Nativity Story, the - Not a Believer
| Biblical epics are hard to pull off. Religion has become so politicized in western society that we canít tell a biblical story without doing one of two things; making a passionate, charged adaptation filled with symbolism, meaning and sometimes divisive points of view, or making a bland, accessible simple film which doesnít rock the boat and ends up saying nothing.
Unfortunately, Catherine Hardwickeís The Nativity Story is the later.
This is the story of the birth of Jesus. Yes itís a familiar yarn but itís also full of dramatic potential. There is the an unmarried, pregnant teenager with no good excuse for her situation. There is her arranged future husband and his battle of faith over the situation. There is a politically and economically oppressed society dealing with inner social and religious turmoil. There is a king who kills every male child under 2 years of age. There is sex, violence and humour. It has it all. So how come Hardwicke canít milk it for all itís worth?
The Nativity Story feels like something made for television. Itís like a novel adaptation made to teach children. What it doesnít have is a point of view.
Gone are the days of the Ben-Hurs and The Ten Commandments. Today, if you dare mention anything God related you are branded a Republican and vilified by the left. Or you are branded a heretic and vilified by the right (yes, I am speaking to you, Scorsese). Itís too bad too because this is when we get the best religious epics. Ones with real power and feeling.
Speaking of a lack of feeling, itís hard to believe Oscar nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes can give such an underwhelming and stoic performance. My friend who saw the film with me was generous when he said she was going for a sense of serenity. It looked a whole lot more like boredom to me.
Then there are the films that drain all interpretation and view point to simply retell the blandest, most unshocking version of events. In her attempt to be everything to everyone, Hardwicke ends up offering very little. She hasnít made a bad film, just not a very moving or inspired one. While not a bad film for Christians to show to their kids to remind them why we celebrate Christmas in the first place, The Nativity Story doesnít offer much as a film itself.
As a Christian I wanted to be moved by the moment Christ was born. As a passionate fighter for social justice I wanted critiques of the role of women and minorities in this period of history in this part of the world. I got neither and I don't think this film will inspire much faith in anybody.