Mary and Some Melodrama
What's your favourite piece from the Bible? Mine is the one where young Mary is walking through the streets and she high fives a passing friend on a donkey. Oh you missed that piece of scripture on the Bible? So had I till I sat down to watch "Mary of Nazareth" and lo and behold in the opening scenes there is Mary walking through the town like she is the most popular girl in school and for all sense and purpose she high fives a passer by. It could have been worse I suppose she could have bumped fists instead. But those opening scenes left my jaw on the floor as they were frankly cheesy and lowered my expectation of what was to follow.
As to what follows? Well the best way I can describe it is that someone took the story of Jesus, Mary & Joseph and decided to try and make it entertaining by making it a melodrama full of big romantic gestures, softly spoken dialogue and a soundtrack which at times wouldn't be out of place in a Danielle Steel movie. It is a styling which doesn't work for me especially when "Mary of Nazareth" lacks the strong actors to pull it off. In fact when it comes to Myriam Muller as Mary I get a distinct feeling that her eyes grabbed the casting director's attention as they are captivating in those early scenes and you can't stop staring at them.
Now in fairness "Mary of Nazareth" is not all bad, some of the sets impress and when Mary & Joseph ride past several men nailed to crosses there is something strangely powerful as the crows peck around them. The trouble is that for every one thing which is good in a scene there is normally half a dozen other things which are simply bad. One of the biggest problems is that it feels like director Jean Delannoy had one eye on turning this into a sweeping epic or at least that is the impression which the soundtrack gives during desert scenes as we are treated to countless orchestral swells but it doesn't match up to the imagery which whilst not so much low budget but ordinary budget and certainly not grandiose enough to handle music which I am sure was used in "Lawrence of Arabia".
What this all boils down to is that "Mary of Nazareth" may have worked for some back in 1995 and I should say that it is a French movie which is dubbed in to English. But for me there were several issues with it from the soundtrack not matching the look to the fact that the whole story being played out like a melodrama being just two of the most significant.