Friday, March 11, 2016
The Young Messiah 
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
EWTN (R. Arroyo) interview w. director
The Young Messiah  (directed and cowritten by Cyrus Nowrasteh along with Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh based on the novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Anne Rice [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) promised from the get-go to be a rather odd concoction.
The Louisiana/New Orleans-born novelist Anne Rice on whose (necessarily) speculative novel the film is based has been "all over the map" in her "spiritual journey" -- born Catholic, then agnostic, then apparently at least partly returning to her faith for a number of years, then withdrawing again, now completely, "from organized religion" and currently labeling herself a secular humanist. Further, while she's written two novels about Jesus' life, though "about his hidden years" (the current one, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt [GR] and Christ the Lord: Road to Cana [GR]) where let's face it _one could write anything_, she's actually best known for her Vampire Chronicles [GR] and The Lives of the Mayfair Witches [GR] series. Finally her page GoodReads.com notes that she's even written / published _erotica_ and _S&M literature_ under pseudonyms. Sigh, "Louisiana voodoo ..."
Then director Cyrus Nowrasteh though American born is of Iranian descent. Now in his interview with EWTN he does identify himself as a Christian and certainly could pass as a smiling and _sincere_ "born again" as he came by basically the Catholic version of the 700-Club, there _aren't_ (and have never have been) a lot of Iranian Christians. So it comes to me as something of a surprise that he and his American wife would be the ones to take-up _this project_.
Yet, I suppose if not them, who? Still I have to say that I did leave the theater _with a rather bad aftertaste_ understanding that at least Rice, whose wikipedia page trumpets that she's sold over 100 million books (though mostly about witches and vampires) stands to profit quite significantly here on a book on "Christ the Lord" in whom _she does not even believe_ anymore ...
What of the story itself? Call it a story about Jesus for a Narcissistic Age, focusing on a period of Jesus' life where one _could truly write anything_ and "produce drama" that ISN'T NEEDED _if one were to just STICK TO THE ORIGINAL TEXT_.
So "the story" here assumes that since in the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 2), Herod the Great, wished to kill the child Jesus in infancy (and hence why the Gospel of Matthew has the Holy Family flee to Egypt for the first seven years of Jesus' life), AFTER SAID ELDER HEROD'S DEATH, HIS SON WOULD HAVE WANTED TO DO THE SAME as the Holy Family came back home (to Nazareth).
So the film here has a very creepy looking Herod's son (played by Jonathan Bailey), basically a younger version of creepy looking conception of Herod's son of Jesus Christ Superstar ) ordering a Roman Centurion (played by Sean Bean) -- Roman centurions have had a quite busy Lent this year ... "witness" the film Risen  released a few weeks ago -- to go out and find the seven year old, about whom "rumors were spreading" of the little miracles that were occurring all around him, and to ... "put an end to him." The Roman Centurion understands that order one way, Herod it turns out, may have meant it another, but "one could understand" the Roman Centurion's confusion ...
In the meantime, the seven year old Jesus (played by Adam Graves-Neal) "has questions" about his increasingly apparent "specialness" while the Holy Family, Mary (played by Sara Lazzaro) and Joseph (played by Vincent Walsh) along with an Uncle named Cleopas (played by Christian McCay) and cousins named James (played and Salome (played respectively by Finn Ireland and Lois Ellington) each have different attitudes / opinions of "how to break the news" to him.
Ah, yes, to be "born special" ... a dilemma that "all of us" in "our very special age" face. And Viewers are invited to reflect on "when did you discover that you were 'special' as well...?"
So the whole story basically deteriorates into a "Twilight Saga ... with Jesus ... (and no Vampires)" ;-) though Herod the Great's son looked pretty creepy as did a demonic figure (played by a hooded Rory Keenan) to help give the film a certain, er, "gothic look ..." Indeed, ever since Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ , the Devil's been "pretty busy" in films about Jesus as well ...
How then to conclude here? For one, I do think that the USCCB Media Office could consider apologizing to Martin Scorsese for its denunciation of his Last Temptation of Christ  because both that film and the book by Nikos Kazantzakis on which it was based were _more faithful_ than this film to the received tradition and whatever sins the two, Scorsese and Kazantzakis, may have committed in their personal lives, the two would seem to me more respectful and perhaps even more faithful to the Christian faith than "made her millions writing about witches and vampires" Anne Rice.
Hope the millions she makes here, will be put to good use ...
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