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Film / The Nativity Story

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Courtesy of Catherine Hardwicke, and adapted principally from the books of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament, The Nativity Story is a fairly high-budget movie adaptation of a story particularly popular in churches during the Christmas season.

While most of this film does focus on the conception and birth of Jesus to Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes), to the surprise of her husband Joseph (Oscar Isaac) and parents Joachim (Shaun Toub) and Anna (Hiam Abbass), several subplots also get considerable screen time:

  • King Herod the Great (Ciarán Hinds) gets plenty of screen time to demonstrate both why he was "great" and why he's mostly remembered as a cruel and paranoid tyrant; his son Antipas (Alessandro Giuggioli) also spends considerable time with him in many of these scenes.
  • Mary's cousin Elizabeth (Shohreh Aghdashloo), though past her child-bearing years, is also having a baby. After all, as Gabriel explains to Mary, if God can do that for her, getting a virgin pregnant can't be too much more difficult, can it?
  • Meanwhile, somewhere to the east, the Three Wise Men (Stefan Kalipha, Nadim Sawalha and Eriq Ebouaney) have noticed some odd behavior in the stars telling them a child of some significance is soon to be born in Israel; naturally, they decide they'd like to see this for themselves.
  • We also get some background on the townspeople and the culture in which Mary lives, seeing how they're mostly tax serfs slaving away on Herod's plantation.

The film was released in 2006.

Provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Herod's son Antipas usually comes off as much nicer than his father, but when he recommends the Three Wise Men be arrested and interrogated, it's Herod who proposes inviting them to dinner for some friendly conversation instead.
  • Amicably Divorced: Joseph plans on quietly divorcing Mary after she is pregnant...until Gabriel convinces him otherwise. In the end, he will raise the kid as his own.
  • Anachronism Stew: Several scenes have historical inaccuracies, such as Roman soldiers having beards and their horses having stirrups.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Our loving couple and their new baby got away clean, but they aren't home free yet.
  • Archangel Gabriel: Doing what he does best.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Several characters quote Scripture, or have lines that are taken from the scriptural accounts of the story, sensibly enough considering the source material.
  • Away in a Manger: The Trope Maker receives its umpteenth adaptation in this film.
  • Babies Ever After: An interesting variation. The film's heartwarming resolution of course is the arrival of Mary and Joseph's baby, but without knowing who the baby grows up to be there wouldn't be much point to telling the story in the first place.
  • Backstab Backfire: Herod has his suspicions about Antipas' motives. So he reminds him about the last time his family members tried to betray him, and warns him that the same fate will befall him should he try to screw him over.
    Herod: I have had a wife betray me. I have had two sons do the same, before you. Where are they now?
    Antipas: No more.
    Herod: No more.
  • Bible Times: Takes place during Mary and Joseph's time.
  • Big Bad: The Roman soldiers commit several atrocities and the tiresome tax enrollment comes from the distant Emperor Augustus, but it's mostly King Herod the Great who's running the show on the villains' side of the story.
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Elizabeth's pregnancy comes as a shock since she's supposed to be too old to have a baby. Her husband is in denial and gets punished by God as a result until their son is born.
  • Chaos of the Bells: The song is played when Mary goes into labor in Bethlehem and she and Joseph frantically and desperately search for a safe place to deliver Christ.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: The Wise Men observe the stars in a reflecting pool inside a building with a hole in the roof. While it looks nifty, it has several major drawbacks: the image would be backwards, the slightest disturbance in the water would interfere with observations, and the visible area of the sky would be extremely limited. The only advantage it has over looking directly at the sky is that you'd be less likely to get a crick in your neck.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Joseph, believe it or not. As the couple makes their journey to Bethlehem they must face the angry and disapproving stares of their neighbors.
    Joseph: They're going to miss us.
  • Dramatic Irony: When Mary and Joseph are in Jerusalem, they pass within a few feet of Herod, who will later do his level best to have their baby killed. Naturally they don't spare each other a second glance.
  • Foregone Conclusion: "A gift of honor thy sacrifice."
  • Foreshadowing: Plenty.
    • A street prophet gets crucified.
    • Halfway through their journey, Joseph's feet get injured. Mary washes his feet while he sleeps.
    • Mary and Joseph encounter vendors at the temple in Jerusalem selling animals for offering. Joseph complains: "This is meant to be a holy place."
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Suggested with Gabriel. He effortlessly changes forms and it seems that he has no physical form to begin with as he mostly appears in visions and dreams.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: While mentioned in the opening, and alluded to be the reason for the high taxation and brutality of the land, Emperor Caesar Augustus never makes an appearance in the story.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: The Roman tax collectors are feared in Nazareth, for reasons that quickly become obvious.
  • Like Father, Like Son: While passing the temple in Jerusalem, Joseph complains about the merchants practicing commercialism in what is meant to be a holy place. This makes an obvious Call-Forward for those in the know that Jesus will share his opinion on the subject. (Also interesting in that Joseph isn't Jesus' biological dad...)
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Averted; although no one speaks up to complain, the whole town pretty quickly surmises Mary's situation.
  • Mystical Pregnancy: Both Mary and Elizabeth experience implausible pregnancies — Elizabeth being thought to be too old to have children, Mary being a virgin.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Herod: This movie reminds us once again why Herod is the Trope Namer.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Joseph's dream about the stoning of Mary.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Mary's reputation takes a hit after it becomes obvious that she is pregnant (after gladly taking on the role of the Mother of the Savior) and so does Joseph's after he goes through with the marriage rather than leave her to public shame or worse.
  • Noble Bird of Prey: The film uses a hawk to symbolize the Holy Spirit. Quite a step up from the usual dove.
  • Now I Know What to Name Him: Jesus and it also counts for Zechariah being told by God to name his son John.
  • Offing the Offspring: As mentioned above, Herod discusses with his son Antipas the fact that he had several of his other sons executed, just in case Antipas gets any ideas.
  • Oh, Crap!: Joseph panics after Mary tells him that her water just broke upon reaching Bethlehem.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Some examples on the soundtrack, although the music keeps with ecclesiastical tradition and uses some inspirational-sounding Latin chanting as well.
  • Our Angels Are Different: While not a huge departure from the Renaissance-inspired image (of happy and well-fed Italian guys with curly blond hair) most viewers would have of an angel, Gabriel's very Jewish appearance in this movie, while wholly justified, did look rather odd to some people.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: Ends with panning up to the sun and clouds on a bright day.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: The film portrays Joseph as already liking Mary before their arranged marriage was set, and Mary warms up to him after a bit.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • This not being a musical, some of the the poetry traditionally identified as "songs" in the book of Luke was understandably either trimmed down or trimmed out.
    • The Three Wise Men show up at the manger, despite most Bible scholars believing they more likely arrived some time later. Obviously, the more accurate version would have resulted in an anticlimax.
  • Romance Ensues: Mary and Joseph are in an arranged marriage and join forces against suspicious parents and neighbors, and take a long journey together to Bethlehem and beyond. The two become closer during the series of events and it's implied Mary may return Joseph's feelings.
  • Rule of Three: This movie goes with the very traditional (though not strictly Biblical) The Three Wise Men, who are stated to have brought three gifts.
  • Star of Bethlehem: As in the original, this sets up the quest of the Wise Men, and makes a big appearance in the climax.
  • The Three Wise Men: Naturally as it can’t be an adaptation of The Nativity without them.
  • Talking with Signs: Until the birth of John, Zechariah is forced to communicate by writing on a tablet.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Played straight with the reveal of Mary's pregnancy, despite the unusual circumstances. Mary's reputation with the townspeople takes a serious hit, as does Joseph's when he decides to go through with the marriage.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Herod. Or at least, he'd order his soldiers to hurt children.
  • Young Future Famous People: How about unborn future famous person?