• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


    Friday, May 05, 2006

    Script Review for The Nativity

    I'm not sure who got it first, but both Jeffrey Overstreet and Peter T Chattaway have the news that IGN FilmForce has a review of the script for Catherine Hardwicke's film Nativity .

    It's worth reading FilmForce's article in full, so I'll not cut and paste lots of quotes from it here, but there were a couple of things I was pleased to read. Firstly,
    First, her father arranges for her betrothal to an older, shy carpenter named Joseph. In accordance with Hebrew law, Mary is now Joseph's wife in all ways except for that which leads to family (they must wait another year).
    The article also notes how Mary "hardly knows" Joseph at the point of their betrothal. It very interesting that the film is going to give a lot of the historical context that is usually missed out from movie versions of the nativity story. Mary and Joseph's was most likely an arranged marriage and it's good to see a film reflect that. Not only that but the ceremony, and the precise meaning of betrothal is noticeably different from how marriage takes place in today's western world. It will be interesting to see the reaction of the townspeople to Mary's pregnancy. Will they assume that Joseph is the father or someone else? It's also nice to see Joseph described as "a blue collar laborer" (although one assumes not literally - after all this is not Goddard's Hail Mary). However, I'm not sure whether this is screen writer Mike Rich's wording, or whether the phrase belongs to FilmForce's Stax.

    Secondly, we already knew that this film was going to depict a young Mary because Whale Rider's Keisha Castle-Hughes has been chosen to play Mary. FilmForce specifies that Mary is only "a fifteen-year-old" at the time of the story.

    On the downside it appears that we're still going to get the traditional three wise men, (who are named Melchior, Gaspar and Balthasar as well). I'd have really liked to see something different done with this part of the text. Still, Stax notes that their ""mission" is also followed throughout the story", so perhaps we will at least see them portrayed as magi-astrologers, rather than the more usual beard-stroking ponders of other Jesus films.

    Finally a word on casting. In addition to Castle-Hughes, it's been confirmed that Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog) and Shaun Toub (Crash) will play Mary's mother and father Anna and Joaquim. Jeffrey Overstreet also noted last month that "Ciaran Hinds will play King Herod and Oscar Isaac will play Joseph".

    All in all thought this project is still sounding exciting. FilmForce notes that the "details about life in Judea under his rule added an extra dimension to Nativity", and the few pieces of information I've read have, on the whole, made me excited about how this film will turn out.



    • At 4:10 pm, May 05, 2006, Blogger RC said…

      i too was bummed out to notice that there would still be 3 wise men...

      also i imagine the wise men will show up at the birth scene, although my understanding is that the event did not happen at the same time.

      Also, hadn't noticed on Looking Closer Journal that Ciaran Hinds would be playing Herod...very interesting...thanks for sharing and reminding.

      --RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

    • At 5:04 am, May 07, 2006, Blogger Peter T Chattaway said…

      FWIW, Jeff and I both heard about it simultaneously from a colleague of ours. And isn't Aghdashloo playing Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist/Forerunner)?

    • At 10:40 am, May 08, 2006, Blogger Matt Page said…


      Thanks for your comment. I'm not so sure that the wise men will show up at the birth scene - we will have to see.

      The thing is that we don't know how many wise men there were. In literature you can get away without saying how many there actually are. However, in film, you either have to decide whether to go along with the accepted, plausible, but ultimately unproveable, tradition of 3 men, or to decide to deliberately poke that tradition in the eye and go with a different number either specifically different (e.g 5 wise men) or unspecifically different (so many wise men you can't count them all). Either of those options are just as unscriptural, and no more historically plausible. It's simply conjecture, without such impressive credentials as there being 3 men. So whilst I'd quite like to see an eye-poking depiction, I can understand that a filmmaker would stick with the accepted view.

      On the issue of where they visit him, the popular view that they visited him in a stable runs contrary to the text which specifies a house, so I suspect they may still leave that in, because there is some firm evidence to go against the widely held view, and Mike Rich sounds like the kind of person that would favour the text over the popular view.

      That said we may also find that the birth itself doesn't take place in a stable, so much as the part of the house where the animals stayed as the BBC documentary "Son of God" suggested. That would be my preference.


    • At 10:40 am, May 08, 2006, Blogger Matt Page said…

      : isn't Aghdashloo playing Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist/Forerunner)?

      Oops, yes. thanks for pointing that out


    • At 3:04 pm, June 16, 2006, Blogger queen_spoo said…

      I am excited about this film also. I hope it proves to be a reverent and (relatively) accurate film like the recent films "Passion" and "Gospel of John" were. It is good to see Hollywood finally notice, to some extent, what people are wanting in movies.

      I am also following the movie at my blog.


    • At 7:25 pm, November 03, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I think it's very clear that Jesus was born in a stable and placed in a feeding trough. The stable was the only place with a vacancy. Scripture does state that he was in a house by the time the magi arrived.
      Since Bethlehem was only about 5 miles from Jerusalem, the magi could have easily visited Jesus that same night. We know that the family waited 40 days after the birth before going to Jerusalem and left for Galilee right after that, so the magi had to have visited within that first 40 days.

      As for the # of magi: I see nothing disturbing or difficult in saying that the 3 different gifts mentioned could come from 3 different people.

      It is great to see this story presented among the sea of Santa tales this year. Once again, God is using imperfect, mistake making people to make His word known.

    • At 1:49 am, November 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      I see that you say they waited 40 days and then went to Galilee, as that is straight out of Luke. However, the writers are also taking from Matthew which mentions the murder of the Holy Innocents (the children in Bethlehem). In Matthew it says that Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt for a period before going Galilee.

      As for three "wise men" or magi, I believe that the three gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) were typically from three different areas leading to the view that the magi were from those areas. Also, according to tradition there are three men named as the magi (Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthasar).

      As for a stable (and not a cave), I saw on like the History channel that actual houses/inns had stables in them in those times, but the living areas were on a raised area, and the animals below kept the house warm. They suggested that there was no room in the human quarters for Joseph and Mary so they stayed where the animals were.

      My only hope is that the film respects peoples beliefs, and while doing good in trying to show they were human as us, does not do such to the point of sacrilege.


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