• 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


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    Tuesday, December 18, 2007

    Reviews for The Liverpool Nativity

    I'm in the middle of moving house at the moment and so clean forgot to watch The Liverpool Nativity on BBC3 on Sunday. It's on iPlayer for a week so hopefully I'll be able to catch it at some point soon. Furthermore, as it snagged a fairly hefty 710,000 viewers (which is very high for a non-terrestrial programme) there is perhaps a very, very small chance it will show again over Christmas.

    Anyway, a quick Google Blog Search reveals plenty of different reviews for it, ranging from those who thought the very idea was an offence, to those who loved it's bold re-telling. Three comments stuck out in particular from my admittedly limited survey. Firstly, I found Kester Brewin's take on it particularly interesting:
    What is fantastic about these events is that they appear to tap into the rich Christian root in our heritage - a heritage that I think people are beginning to see is vital to our coherent future, rather than being consigned to our past. I think this could be interpreted as a move into clear post-Christian water, where people are happy to be part of events like this without it being tied to 'the church'.

    Christmas has always been about joining in the re-telling of stories, whatever distant orbit we have around belief in them. And this city-wide celebration of Liverpudlian music and theatre was just that - a risky, live, choral, sacred, communal event. It's in these moments that we are submerged into some wider consciousness... and realize why we live in cities - these urban exoskeletons that allow us new forms of movement quite impossible in smaller communities.
    Then there's Mark Goodacre at New Testament Gateway...
    The narrative thread was fairly straightforward, a fairly even and traditional harmonizing of Matthew and Luke translated into a contemporary setting, often in interesting ways, but often without the necessary time to get properly developed, so that it raced along. The story was stronger in the first third of the piece, where we see Mary in a cheap diner, meeting her boyfriend Joseph, an asylum seeker, and finding out that she is pregnant by the holy spirit at the same time that Joseph finds out that he needs to register as an asylum seeker. They get the ferry across the Mersey, and work out their problems with further communications from Gabriel. All this was the strongest, most compelling part of the story, not least because we were allowed some insight into what Mary and Joseph were thinking, the music well chosen, and the performances very good.
    I was also interested by this snippet from No Rock and Roll Fun:
    Trouble was - like the host city - the Liverpool Nativity got too fixated on the Beatles. The idea was to set the scene for the Capital of Culture year, and on this evidence, Merseysiders can expect twelve months of not thinking much further than 'what would John Lennon do now'? So the hackneyed end is a singalong to All You Need Is Love, rather than the slightly more fitting Power Of Love...
    However, perhaps not anticipating it's success, the major papers seem to have largely ignored it. Only The Guardian offers any kind of review, and that primarily because their correspondent was actually there. She seemed to enjoy the occasion, although seemingly only just. The papers' apparent lack of interest is probably not so much a reflection of the BBC's decision to tuck this away on BBC3, (and well over a week before Christmas) as the reality of how they deal with live TV. After all those "what I watched last night columns" are usually written well in advance thanks to screener discs and the like, which means that few live shows such as this get reviewed. Instead most of the papers' had a brief piece on it in advance (The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times and The Independent.



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