November 10, 2013


The newest film on the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Mary of Nazareth” (, is coming from a good place--directed by acclaimed European film director Giacomo Campiotti (BAKHITA, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO--2002, ST. GIUSEPPE MOSCATI) and written by Francesco Arlanch (RESTLESS HEART—ST. AUGUSTINE, PIUS XII, POPE JOHN PAUL II). It’s another attempt to depict what it may have been like for the Mother of God and those around her to believe and live the unimaginable. As biblical films go, this is not a departure. It looks and feels like so many other Bible movies, which are, in a sense, their own genre. On this count, it feels comfortable and familiar.

There are many inspiring elements in this film, as well as many distracting and detracting elements—almost a 50:50 ratio. For enthusiastic believers (“the choir”) who are not concerned with demanding dramatic standards or rigorous historical accuracy and just want to see Our Lady (and Jesus) walking and talking through Gospel events, “Mary of Nazareth” will fill the bill. For the rest of us, I’m afraid we won’t be able to fully get behind this work, and I’m especially concerned what savvy young people who are used to today’s smart secular acting/dialogue might think of it. Can religious films that are lacking in certain modern sensibilities actually turn people OFF on their subject IRL (in real life)? Are borderline laughable-when-supposed-to-be-solemn moments in these films opening up the sacred to mockery and ridicule? Or just opening up subpar filmmaking to mockery and ridicule?

My biggest objection in “Mary of Nazareth” is that Mary often appears—for a good chunk of the film—well,…simple-minded. Perhaps the thirtysomething actress is trying to appear wide-eyed and youthful, but it doesn’t work. Mary is constantly overgrinning and mincing about without ever seeming to have any tasks to do (she also has a favorite boulder that she rests on a lot). This portrayal of Mary is pretty much the opposite of the teenage actress in “The Nativity Story,” who is sullen and hardly ever smiles (until Jesus is born).
The sullen teenage Mary from "The Nativity Story"
Newborn Baby Jesus (finally sporting brownish skin!) is adorbs, and you have GOT to see how he worshipfully (no heretical pun intended) gapes at and gives Mary the gummiest little smiles. Joseph: “Just like any other little boy….” (Joseph has all the best lines.)

Joseph (as in “The Nativity Story” and “Joseph of Nazareth”) is pretty awesome. Maybe it’s just harder to get Joseph wrong or something.

The grown-up Jesus is not bad. Looks something like Jeffrey Hunter in “King of Kings.” Wears Carl Bloch red and blue colored garments. He’s not goopy, and he’s not the typical hang-ten, laid back, California surfer Jesus.

The 153-minute “Mary of Nazareth” is a tad on the slow side, but is consistently so, lending itself to a new contemplation of oft-pondered Gospel pericopes. Mary begins to be much more sober and somber at the Dedication/Purification in the Temple when Simeon prophesies that Jesus will become a problem for his nation and fellowmen, and that she will suffer along with Him. At this point, Mary and the whole story feel much more grounded. She almost becomes Our Lady of Sorrows from this point on (not in a morose way, but with the approaching Passion a constant undercurrent). There are even flash forwards to the Passion when she is with the boy Jesus (similar to Mary’s flashBACKS during the Passion in “The Passion of the Christ”). Great idea, but could have been better executed.

My absolute favorite part of the film is the recurring sense of Jesus Bridegroom and Mary (the Church) Bride. It is so obvious (after the death of Joseph) that only THEY truly understand each other, only THEY get this Big Divine Secret for now, and their love is so pure and so tangible. If I didn’t know Theology of the Body, I don’t think I would have appreciated this dimension, and I think I would be annoyed by the long, loving, comprehending looks Mary and Jesus engage in. But how else could they communicate/convey this supernatural reality? How else can actors do it? How else can lovers* do it?

There is some truly awful dialogue and some truly spectacular dialogue.
Awful: (Pregnant Mary on donkey to Joseph, halfway to Bethlehem) “Exactly which town are we going to, Joseph?”
Spectacular: (Jesus to a fretful Mary before His Passion) “Remember, whatever happens, it’s all out of love. It’s all love.”

There are also some cool scenes that throw things into a beautiful new light/interpretation:
--a snake approaches Mary under a tree before the Annunciation
--The Magnificat
--Mary and Joseph’s relationship
--Mary clambering up the hillside to the Cross

In my book, “The Passion of the Christ” is still the gold standard for any Mary, Jesus or biblical film, with “Peter and Paul” running a close second (this amazing three hour drama in which Paul is played by a young Anthony Hopkins with hair needs to be much more known and watched). “Jesus of Nazareth” and its follow-up “A.D.” (Acts of the Apostles) are also of unimpeachably high quality.

See “Mary of Nazareth”? Yes!


--There is another, earlier film with the title “Mary of Nazareth” (1995), and one called “Mary, Mother of Jesus” (1999) (produced by Eunice Kennedy Shriver with Christian Bale as Jesus!) Each with their own merits like this present film.

--Blessed James Alberione produced the FIRST color film ever done in Italy: “Mother of God” (1950), in neo-Realistic style. The government of Italy restored it in 2000 for its 50th anniversary!

--Mary’s simpleton qualities for the beginning part of the film make her very unrealistic. Perhaps she was an outwardly joyful person (who wouldn’t be, without original sin and filled with the Holy Spirit?), but she seems, instead, to be living on her own planet and incapable of gauging actual human nature and reactions around her.

--Much of the acting is stiff human interactions with people speaking in DECLARATIONS!, overblown melodrama and general mugging, but that is rather par for the course in Bible films.

---Some more great Joseph lines:
“This is too much for me, I’m just a man.”
“Do you think people will understand a family like ours?”
“The Baby will take care of us.”

--The Annunciation is pretty hideous. I’m still waiting for a good one, maybe modeled on some masterpiece artwork.

--Awful: Mary trying to explain her pregnancy to Joseph. Oy vey!

--Annoying: If Mary had nothing to do before her pregnancy, you should see her after. Her hand is just constantly holding her belly and the camera keeps zooming in on that.

--WOULD Joseph have proposed to Mary directly? WOULD Mary and Joseph have had a wedding celebration with her very pregnant? WOULD the townspeople just suddenly have “forgiven” her?

--“Mary of Nazareth” is way better than “The Nativity Story” in that we see Mary’s FAITH/relationship with God.

--Love the birth/stable scene, and especially the shepherds. The Magi are ALL wrong (they did not arrive right after the shepherds—that’s why Herod had all boys up to two years old murdered), and they were all Persian, not from different countries. Love that the animals, domestic AND wild, know that something big is going down this night (Isaiah 1:3).

--Following along the lines of traditional art/piety (as with the Magi and many other), Jesus drags His cross as a big, flat, smooth, already-assembled affair.
Olivia Hussey ("Jesus of Nazareth")

--Mary kind of looks like Olivia Hussey (dimples, eye teeth). 

--Mary quotes prophesies from Isaiah about HERSELF. Oy vey! Oy vey!

--Mary to Joseph: “Without you, Jesus wouldn’t be the man he is.” J

--Nice pauses, not all yakking.

--Mary asks God if she can suffer in Jesus’ place. J True mother!
Alissa Jung ("Mary of Nazareth")

--The Apostles even try to stop Jesus’ Passion by telling Mary: “He’ll listen to you like He did at Cana!”

--Mary Magdalene is a harlot. Sigh. And she starts off as one of Herod’s bimbos. But I like the actress.

--Love Mary’s last line in film.

--The end of the film has a beautiful dedication to all mothers and some words of Pope Benedict!
*By “lovers,” I am in no way suggesting even a hint of Oedipal-complex type love. The heavenly Bridegroom/Bride love is of a nature that we can’t fully grasp yet: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard…” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.

Revelation 22:17
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

Revelation 22:20
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. 


  1. For a second class movie, this one on Mary is pretty good. There are very few Movies around that tells us a good and true story on what happen to Mary the Mother of Our Lord.

  2. Michael12:29 PM

    Have you seen the BBC One miniseries "The Nativity"? It's well worth watching.

  3. Anonymous11:41 PM

    You forgot the reference in the movie to Pilate offering Jesus in exchange for Barrabas in honor of the "Easter celebration"!

  4. news4andhra is a largest Entertainment portal--Catch all the Tollywood action and latest Tollywood news, gossip, scandals, movie trailers and much more.
    Latest Movies News
    Telugu Short Films