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MOVIE REVIEW: Mary of Nazareth

Though we have previously heard about Mary’s life through Sacred Scripture with a primary emphasis on Christ’s life, the movie takes us through those familiar stories and puts a fresh and different perspective on her life. It takes her from Mother of God, someone whom we venerate, and places her in front of us in everyday, real situations that we often face ourselves. Even though the movie is about Mary’s perspective, it rightly maintains Christ as the intricately woven influence in her life. This movie will resonate for those with or without a Marian devotion, and even those who are curious to know who Mary was simply from a historical standpoint.

From the Mary of Nazareth website”This full-length feature film about the life of Our Lady, shot in English in High Definition, was filmed in Europe in very authentic locales with outstanding cinematography, a strong cast, and a majestic music score. Actress Alissa Jung gives a beautiful, compelling and inspired portrayal of Mary.”

Mary&AnnIn the beginning. We are introduced to Mary and her family, mother Ann and father Joachim. We immediately see how special she is and how God protects her even in the face of eminent danger. We feel the emotions that her parents must have felt as she was dedicated to the temple in service to the Lord. Throughout her life, there is constant element of childlike faith. Preserved by God Himself, we see Mary’s faith in action, always succumbing to His will before her own.

Compare and contrast. Through the movie, we see three women’s lives and the effects of their choices – Mary of Nazareth, Mary Magdalen, and Herodias, daughter of Herod. We see both Mary’s as friends in the beginning, but soon see the vast difference of journeys each takes. Our Lady, whose life is in complete service to God, and Magdalen, who seeks validation and self-worth through domination and lust. After a lifetime of debauchery, she shows up at Christ’s feet like a war-torn soldier with nothing left to give. She uses what little energy she has left to completely surrender to Him after He challenges those without sin to cast the first stone in the face of what is certain death. Herodias, on the other hand, remains a cold and vindictive person whose heart is hardened by the very mention of Jesus. Her reaction to Christ parallels the hardness of heart we see in the pharaoh of Moses’ time. We see Magdalen reclaim her femininity by wearing modest apparel – we see this change in her demeanor and appearance go from a haggard, chewed up and spit out by society look to someone who suddenly has the glow of Christ and embodies the forgiveness we all crave as sinners.

public shameShame and humiliation. Throughout Jesus’ life, we know that He accepted a life of worldly humiliation for the sake of paying our debt. We also know that He could have chosen not to feel the pain of the Cross, but freely chose to, out of love for us. Likewise, we see the shame and humiliation that Mary must have felt throughout her life. Although she always placed her trust and care in God’s loving hands, the reality of her situation was, indeed, difficult – carrying a child out of wedlock, enduring the stares, silent and not-so silent gossip whenever she was around, the embarrassment the families faced on their wedding day, even when it seems as though Jesus publicly repudiates Mary. Each stage of her life, we see how Mary responds to the humiliation with perfect and total trust in God’s plan.

ShepherdsHumor and humanity. This movie delivers when it comes to humor. When Mary arrives to visit her cousin Elizabeth, Zechariah opens the door, but fails to answer Mary’s greeting because of his own misgivings from months prior. We also see Joseph do what every father does when their child has come into the world – count toes! When the shepherds arrive to adore the Messiah, Mary is all too quick to hand over the Anointed One, but Joseph has a look of near panic on his face. It’s easy to imagine what he must have been feeling as the one chosen by God to be a protector of both Mary and Jesus!

Location, cast, and music. The full-length film was shot in English in HD quality in Europe. The location and cast both deliver and add to the authenticity of the story. The music score, written by Guy Farley, brings an element of beauty that builds upon the emotion from the scenery and acting.

Rating. PG – based on the official website question section – due to the scenes from Herod’s court and Magdalen’s overt sexuality, viewer discretion is advised.

No matter if you have a devotion to Mary or not, let us all adopt her fiat in response to God’s call for our lives. This is a movie that will bring you closer to understanding the bond between Mary and her Son, our Lord and Savior.

If you haven’t yet, please read my promotional piece on this movie.

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Movie review: “Vito Bonafacci: In Search of the Truth”

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Written by Mary Ann Kreitzer of Les Femmes- The Truth

The movie, Vito Bonafacci, tells the story of a wealthy businessman living the American dream. He owns a beautiful home, has a lovely wife, children (whom we never see) – in fact, Vito has it all from the world’s point of view. In the process of gaining the world, however, he has left God behind – twenty-five years behind we find out later. Vito sees himself as a good man, one who cares about his family and employees and doesn’t commit any of the “big” sins, so he’s deeply shocked and disturbed by a prophetic dream where, as he drives through the electronic gates of his estate, he suffers a heart attack and dies. His Italian mamma in an extended close up explains in Italian (with subtitles) why he is going to hell. When Vito wakes up in the morning, he is a frightened man “in search of the truth,” the subtitle of the movie. As his dream unfolds in the reality of daylight, Vito explores his life, including flashbacks to his youth, and comes face to face with the reality that “being good” according to the world’s view is insufficient to gain eternal life.

John Martoccia, the producer, screenwriter, and director addresses a timely issue. Many Catholics, and others who consider themselves “good people,” practice religion sporadically or not at all. He explores serious metaphysical questions. Who is God? What does He expect of us? What does it mean to be good? What will happen on the day of judgment? Is there a hell? Am I in danger of going there? The movie is basically a journey through Vito’s soul. We see him as a youngster who obviously was raised in a serious Catholic home. Somewhere along the journey he’s lost his way and the film explores his finding it again. The questions raised are real. In fact, the film brought to mind a conversation I had with my opthamologist a few years ago during an eye exam. A lapsed Catholic, he rarely attended Mass. Even on cruises where Mass was offered he didn’t go. As we spoke, he was slightly mocking toward my orthodoxy. In fact, he sounded like Vito who thinks he doesn’t need to practice his faith to be good. I could see my doctor shrugging off the concepts of sin and hell and adopting the attitude of Maria, Vito’s cook, who has a simplistic view of a nice God who never sends anyone to hell. At the time, I said the same thing to my doctor that Vito says to his atheist barber, “I’ll pray for you.”

The music and cinematography of the film are lovely: the gardens and the grounds of Vito’s lavish estate, the exterior and interior shots of Vito’s home and his beautiful childhood church all provide a perfect accompaniment to the action. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of that which I think is the major flaw of the film. The movie mostly tells rather than shows and is sometimes didactic in the telling. One of the most interesting scenes to me was at the breakfast table when Vito’s wife joins him. He begins to discuss the plans for their second “summer” home and she demurs, saying they really don’t need it. Vito loses his temper and we see a flash of the worldly, selfish man defending his right to enjoy “my” money. That scene gives us a glimpse of two of Vito’s sins — avarice and anger. He’s a hot-tempered, materialistic Italian. Later on, in flashback, we see Vito talking to his parish priest who’s sitting in a pine wood reading a book. Vito’s mother sends him to see the priest because the baseball coach threw him off the team for fighting. Vito gets a lecture which includes the priest reading from the back cover of his book, Preparation for Death by St. Alphonsus Liguori (the connection to Vito’s dream is obvious). The priest then sends him to the church where he gets another lecture on prayer and the rosary from a nun. Everything they say is absolutely on target, but it’s all tell and no show. The poor young actor playing Vito has almost nothing to do. I thought how much more powerful it would be to see the fight. Not only would it have made the young Vito more real (It’s hard to imagine this placid listener ever throwing a punch), it also would have linked beautifully to the later scene when the priest who hears Vito’s confession uses a boxing metaphor for fighting the devil.

One other visual metaphor in the film that I found particularly appealing clearly depicts the central question explored — are we meant to live for God or for money. Vito is feeding his tropical fish and we see the large colorful fish eating the smaller feeder fish. Will we choose to imitate Christ and be fishers of men, or will we strive to be “big fish” in the world feeding on smaller fish for our own personal benefit? The choice is ours, but, as Vito comes to realize, every choice has its price and the price of rejecting or ignoring God is the loss of eternal life.

I loved the performance of Paul Borghese with his Bronx accent who reminded me of Columbo without the trench coat. He does a beautiful job portraying Vito’s inner conflict which is the central action of the film. The supporting actors do a good job as well. I was especially taken by Vito’s priest, played by real-life Fr. Richard Dellos, who comes to Vito’s home and reaps the harvest of his conversion.

In closing, I think it’s accurate to describe Vito Bonafacci as a visual catechism and meditation on death and judgment. It challenges viewers to explore and live a serious Catholic life. Contemplating the reality of death has a way of focusing the mind and heart on what’s really important. In Vito’s case, his prophetic dream is the “blessing” from God that changes his life. Let’s hope that Vito’s story helps many realize how easy it is to slip into a materialism that kills our relationship with God. May it wake them up before a real heart attack robs them of the opportunity to convert. After all, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul in the process?” Or, as Paul Borghese said in an interview describing what the film has to offer, “I think if you watch the movie you stand a better chance of going to heaven.” Helping people get to heaven? – What a novel (and noble) idea for a film!

::This post was originally written by Mary Ann Kreitzer on her blog, “Les Femmes- The Truth”. ::

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Ink Slingers

The Privilege of a Preview: October Baby

 

I recently had the privilege of attending a pre-release screening of the movie October Baby, which will be in theaters on March 23rd. I left the theater shaking from head to toe. Emotional, riveting, provocative, moving, inspiring, forgiving were the words that ran through my mind.

October Baby is a movie about a young woman named Hannah, who discovers not only that she is adopted, but also a survivor of a failed abortion. She goes on a journey searching for her birth mother, to find answers and along the way discovers the healing power of forgiveness.

Every life is beautiful. Every life is valuable. All life.

Often the subject of abortion is brought up as it relates to the mother. Rarely do we think of the child. It is usually about how the pregnancy will ai???ruinai??? the life of the mother. The inconvenience the child will be, etc. This movie speaks from the perspective of the child, the unwilling participant of abortion. Unable to speak for themselves, they are the silent victims. I was moved in a very profound way. These stories are rare, but they EXIST. Those lucky enough to survive deserve their voice to be heard. And we should listen.

Without preaching, this serious subject is handled with compassion. It definitely makes one pause to think.

 

Check out these resources:

http://octoberbabymovie.net

http://www.octoberbabymovie.net/ministryresources

http://www.everylifeisbeautiful.com/

 

Ten percent of the profits of the movie will go to the Every Life is Beautiful Fund, which will distribute funds to frontline organizations helping women facing crisis pregnancies, life-affirming adoption agencies, and those caring for orphans.

 

I recommend attending, bring a friend, better yet ai??i?? get a group together to go. Youai??i??ll be glad you did.

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Categories
Allen Guest Posts Movies Reviews

The Way to Where?

Last summer when I heard about the new movie by Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen entitled, “The Way,” I was very excited about seeing it.  After all I have seen “The Fourth Wise Man” and Martin Sheen is Catholic and holds passionate Pro-life views .  Instead of providing an inspiring, uplifting movie that led the viewer towards a deeper relationship with God, it depicted broken people who, while traveling the Camino de Santiago, they journey towards self discovery and learn to accept and love who they are, character defects and all.

THE POWERFUL EFFECT OF MEDIA 

Media of all types is very powerful, the views of the writer or director come through in the story and are intended to convince us of something or help us to see an issue or lifestyle in a new light.  We are profoundly shaped by the media we consume, the more time we spend with it, the more it shapes our attitudes, values and life choices.  The effect is intensified the younger the viewer is.  Be careful little eyes what you see and hear, they are the portals into our souls.  I have written much more about the effect of media at my personal blog, please read this article if you need more convincing.

A REVIEW OF THE WAY 

Based on my conviction that media is a very powerful means of shaping our beliefs and attitudes, I have reviewed “The Way”.  The Way is set in a picturesque area of the world that many of its viewers are unfamiliar with.  The Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) begins in France at the edge of the Pyrenees Mountains and travels about 800 km to the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.  Most of the pilgrimage is through quaint Spanish towns with a healthy dose of character.  The journey is completely on foot and the accommodations along the way are rustic.  The Camino de Santiago is a traditional Catholic pilgrimage route and there are many Catholic pilgrims, artwork, and Churches along the way.  The Way features a Catholic priest pilgrim who carries with him more than a few rosaries to distribute to other pilgrims. The police officer whom the main character meets prior to his journey is a devout Catholic who attempts to share his religious experience of the way, which he has made three times (there and back).  The movie almost reaches its climax at the Cathedral of St. James where it appears the pilgrims attend mass, but the main scene in the Church is of the Botafumeiro, which is a famous thurible, that swings over the altar.  For the casual observer, you might think it is some kind of side show or tourist attraction that takes place within the Church.  The entire film was shot on location and thus there are many real life pilgrims who were caught on film with the actors.

QUESTIONABLE, BUT LIKABLE CHARACTERS

The main character, Tom, is a lapsed Catholic who is mourning the death of his son.  The Dutchman is experiencing difficulty in his marriage and struggles with his weight.  The lone Female was a battered wife, committed an abortion and is a chain smoker.  Lastly, we encounter an Irish writer who is very eccentric, has writer’s block and hasn’t set foot in a Church in quite a few years.  Each of these characters is likable, we see much of ourselves in them.  Only the Dutchman appears to have a true encounter with God at the end of the movie and appears to surrender to the divine physician for healing from his brokenness.  However, at the end of the tale, each character comes to accept him or herself as they are with no apparent resolve to amend their lives.

QUESTIONABLE CONTENT

This movie is rated PG-13 for a reason, this is not a kid friendly movie about a Catholic pilgrimage.  Drugs are a prominent and recurring theme throughout the whole movie.  The drug use is displayed in a humorous, “Breakfast Club” kind of way, no bad effects from drug use, only fun, fun and more fun.  The movie does have some profanity, I can’t recall the number of times nor the specific words, but it is fairly recurrent throughout the film voiced mainly by the hip young people.  It is portrayed as normal to use vulgar language as part of everyday speech.  Smoking is also featured positively and all the cool people are doing it.  One of the funniest scenes in the movie is when the Female traveler rises early and is taking in the beautiful scenery and a man wearing only a thong yells out a greeting to her while he is gathering his clothes from the drying line.

QUESTIONABLE MESSAGES

Director Emilio Estevez stated during the question and answer session at the screening I attended, that the main message of the movie is “I’m ok with being exactly who I am”.  We are all broken, true enough, and each character seems to receive some healing from this brokenness, but it was unclear where this healing came from.  In a sense, they accepted their brokenness instead of seeking out God to heal it.  The positive portrayal of vices, smoking, drug use, gluttony, is a real point of concern for me as a father.  Smoking, drugs and over indulgence are real problems in our society today, our Christian faith calls us to be free and to be masters of the flesh.  This movie presents an alternate message that to indulge is human and it can be fun and rewarding too!

The body of Tom’s son was cremated, and then distributed along the Camino and dumped into the ocean at the end of the movie.  Besides this going against Canon law (which Emilio and Martin made clear that they were aware of and didn’t care), it communicates a lack of respect for the human body.  The Church’s law concerning the proper treatment of mortal remains exists to protect the dignity of the human body.  The movie uses this recurring activity (disposing of the ashes) to symbolize Tom’s letting go of his son and it is effective, I fear that it may cause many more people to choose this method of saying farewell to a loved one.

IS THE WAY A CATHOLIC MOVIE? 

In this writer’s opinion, the answer is no.  Unfortunately, it is being promoted heavily in

Basílica de Santiago
Basílica de Santiago

Catholic circles.  The Way is a secular movie in a Catholic setting.  Unfortunately, one can come away from this movie viewing the Catholic Churchas scenery in everyday life.  In Europe this has already happened, the beautiful Catholic Churches are more museums than places of worship.  The message of Christianity is viewed as historical fiction, rather than the living good news of God communicated to his children.  According to director Emilio Estevez, The Way is a departure from the message given in popular Hollywood movies today (Emilio and his Dad funded the movie themselves and thus it is considered an Indie film), but I beg to differ.  Many movies contain too much violence, too much sex, and frequent positive portrayal of objectively immoral actions, the Way avoids most of this and instead preaches a gospel devoid of God. God is portrayed as unnecessary for happiness, the only thing that is required is to get away from the rat race and take a long walk, it is in this solitude that you will find yourself and then you will truly be happy.

Have you seen The Way?  If so, please share your thoughts on the movie and if you agree or disagree with my observations.