Saturday, January 09, 2010

Four Magi

The other night the hubby and I watched The Fourth Wise Man. This 1985 made-for-tv movie starring Martin Sheen and Alan Arkin is based on the short story called The Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke.
movie dvd christmas magi

It tells the tale of a supposed 4th member of the magi, one who was never quite able to make it to the manger to adore the new king. He continues to search for Him for many years and ... well, I won't say any more so as not to spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet, but suffice it to say that it holds one's interest.

I don't remember the first time I saw this movie, but I do know that it was on Mexican television and dubbed into Spanish. Mush have been sometime in the 90s. I've seen it again a few times since then, stumbling across it on television around Christmastime or Epiphany, which is still celebrated in Latin America. I'd always yearned to watch the film commercial-free, and since the local library did not have it available, about a month ago I broke down and just bought my own copy off Amazon. Now it's one movie in our slowly-growing set of "keeper" dvds.

This story never fails to move me all the way to blubbery tears. Each time I see it, I notice more details, more references to other Bible characters and ideas. Yes, the sets and wardrobe -- and even the acting, sometimes, despite the stellar cast -- can be awfully cheesy. Oddly, though, even the unplanned comic relief provided by the cheesiness doesn't take away from the depth of the story. Here is a man with his eye always on his mission (actually, his vocation) who, nevertheless, is compassionate enough to take a detour from what he thinks is his path in order to help others who need him. While it seems quite obvious to those of us already steeped in New Testament thought, the protaganist does not realize that it is precisely by taking these detours that he is actually accomplishing his mission.

Martin Sheen's last line in this movie is one that I'd love to be able to say one day: at the end of his character's lift, he turns to his faithful friend and says,
"I have seen the Lord, and He has accepted all of my gifts."
One could ask for no more than that.