You know, I really don’t know how I missed this one. I guess I just don’t get out to the movies enough (or don’t pay close enough attention to what’s new and upcoming in the theatres). Apparently, in December of this year, New Line Cinema will be releasing The Nativity Story, a film chronicling, well, the story of the nativity. “The film follows the life of the Virgin Mary and Joseph over the two-year period immediately prior to the birth of Jesus, and several years afterward (including the visit of the Magi and the vengeful rage of King Herod).” According to the film’s Wikipedia entry, “New Line is taking great pains to create a film in the tradition of The Passion of the Christ which Christian families will be able to enjoy. Mike Rich, screenwriter of The Rookie, is writing the script, drawing heavily from the four gospels. A number of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish theologians have also been consulted. When Rich first told his pastor about the project he was undertaking, Rich said the pastor responded by saying “that’s a project!” and then immediately put him on the church’s prayer chain.”
I think it will be interesting to see a couple of things. First, will the movie portray Mary in a way that is distinctly Catholic or will she be presented simply as she is in the gospels — as a woman who was chosen for a distinct honor, but who was still a sinner? It seems they have largely stuck to what is presented in the gospels, judging by this part of the CT interview:
How have you tried to make Mary more human without losing reverence for Mary the icon? Was that a balancing act for you?
Rich: It was a balancing act, but there’s a key moment when she’s visiting Elizabeth. It’s a speculative moment, but I think it’s very consistent with the Gospels. She asks Elizabeth, “Why has He chosen me?” To me, the choice of Mary to bear the Son of God isn’t because she is someone remarkably special, it’s because she was representative of every man. She was every person. The mother of this child isn’t because she is of overt riches or royal blood, it’s because she is mankind. To me, that made it very easy to portray her as a very, very human individual.
Do you have any concerns about how Catholics might react to the portrayal? I assume you’ve consulted with Catholics along the way.
Rich: We have maintained close contact with several individuals within the Catholic church. We’re not trying to alienate those within the Catholic faith. But we understand that anytime you tackle subject matter such as this that you’re creating a canvas for discussion, if you will.
If the story and the interpretation that we put on screen can result in a dialogue between faiths, between those within their own faiths, that’s never a bad thing. Then the mission to put this story on screen will be well served.
I’m not sure exactly what he means by “she is mankind,” but at least it seems that they will present her largely as the Bible does.
A second point of interest is how Evangelical churches and church leaders will react to this. I suspect we will not see a great number of church leaders pleading with their members to see this film and certainly not spending tens of thousands of dollars to send others to see this film (a la The Passion of the Christ). Mike Rich says that he does not regard this film as overtly evangelistic: “Not particularly. It could plant a seed in that direction. We see Jesus for all of five minutes onscreen–and he’s not exactly delivering the Sermon on the Mount. But if after seeing this movie someone opens up the Gospel of Luke, then you never know.”
At any rate, it looks like an interesting movie and, judging by the trailer, which you can see here, at the film’s official site, it may just be worth watching.