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A Film Review . . . An Amazing Journey Through Mary’s Life

November 9, 2013 Featured Today No Comments

By REY FLORES

The story of Our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven, Queen of the Universe is always welcome among Catholics. We all have a love affair with Our Heavenly Mother and if some don’t, well, perhaps there’s something wrong with them.
In Ignatius Press’ new film Mary of Nazareth, we are once again transported back to the Holy Land, back when the Word became Flesh.
The movie opens with a suspenseful scene where children are being stolen from their families to be sold into slavery; meanwhile, Mary’s parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim, successfully shield their child from capture. Mary’s escape sets the tone for the amazing journey she and we are about to enter in this film.
Perfectly cast as the always unassuming and humble Virgin Mary, actress Alissa Jung immediately welcomes the viewer and endears herself in the role of the adolescent and then adult Mary.
While the film clocks in at well over two hours, the story proceeds at a rather efficient pace, which brings us to Joseph entering the picture and everything that follows after Mary’s and Joseph’s first meeting.
Of course, the Annunciation takes place, followed by the Visitation to Elizabeth where it leads to a very touching series of scenes in which we see  Zacharias without a voice, eventually gaining it back after the birth of his son to repeat Elizabeth’s words: “His name will be John.”
One of the greatest challenges any filmmaker faces when portraying Mary is that one cannot tell her story without inevitably having to also tell the stories of both Joseph and especially of Jesus. While they each have their own stories, histories, and intricacies about their whole being, the Holy Family is inextricably joined forever in our hearts and minds.
As the film proceeds, we witness Mary and Joseph seeking shelter as Mary is about to deliver baby Jesus. This leads them to a cave-like stable, which is probably more historically accurate than the idyllic stables that adorn many of our homes during Christmastime.
One of the most touching scenes that brought me to tears was when the shepherds came seeking our Lord Jesus. Each shepherd gently passed the baby from one to the other with the utmost joy and tenderness.
After viewing the Presentation and prophecies of holy Simeon, we are then subjected to a violent sequence of the slaughter of the innocents when Herod wanted to do away with the firstborn sons in an attempt to kill the new Messiah.
While no extreme graphic violence is shown in this scene, there are soldiers depicted tearing babes from their anguished mother’s arms and simulated stabbings at blanketed bundles presumed to be the babies. This may be a part of the movie where children might be frightened, especially because there is also much crying, screaming, and utter chaos.
After the flight to Egypt and a poignant scene where Mary is playing in the water with the Child Jesus one minute, and losing Him in that same water the next, everything changes dramatically in the film.
This is when a movie about Mary quickly turns into a movie about Jesus and Mary. As I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to tell the story of one without telling the story of the other. When Catholic homes have a portrait of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, you can be assured that a portrait of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is hanging right next to it.
While this movie does a great job at portraying Jesus’ birth without all of the labor pains and screaming, it also portrays Jesus’ absence when Joseph dies, but with mixed results. There is no definitive historical account of whether Jesus was present or not at Joseph’s deathbed with Mary, but this version has Jesus at one point being criticized by a relative for not having been at his father’s side when he died.
The remainder of the film deals with Jesus’ persecution, the scourging, the carrying of the cross, and ultimately His crucifixion, with the inevitable presence of the Sorrowful Mother at His side. After the Resurrection, the viewer hopes that the film will carry on to the Pentecost and dare go as far as to attempt to portray the Assumption of the Blessed Mother, but that is not to be.
Altogether, this was an enjoyable movie, which wraps up the majority of the mysteries of the rosary in one film. While the cinematography was good, it could have been somewhat better, especially around the special effects used for the Annunciation scene with the Angel Gabriel.
After Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ set the bar as high as it did in putting Jesus on film, most filmmakers will have a very challenging time in topping that standard.
Visit www.maryfilm.com for more information on its release and to learn how you can host a screening it at your school or parish.

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(Rey Flores can be contacted at reyfloresusa@gmail.com.)

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