By Tom Quiner
The audience broke into applause at the conclusion of “Mary of Nazareth.”
That doesn’t happen very often, but I was at a screening of the film that was packed with Catholics. It was a captive audience, so to speak. Nonetheless, Catholics venerate the Blessed Mother, and film directors face a daunting task when casting for this role. Will the actress live up to the expectations of Catholics who will make or break a film like this?
It seemed like the answer was ‘yes’ last Saturday at the Fleur Cinema at the end of the 2 1/2 hour epic. I talked with some friends, and they were positive, for the most part, with minor criticisms pointed out here and there. [Read my review here.]
My wife wasn’t able to make the screening. I discovered it was on Netflix and suggested we watch it last night so she could see what we were all buzzing about.
It didn’t take long before Karen muttered, “I hate this film”
Then she said, “Mary seems like she’s on Prozak. She talks with a church lady voice.”
Did we see the same film?
The answer is no, not really. I watched a “shortened” version, albeit still a whopping 153 minutes. The Netflix version is the full 200 minutes. Most of the extra 47 minutes are spent telling the back story on Mary Magdalene. My wife thought this distracted from the main story, which was Mary and her relationship with Jesus.
In the version I saw, Mary Magdalene didn’t appear until the Sermon on the Mount scene, a good halfway through the movie. The tighter version kept the focus on Mary, Mother of God. I personally liked the way Mary was portrayed by German actress, Alissa Jung. Others did, too, most notably Fr. Michael Gaitley, author of “30 Days to Morning Glory,” who spoke at the Christ our Life Conference in Des Moines in 2012:
“Mary of Nazareth the movie? Really? But who can play Mary? To my surprise and delight, the actress in this film is remarkably beautiful, believable, and lovable. She opens up a window for all of us to peer into the often elusive mystery of our Blessed Mother, Mary. This film touched my heart.”Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC [Author, 33 Days to Morning Glory]
Another fan of the movie was Steve Ray, who is heard frequently on Catholic Radio stations throughout the country:
“Mary of Nazareth helps us see Our Lord through the eyes of his Mother. This sensitive and delightful movie provides new insights into the daily life of Our Lady and her relationship with her Son. Her combination of joy and sorrow, faith and questions sheds light for us our on the path of faith following the example of Mary. Gripping story, authentic background, faithfully orthodox with beautiful cinematography.”
Steve Ray [Host/Producer, The Footprints of God]
My advice: see the shorter version if given the choice. My wife’s advice: skip it entirely and rent “Jesus of Nazareth” or the “Gospel of John.”