Review: Mary of Nazareth: The Life of Our Lady in Pictures
It’s a lovely coffee table book, but is it worth the investment for your library or for Christmas giving?
The photos are taken from the epic film Mary of Nazereth, and the text was written by the Vicar-Provincial for the Congregation of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, so you can’t go wrong — especially if your idea of what Mary looked like happens to resemble Jennifer Garner.
The star of Alias and Elektra didn’t play Mary in the film, but the German actress who did, Alissa Jung, looks a lot like her. Unlike the pouty Mary of the 2006 film The Nativity Story, this depiction of the Blessed Mother is lovely and serene. More than 60 photographs, many of them blown up over two-page spreads, tell the story of Mary’s life from childhood to the Resurrection of Christ (her death or dormition is not depicted).
The result is sometimes like shots of real life thousands of years ago and sometimes very much stills from a movie set, but always interesting, especially for anyone fascinated with historical movies or costumes of any era. The text by Fr. Donald Calloway is neither the typical, throw-away captions for a “photos from the film” book or behind-the-scenes information about the research, sets and costume design, and filming typical of a “making of” book, but consists of Biblical passages, quotes from saints, and Marian reflections.
“As the aqueduct of grace and the Mother of Divine Mercy, Mary always leads sinners to Jesus and his offer of salvation,” one caption reads. “She is the world’s first monstrance,” reads another… not your typical Christian book store fare.
Those who have not seen the film (I have not, and so can’t judge the performances) will still find the book enjoyable. Unlike a film, where the acting, pacing, and filming dictate all, a book of photos allows the reader to create and enter into his or her own imaginary movie that will always have just the right tone and atmosphere.
Crowd shots, shots of everyday life at the time, and shots from the crucifixion of Christ are particularly captivating. One shot of Mary as a child, running toward a delighted priest, struck me as particularly moving because it was so unlike a historical pageant and so like a real man smiling at a real child.
There’s nothing wrong with a pageant, of course. Pageants have helped bring the days of Christ closer to the imagination for hundreds of years and are a beloved part of Christian celebration. But the purpose of a pageant is to seem real, even if only for a moment. Think of this book as a pageant you can watch forever, or even as a sort of rosary. Either way, it twill bring you closer to the “New Eve and the Mother of all the Living” … whether or not, in your mind, she looks like Jennifer Garner.
Mary of Nazareth: The Life of Our Lady in Pictures is available from Ignatius Press as a hardcover book or as a combo purchase with a DVD of the film.
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