerning the virgin birth and all that jazz. Just to prime the pump, I thought I would draw your attention to this three-way discussion at Slate between Kloppenborg, Segal, and Hurtado (who is my current PhD advisor). It is a three day discussion, you have to click the next two days at the top right.

I think Hurtado makes some very effective points about the virgin birth and how it should factor into historical criticism of the gospels.

Edited by MLeary

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She's last year's flavor of the month, but considering how fast kids grow up nowadays...

Keisha Castle-Hughes ?

I suuuuure know how to pick 'em...

Nick

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MattPage   

Yeah nice one Nick. I'm so happy you're right. I'm a big fan of Whale Rider. Although she's now a little bit older (15), she is still young enough to challenge the traditional image of Mary as a woman in her mid 20s (it's a good deal more likely that she was in her teens, possibly as young as 12 according to some scholars). Furthermore, although she is no more Jewish or Palestinian than I am, she at least looks more Middle Eastern than the vast majority of actresses to take the role, in sculpture, painting, or in film.

On top of this she has already produced one tremendous performance in a film that could easily have gone wrong with a different actress.

Matt

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Although she's now a little bit older (15), she is still young enough to challenge the traditional image of Mary as a woman in her mid 20s (it's a good deal more likely that she was in her teens, possibly as young as 12 according to some scholars). Furthermore, although she is no more Jewish or Palestinian than I am, she at least looks more Middle Eastern than the vast majority of actresses to take the role, in sculpture, painting, or in film.

I've never heard of a traditional image of Mary being in her mid 20s... not that it was ever talked about all that much (gotta keep that teen pregnancy rate down...).

I'm not as big of a fan of _Whale Rider_ as you are, although I thought her performance was exactly what that film required. But Keisha's best feature has always been her eyes--her expressive, pure eyes, that conveys a lot without her ever saying a word.

She's perfect for the role. But the jury's out if the screenplay and the direction are up to the inspired casting.

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Persona   

Gotta sign in, I am officially stoked for this one. Gotta throw in a little humor though: MARY, PREQUEL TO THE PASSION. :)

On second thought I really wish Hardwicke would've tackled Judges, I keep holding out for that one...

-s.

Edited by stef

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