The Nativity Story

The Nativity Story


Reviewed by: Chris

At 12.54pm today I got a call. My friend Eleanor had given birth to a baby girl on the kitchen floor. The birth was a day early. Eleanor's partner Lawrence had assisted, phone in hand to the emergency services, who gave step by step instructions.

I missed the call due to being in my cuckoo land of choice, a.k.a. the cinema. At almost exactly that time I was watching an unrealistic 'birth' in what could be a Star Trek episode on an unevolved planet, details like umbilical cords neatly censored out. Occasionally the cast in those early TV shows would visit some primitive civilisation and observe the wacky beliefs of locals. Except it wasn't Star Trek. It was The Nativity Story, a lukewarm tale set in the Middle East where a couple of women get pregnant and everyone is convinced no fornication has taken place. A story, accepted by millions of people as 'gospel', that has influenced history.

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The second baby is called Jesus. His mother and adoptive father have been hearing voices and seeing visions. Soothsayers are prophesying a saviour for an oppressed populace, and three astrologers give weight to the sentiments and pronounce Jesus a Saviour. The enjoyment of the film rests largely on having subscribed to the beliefs in advance. As a story on its own merits, it is a flop. The most exciting action is when a snake spooks Joseph's donkey during a river crossing and Mary falls off and gets wet. But for the faithful there is over a hundred minutes of soothing music (including Gregorian chants and heavenly choirs) and a story everyone knows off by heart already - no big surprises there.

Released to coincide with seasonal spending sprees, it will help to float modern day Herods' coffers. It is a sermon that will encourage the warm fuzzies of spending and a brief period of goodwill to anyone who is on message.

Filmed in Morocco and Italy, it opens with prophecy from Jeremiah: "And Israel will dwell securely." Not securely enough for the film crew perhaps? Or was Morocco just cheaper? True, 'speaking peace unto the heathens' goes on today, often backed up with military might (Or, as the Democrats might say, "When Clinton lied, nobody died.") However, the religious in the audience seemed to be in a happy daze afterwards (it took longer than usual to get to the exits). It is almost like a genre in itself, where fans will accept anything with a donkey. The Nativity Story has reasonable production values taken in that spirit and my only misgiving is the 'PG' certificate which will allow minors to be further brainwashed. Speaking of which, remember to put your mince pies out for Santa.

Reviewed on: 23 Nov 2006
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A simple retelling of the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.
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