Mary of Nazareth

mary-of-nazarethMovies often find their way under the Christmas tree at my family’s home. My wife has been looking forward to viewing the Ignatius Press film Mary of Nazareth.

The filming, acting, and music are well above average for a film a bit above ordinary tv viewing and not quite a major release for movieplexes. Alissa Jung carries the title role well through more than two hours of screen time. She doesn’t age much, but I didn’t find that to be a problem.

The writer made some creative choices drawing from all four Gospels, sometimes switching up the narrative as the Gospels present it. The inclusion of Mary Magdalene was an interesting choice that helps to illustrate the return of the younger son, but otherwise seems to pad the narrative. Looking at the life and ministry of Jesus through Mary’s eyes is a creative and competent presentation, especially considering how often this story has gone to film. Big plusses for me were the handling of Joseph (who might have talked a bit more than I’m used to) and how Mary viewed the prediction of the Passion. Mary’s early life was quite well presented, too.

Less successful was the quasi-magical physical connection that gives viewers Mary feeling physical pain at the Lord’s Passion. Ms Jung is a good enough actor to present the emotional pain, not some literal sword of Luke 2:35. And too much of the supporting players in the public ministry. And opponents in the court. Joseph’s death is planted early in the Lord’s public ministry, but at least there was no remonstration that he could have been saved.

The dvd release runs 153 minutes, but I’ve read the original director’s cut was well over three hours. I agree there’s a natural urge to elaborate or meditate on a story like this. My wife tells me that pieces of the film are presented as a meditation for praying the rosary. I guess that’s where I can find the fifth joyful mystery, aside from the post-Passion flashback. The dvd is a bit short on the post-Resurrection life of Mary: no glorious mysteries past the first.

A stronger but minor criticism is with how the dvd is promoted. How would you interpret this quote from the back cover?

Mary of Nazareth is the woman of a full and total “Here I am” to the Divine Will. In her “yes,” even when faced with the sorrow of the loss of her Son, we find complete and profound beatitude. –Pope Benedict XVI

I’m sure the pope emeritus actually said this about Mary the person, not the film. A few things about how the piece is promoted on the Ignatius Press site rubbed the wrong way, too. The story presents itself, no extreme selling is really needed.

For me the worst part of the movie was how it presented appearances of angels.

Still, I recommend this film. It’s good family viewing. Except for the scenes of Passion violence and the slaughtering of the innocents, good for any age.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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