‘The Nativity Story’ (Film)

‘THE NATIVITY STORY’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

The Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told

My parents and I have watched this film ever since 2006!

The nativity has been with us ever since the first Christmas. Over the years, it has been told to us in various forms. Many read it in the Bible; many see it performed in plays by kids and adults alike; it’s also been told in various film and TV adaptations. Some I’ve seen in cartoon and live-action form.

My first experience of the nativity told in live-action form was in the TV series, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ with Robert Powell. For a while, that version of the nativity was the authentic dramatised version for me and my parents. This was until we saw the 2006 film at the cinema known as ‘The Nativity Story’.

This version of the great Christmas story ever told was directed by Catherine Hardwick and was released by New Line Cinema. For me, ‘The Nativity Story’ 2006 film is the most authentic version of the first Christmas. I enjoyed watching this at the cinema in December 2006 and I still do to this day.

My parents and I usually watch ‘The Nativity Story’ on Christmas Eve ever since we got the DVD in 2007. What makes this version of the nativity special is how it looks into the journeys of Mary and Joseph as they eventually go to Bethlehem where the special birth of Jesus, son of God, takes place.

It’s very easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas through the nativity, even those who aren’t aware of it. I’ve been brought up with the nativity all my life and became a Christian believing in it. This film should definitely be seen at Christmas time to know what the birth of Jesus means to us all.

Having watching ‘The Nativity Story’ film a number of times over the years, I’ve been able to appreciate the first Christmas more and delve into how it affected those in Biblical times. I’ve also identified cast members that I’ve seen in various other TV and film productions, which I’ll elaborate.

For those unfamiliar with ‘The Nativity Story’, it occurs during the time when Israel was under the Roman occupation in the BC period before AD takes place. Many were persecuted by the Romans and King Herod’s rule. This was especially on the Jews who kept and maintained their beliefs in God.

But in the midst of that turmoil, a young girl named Mary from Nazareth is chosen to be the mother of the son of God. She is visited by the angel Gabriel and told of this news and that she is named God’s son, Jesus. Mary allows for this to be done and she goes on a great journey that tests her faith.

At the same time, King Herod is determined to see his rule prevail and for the prophecy of the Messiah to never happen. The Messiah is claimed to be the saviour of the Jewish people who will raise them out of the Roman tyranny. Herod goes to great lengths to see that prophecy is unfulfilled.

From what I understand, ‘The Nativity Story’ is taken from the gospels of Matthew and Luke in the Bible. The nativity isn’t told in the other two gospels of Mark and John. There is creative license used in dramatising ‘The Nativity Story’ for film, but it remains truthful in what’s been told in the gospels.

Keisha Castle-Hughes stars as Mary in the film. I’m not familiar with Keisha’s work as an actress, but she has starred in ‘Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith’ for a small role as the Queen of Naboo. She’s a New Zealand actress and was 16 years old at the time she’d played Mary in this film.

The depiction of Mary in the film is interesting. From what I understand, she’s 12 years old at the time she was betrothed to marry Joseph and when she was pregnant with Jesus. I’m not sure how historically accurate that is, but it’s clear that Mary was very young at the time the nativity occurred.

And yes, Mary goes through an arranged marriage to Joseph much against her will. I like how it’s explored in the film, as it isn’t done over-the-top and she admits she’s not in love with Joseph early on. But gradually, she comes to love him especially after Joseph believes Mary bears the Son of God.

Oscar Issac stars as Joseph in the film. This was the first time I saw Oscar Issac, as I would later see him star in ‘Robin Hood’ with Russell Crowe at the cinema. He’s also well-known nowadays for playing Poe Dameron in the ‘Star Wars’ sequels trilogy. Oh and he starred in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’. 😀

I like the depiction of Joseph in the film. Joseph comes across as a good man who wants to make Mary happy when wanting to marry her and raise a family with her. He becomes shocked when he discovers Mary is pregnant with child. He seems to take it well when he decides to not accuse her openly.

Eventually, Joseph has a dream of the Angel Gabriel telling him not to be afraid and that Mary has the Son of God in her. He soon believes it and takes Mary as his wife again. This is especially when a census takes place and Joseph has to return to his birth-place, Bethlehem, and takes Mary with him.

Ciarán Hinds stars as King Herod in the film. I’ve seen Ciarán Hinds before as he played Captain Wentworth in the 1995 TV movie of ‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen. He would later star in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2’ as well as in the superhero movie ‘Justice League’ as Steppenwolf.

I really like Herod’s depiction in the film. It’s not over-the-top and it’s clearly a rich, deeper, menacing interpretation of Herod by Ciarán Hinds. You can see through his performance how calculating he can be and he doesn’t go into tantrums like I’ve seen in other versions of King Herod.

The scene Herod has with his son where he tells him about his determination to wipe out opposition to his rule is mesmerising. I also like it when Herod invites the Wise Men to dinner and he asks them about what they’re seeking with the Messiah, surprised it’s a child and asking them to return to him.

The film also stars Hiam Abbass as Anna and Shaun Toub as Joachim, Mary’s parents. I did look these names up online. Apparently these names seem to originate from the apocryphal Gospel of James. Joachim is the name for Mary’s father as is Anna for Mary’s mother, though she’s called Saint Anne.

There’s Shohreh Aghdashloo as Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, who also has a child and gives birth to her son John, who will eventually become John the Baptist. There’s also Stanley Townsend as Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband who becomes struck dumb after disbelieving the news of her wife having a son.

There’s also Alexander Siddig as the angel Gabriel in the film. Alexander Siddig. Hmm. I wonder where I’ve heard that name. Oh yes! He played Dr. Bashir in ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’, didn’t he? He also starred in the ‘Doctor Who’ audio drama ‘1001 Nights’ with Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton.

There’s also Alessandro Giuggioli as Antipas, King Herod’s son. It was intriguing to see how Antipas interacted with his father and shared in defying the Messiah prophecy. As I’ve been able to gather, Antipas would be involved with the execution of John the Baptist when he became the king himself.

The film also features the three Wise Men themselves, or Magi as they’re better known. They are Nadim Sawalha as Melchior; Eriq Ebouaney as Balthasar and Stefan Kalipha as Gaspar. I’ve also heard Nadim Sawalha in the ‘Doctor Who’ audio, ‘1001 Nights’ with Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton.

I like how the three Wise Men’s journey in this movie parallels to the journey Mary and Joseph take, since they start off from Persia and follow the Star of Bethlehem. I like the banter between these three as well as them giving gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus at the film’s end.

And I mustn’t forget the shepherds in the nativity that get visited by the Angel Gabriel and are told of the great news of Jesus’ birth in the Bethlehem. This includes Ted Rusoff as the Old Shepherd who Mary and Joseph meet. There’s also the innkeeper who allows Mary and Joseph to stay in the stable.

I have to admit the nativity scene itself does feel shorter compared to the actual journey sections of the film. But that didn’t spoil it for me, as the actual birth of Jesus was emotionally moving and had me in tears. Even when the shepherds and the Wise Men come to visit baby Jesus was very moving.

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s a teaser trailer and a theatrical trailer for the movie. It’s a shame that there aren’t any behind-the-scenes making-of documentaries for the film. I would like to see and discover what the process of making this movie was like. But then again, it’s best not to.

‘The Nativity Story’ 2006 film is an epic and wonderful telling of the first Christmas. It feels authentic and I always look forward to seeing this film to remind me of the special birth of Jesus and what he means for us at Christmas time. I highly recommend this film and discover what the nativity is about.

‘The Nativity Story’ rating – 9/10


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