Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Quartet & Nativity 2

Last night the three of us were in the Forum Cinema Hexham seeing two films one after the other! First off was Nativity 2 at 4pm followed by the live broadcast of the preview screening from the Odeon in London of a new BBC Film Quartet. Billy Connolly et al on stage to take questions. Nativity 2 is a Christmas film from Debbie Isitt. Quartet is the first film Dustin Hoffmann has directed and explores advanced old age from the viewpoint of four once famous concert musicians now in an benevolent home in the Thames Valley for musicians. It has to be said it was a pretty spectacular home and the doctor in charge was spectacularly attractive herself (Sherridan Smith).

There was considerable fantasy present in Quartet as Billy Connolly pointed out on stage. There was even more fantasy in Nativity 2.  Although each was at opposite ends of the life spectrum, both shared a lot. Essentially they celebrate human optimism and hope in the face of what some would call "the bleeding obvious" (accent on bleeding). They are both very enjoyable films although your children may find the 12A Quartet somewhat challenging. The presence of Hogwarts stars like Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon should ease things. And how about Andrew Sachs from Fawlty Towers?

In advance someone had said Nativity 2 was even more unbelievable than Nativity the original (which original?). At one level it certainly is, although the transport me was thrilled to see a London Duck Tours DUKW at work in a Welsh reservoir. Regard it perhaps not as a film but as a play (think even of turning it into a play). And then not as a play but as a Mystery Play. That is a way to look at both films and certainly Nativity 2. I wonder if Isitt intended this? I think her achievement is masterful. To get all the songs delivered, to get the children to deliver all that was being asked, top notch. The same goes for Quartet and all its music and wistful autumnal filming around Taplow.

But both are considerably more than technical accomplishment and this is the Mystery Play connect. We know they are not believable, reality does not do this (quite). But in both, our creativity latches onto the myth because it connects with the deepest human desire. We want a happy outcome and we want to be loved. Something in our nature says this is our destiny and that to deny it is an ultimate misery. So we make stories about this.

In short both films (intentionally or not I cannot say) were profoundly Christian to me. Christ's God was alive and kicking in them. Very appropriate for Christmas. We cannot be sure of the detail of Christ's life, still less his resurrection. As a historian I think the broad outline is very believable and its message ever so simple. The simplicity of the message is in both films. Post modern Christianity should not be difficult to hack. Watch these films and ask yourself that question.

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