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This is no low budget made for TV, direct to DVD, or "preaching to the
choir" type film. Quite the contrary. Like Mel Gibson's The Passion,
The Nativity Story delivers the quality acting, cinematography, musical
score, special effects, direction, sound, production, etc. we've grown
accustomed to receiving from the most skillful members of the Motion
I was particularly appreciative of the way phrases in the Bible which can often be overlooked like, "Joseph...not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly." came to life on film. We see just how they would have very likely played out in the very personal lives and communities this all took place in. I found the scene riveting when Joseph labors to come up with that initial plan to send her away, and then announces it to Mary and her parents who are there with him. Also, the courage and faith needed by Joseph and Mary to believe God took on a whole new understanding when seeing how the culture they likely lived in brought intense pressures which would have very well been cause to shrink away in fear in the face of had not they obeyed the angel's charges to "do not be afraid."
A real strength of the film, I believe, was in how scenes that were straight from the Bible either used the words of the Bible practically verbatim, or at least there was just unspoken acting out the heart of the scene, with little to no unnecessary additions to the Biblical account. This, I believe, let's the Bible speak for itself for the most part and for that I send a big thank you to Mike Rich as the screenplay writer in getting to the heart of the personal lives of those involved in Jesus' conception and birth while seeking to be true to the text's original meaning. And to Catherine Hardwicke and all others involved in getting the Biblical account onto this media with all their professional skills, I say thanks as well. I'd love to see many more "Accounts" (the connotation of the word "Story" weakens the impact in my mind...but that's just me) from the Bible put to film by this great team assembled to produce The Nativity (Story).
While in Hawaii recently, I had a chance to preview The Nativity Story,
in its complete form, which, surprisingly, turned out to be quite a
good film. I guess as a Christian, I am going to be seen as biased. And
that's fair, however as a filmmaker as well, I will say that the
majority of Christian or Christian based films I have seen are quite
simply lower grade movies. That's why, this one in particular was very
The story itself of course I was familiar with having grown up hearing it every Christmas time. And, surprisingly, I think it translates very well onto the screen. I was surprised at the humour they were able to bring out (mainly with the Three Kings storyline) and I was actually quite impressed with the movie in general. It was nice to see actors of the correct age and race. Jesus was not white, despite what some may say.
The movie was not perfect, few are. It was obviously PG friendly as there were a few things that were toned down (I guess babies in that day didn't have umbilical cords), but do we really need to see that? No, not really. All in all it was a very enjoyable film that hopefully makes its way as a holiday classic for years to come.
The movie was in a rough-cut stage, so I can not wait to see the finishing touches! I really had no idea what to expect and even though the movie was in a rough-cut... I was well pleased with what I saw. I do know that when I walk out of the theatre I felt as if I had been on a journey back to Biblical days. The characters were so real, a wonderful job done by each actor! Oscar Isaac played a great Joseph. Oscar's heart can be seen in the character of Joseph, it is what makes Joseph so real! Keisha Castle-Hughes plays Mary and although I do not have but a daughter-in-law, I could feel the emotions of Mary's parents, as if it where my own daughter! I walked away having been a part of Joseph and Mary's family... I was a Shepherd in the field on that Holy Night... I traveled with the wise men and enjoyed their humor! The Story, of the birth of Jesus, has lived in my heart for many years and now... for years to come... the story will live in my mind! Stephen Modawell - Arlington, Texas
As a Catholic/Christian publisher I did not expect the integrity that
the movie The Nativity Story presents. The story is produced with good
taste and careful thought. At times the Scripture may be bent but it is
never broken. The bends are simply to aid in the visual telling of the
story and are not offensive.
I found it to be very good family viewing with minimal violence and the scenes were not graphic in nature. The lesson in family love alone is worth the price of a ticket. The bonus is the lesson in faith and trust in God. I would encourage you to take children of all ages.
The theology should be acceptable to all Christians. However, I did talk to one priest that had a problem with the childbirth scene. He subscribes to the theology that Mary's childbirth was not painful. I understand his theology but I disagree with it on the grounds of Jesus and Mary's humanity. Also the arrival of the Wise Men at the time of the birth though not correct does not hurt the story. Still I feel that these small problems would be a poor and unjust reason not to see, or tell others not to see this movie.
Of all the versions of this story that have been done I found it to be the most inspiring and visually the most tastefully done. At last we have a great family movie that puts Christ back into Christmas.
Executive Director Contemplation Corner Press
When it comes to biblical movies, I always look for accurate biblical
and theological rendering first and foremost. But accuracy is not
necessarily enjoyable. You can easily tell if a movie is low-budget or
not. You can easily tell if the acting is superficial or not.
This movie is different. It combines biblical accuracy with excellent acting. Each character was portrayed very correctly. I have studied the biblical characters immensely; and from what we have in the synoptic gospels, the actors brought to live those beloved characters of the bible.
This is a Christian movie filled with biblical themes and messages. If you are looking for different interpretation than the biblical one, you might not like it. But if you are looking for good acting or accurate biblical rendering, you will not be disappointed.
Treat yourself this Christmas to one of the most beautiful movies.
As I write this I am aware that the vote is averaging 6.3. If you could
see my voting record you would know that I do not give a high vote
easily. So why do I see this so differently than many of you. Is it
because I am a devout Christian? I did not give the PAssion of the
Christ a very high rating. So i feel that I can be even handed in
seeing this as what it is.
1. I think that Ciaran Hinds played Herod as well as I have ever seen. The paranoia, and menace came through so well.
2. I think Elliot Davis' cinematography was beautiful. It made me feel that I was in a renaissance painting.
3. I was moved emotionally - which is not true of the Passion of the Christ movie.
4. The parts of the movie that were based on the Biblw were accurate - although I wished they had shown a choir of the heavenly host.
5. The parts of the movie that were based on conjecture or Catholic traditions were well thought out. I enjoyed the use of the Wise Men as comic relief.
I believe this movie so far is highly underrated.
I liked this film. If you like traditional biblical films faithful to
the Bible, this movie is for you. My opinion is that Jesus should be
portrayed with respect and truthfulness (which wasn't the case with
Last Temptation of Christ in 1988). In this movie he was portrayed as
just as he should be.
Very minor spoiler ahead The film also contained many episodes not mentioned in the Bible, but these episodes most certainly occurred with the principals in the story (for instance Mary being afraid to marry a man she didn't know etc.). In this way, the film gives depth to this so familiar story. Catherine Hardwicke has done a great job.
Although the Nativity seems like it happened a long time ago, 2000
years is only one sixth of recorded history, and one fiftieth of the
time that homo sapiens has existed. The physical features of Palestine,
Isreal, and Egypt are for all intents and purpose identical to what
they are now. The people, while shorter and thinner, are
indistinguishable from ourselves. Although there is certainly
differences of opinion as to all religious elements of Christianity as
it relates to Christ, Mary, and Joseph, it is somewhat well established
that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did exist, as did King Herod, the
astrological phenomenon of the Star, the census, etc. In that light,
"The Nativity Story" is a reverend and authentic attempt to
successfully convey the words, actions, and general physical and
political environment of that time. It is also an attempt to convey the
physical hardships of the time, the economy of thought and word, the
limited aspirations of people 2000 years ago, and the simple faith that
has a good deal to do with the success of Western culture to this day.
The acting is totally appropriate, while many have commented that
Keisha Castle Hughes is emotionless, and Joseph simple of thought and
action, it reflects the attitude of a world where 50% of children died,
and an above average life was to be married at 14 and dead at 40. The
supporting actors are totally believable, even the wise men who offer
limited comic relief are appropriately reverend and humble. The scenery
and cinematography are magnificent. All in all a must see for everyone
old enough to understand the story- probably 8 and up.
With the materialistic, sarcastic garbage out there about Christmas light wars, drunken Santas, etc this is an ideal way for a whole family to spend a night at Christmas and reflect afterwords as to what they saw.
If you believe that Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus and everyone else in
the actual events were white, Anglo-Saxon Europeans living in Central
Park in New York or in California, you will be disappointed with this
movie. If you want to see how people really appeared, lived and
responded to the actual culture in Israel at the time of the birth of
Christ, this is a work of art.
"The Nativity" is an excellent depiction of the actual events as we know them from the Bible. While it has very minor "flaws", these are buried under the number of things that make this film accurate and authentic.
Mary does not wear her piety on her sleeve and get hysterical and dramatic at every turn in the story. Instead she is accurately portrayed and played as a simple peasant girl in a very traditional culture with strict rules of behavior. She responds hesitantly but with faith to the events that focus on her.
Joseph is equally realistic as a young peasant just beginning life, and any man who has ever faced marriage for the first time will appreciate the dilemmas facing Joseph and his reactions to them.
Herod is an historically-accurate and ruthless jerk, but the movie does not overdo his part. The balance is just right; he's on camera enough to convey his wickedness and his part in the plot, but not enough to distract from the message.
The wise men are great! Instead of being simple plastic figures in a nativity scene on your mantle, they really come to life, add a lot of context to the movie, and provide a lot of information about how and why things happened as they did. The timing of the wise men's arrival may be off - but no one is 100% certain when they did arrive so this is not a big deal.
When the shepherds are visited by an angel to announce the birth of Christ, the angel is not followed visibly by "a heavenly host praising God" - but you can hear them.
I could go on and on and on, but the point is that this is an excellent depiction of events that occurred in Israel 2,000 years ago. If you want to learn about and marvel at what life was really like at that time, see the movie. It will bolster your faith. If you want to see Adam Sandler playing a Jewish Santa Claus to celebrate Christimas, this is probably not the movie for you.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Nativity Story: Don't miss it - its strengths far outweigh its
weaknesses. Here's my 17 year-old daughter's review hot from a 23rd
November 2006 London preview, so this is a typical teenage take on the
new release. "The film has a realistic spin", she told me shortly after
exiting the theatre, "but toward the end it got so overdone; like the
old Christmas films with a star shining through a hole in the roof of
the stable scenario. The wise men appear right there in the stable, on
the same night Jesus was born, and lo and behold, there were three of
them!" (Contrary to popular myth, the Bible never does mention the
number of wise men.) "The film was well paced at the beginning," she
agreed, "but toward the end, it seemed rushed, like they had to finish
off the 100 minutes of screen time." This may reflect the tight
production schedule how many movies make it from a blank piece of
paper to world-wide theatrical release in 12 months? An amazing
accomplishment by any standard.
Asked about the humour angle, my daughter thinks that it "..could have done with a little humour; yes, the wise men did add some comedy flavour, but it wasn't that funny". Also, she didn't like the name, the title reminding her of "...every single nativity film you're ever likely to see." For me, however, the title is simple and straight-forward - just like the movie, which she rates at around 7/10. The IMDb rating linked to this piece reflects my own unashamedly generous rating (especially in light of the clear anti-Christian bias evident in some reviews of this production).
Interesting that I had to remind my daughter who Keisha Castle-Hughes is, (both these beautiful young women are around the same age as it happens), but she made the connection in the end, and thinks Keisha turned in a quite tidy, understated performance. For me, although the film does show evidence of being rushed through production, (especially the final act), I do take my hat off to Mike Rich, for turning out that screenplay in one month, start to finish, and to Catherine Hardwicke for actually getting this to the screen for Christmas 2006.
Regardless of how she rates the finished screen-time, at least my daughter got to see "The Nativity Story" several days earlier than Pope Benedict XVI and a theatre full of cardinals for its Vatican world premier. (Note: the pope was in Turkey at the time, so didn't actually see it at all!) My take on the film is that it brings us back to the time when one could openly be thankful for that quite amazing birth so long ago, and not have to make apologies to be politically correct. Whether one believes or not, certainly a history-changing event. I do hope that this rendition on the big screen does well at the box-office. It deserves to, because despite the title, and while it stays rooted to the ancient religious drama genre, it simply isn't like any other nativity film you're ever likely to see!
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