• 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


    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    Nativity News vol.7

    Over at Queen Spoo's blog for The Nativity Story, she has conducted an interview with Mychael Danna, the composer for the film. He has an impressive CV including Capote, Vanity Fair, Girl Interrupted, and a couple of Ang Lee films Ride With the Devil and Hulk - the soundtrack of which I loved.

    The main point that grabbed my interest was this:
    I did a lot of research on music of Judea and Palestine at the time. I learned a lot and then decided not to use any of it. The reason for that is I find that ever since Peter Gabriel’s work for “The Last Temptation of Christ” composers have all approached the same era and subject matter with the exact same things. We hear all the same instruments and the same vaguely Middle Eastern sound. The fact is, nobody really knows what the music of that time was...I’m kind of tired of that approach. I think it’s time for something fresh.

    The other thing is that I think this story has its big resonance not in the Middle East. It’s not really a story about the Jews. It’s really a story about Christians and about Europe and about the incredibly profound event. The meaning of this event really resonated through the entire civilization of the West. This event this meant so much and affected every moment in life in a civilization was in Medieval Europe, the Middle Ages and Renaissance Europe. So that’s where I’ve gone to for the inspiration for the music.

    I’m using early European instruments from the 12th-14th centuries. I’m using a lot of melodies from the early Christian church: plain chant, Gregorian chant. I’m also using some very early Christmas melodies, for instance “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” which is a very ancient melody. I’m using other tunes like “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” which goes back to the late Roman Empire when the empire became Christian from about the year 400. I’ve been using melodies from before 1600, or something like that.

    It’s a story of Europe and a story about the west and Western Civilization. That’s really been the inspiration.
    Over at FilmChat, Peter compares Danna's approach with that of Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo (1964), (and I can see his point). That is my favourite soundtrack for any Jesus film thus far.

    What I find interesting is that this is further confirmation that this film is focussing on the meaning of the story, rather than its history, and recreating things exactly as they happened. That said, I doubt that this would be how director Catherine Hardwicke sees it!

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