Getting to know Mary of Nazareth as mother

  • March 15, 2014

Catholics know the Virgin Mary well as mother, but not as daughter, woman or wife. The film Mary of Nazareth extrapolates from what is known of the Immaculate Conception to explore the life of a Jewish girl famous for saying yes to God.

The film begins with a fictional account of Mary’s early years: Queen Herodias (Antonia Liskova) sends a search party of guards and dogs to look for a female child that they fail to find. For safety, the child we discover to be Mary is sent by her parents to be raised near the temple in Jerusalem.

We soon discover a teenaged Mary (Alissa Jung) who is innocent, kind and selfless. She exists with a constant facial expression of subtle happiness and contentment.

Luca Marinelli plays a believable Joseph, the carpenter who asks for Mary’s hand in marriage without knowing the struggles and joys ahead of marrying the Mother of God.

The teenage Mary never waivers in faith and never appears frightened, even during events that would make many women at least shiver: a visit from God’s messenger, the Angel Gabriel, a dangerous journey to visit her cousin Elisabeth (mother of John the Baptist) and being pregnant outside of wedlock, which was punishable by death.

As a young mother, she is concerned about the well-being of her growing son. But it is not until Jesus (Andreas Pietschmann) is a grown man do we see her character exhibit increased emotional complexity and greater understanding. We see a mother losing her son to His ministry, but then receiving her Lord in return.

The film, however, ends at the Resurrection, excluding Mary’s life after her son’s earthly existence and skipping her assumption into heaven.

“The film shows that she had an intimate relationship with God the Creator from her childhood, and that she never wavered in her love for Him or felt abandoned by Him. Throughout her life she stayed focused on the heart of God. She surrendered to His will, which was a commitment to love. You identify with Mary as a bride, mother and child of God,” said Angela Carboni, executive director of St. Bernadette's Family Resource Centre and organizer of Mary of Nazareth screenings in Toronto.

As for the relationship between Mary and Joseph, “Their relationship was anchored in God’s love, which fulfilled Mary and Joseph individually,” said Carboni. “Throughout the film, it is demonstrated that a soul in an intimate relationship with God has the power to go through life’s ups and downs.”

The film was directed by director Giacomo Campiotti (Bakhita, Doctor Zhivago) and written by Francesco Arlanch (Restless Heart, Pius XII). The North America cut hab s been reduced in length from the original European version.

Mary of Nazareth will be playing in Toronto on March 16 and 29. For more information and show times, visit or call (416) 654-9810. Proceeds go to the St. Bernadette’s Family Resource Centre charity that provides parent relief programs for children, youth and adults with special needs.

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