I imagine being in a place where I can see the present and the origins of the past. I can see civilizations, the mighty empires of the yore, and the developed metropolis of today. I can see the science of our ancestors and the technology of the present. While there are many points of change, there is one which I believe has stood the test of time -people and their interpretations of various beliefs.
In this premise, I look at the epic Cecile DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956) and the recently released ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ (2014).
Both take on the same topic – the story of freedom of ‘Hebrews’ from the bondage of the Egyptian rulers, same backdrop, same characters, and a similar conclusion; yet the treatment is miles apart.
In the case of DeMille, going by his strong interest in religion and his inclination towards complex scripting gives us the most accurate narration based on what has been written on the matter.
In contrast, the 2014 movie does justice to what the current generation would be more inclined to believe.
What is history? It is a record of what had happened, written by people who have witnessed or have recorded from other sources. While it narrates, it fails to give us a 360° approach on any matter. Take Moses’s story; books have been written based on evidence that has been unearthed so far.
Who can validate the veracity of events that were recorded? The more we dwell on this matter, the more skewed the analysis. Instead, it is well acknowledged; evidence serves us a basis to comment on a topic, narrate, and in this case, make movies on screen.
It is fascinating to see that our ways of looking at history have evolved immensely in less than sixty years. I arrive at this from the way movies have been scripted.
If you go back in time to 1923, when Cecile DeMille released the Ten Commandments, it was well accepted, though it was considered inaccurate.
The modern version was criticised while applauding the historical aspects of the movie it covered. It was 1923, where the magic of moving pictures and that too on such a ‘hot topic’ would be a hit.
In what turned out to be the last movie he ever directed and produced, DeMille keeping up with the technical advancements, remade his 1923 classic, adding sound and colours to make it more appealing to the audiences. He went more profound, a place where even the Bible has not been – to the early years of Moses, the first 30 years of his life he spent as a prince of Egypt.
The 1956 movie was 3 hours and 40 minutes long, and every minute retained its essence, adding flavours to the continuity.
The movie could have gone on and on if not for practical considerations. The film ends in the period it started, thereby reproducing the texts and artifacts into a movie.
This epic of 1956 was as accurate as it can get to the source from which the stories are told, re-told on the life of Moses. There is no transportation to the 20th century to see how events have panned out due to history.
The movie was history in itself, and that to me was the most appealing part.
What was once considered miracles by external forces is unsurprisingly replaced by natural forces today. While one looked at all lords’ father, the current crop turns to mother nature for answers.
Idol worship, praying to forces of nature, following a person, humanizing ‘gods,’ turning men to gods men, and dogmatic beliefs – all existed and exists even today. The situation has evolved – we attempt to look at it differently and believe the same set of stories when showcased differently.
This manner is close to what we accept as a way of living and how life exists.
In today’s generation, science has allowed us to access more answers than our previous generations were privilege to. The science of tides replaces a man’s chant to clear out the waters from the sea.
The origins of plague are not one’s creation but due to an imbalance in the eco-system. Mere words do not serve the purpose; one needs to be equipped to defend the strong might even if it ends in a war. Such is the world we live in where we blindly do not accept unless there is the rationale behind it.
In such an environment, it suffices to say, a bland remake of the 1956 classic would have been ‘misplaced’ or even rejected by the very people who would have believed if they were living in another generation.
Keeping this in mind, I was extremely pleased with the treatment given to Exodus’s story by the filmmakers.
It does not take away the factor of ‘hope’ by miracles alone; the freedom is sought through preparation, willingness, hard work, and fighting it out – all and many such qualities that the current generation can associate with.
With time being the essence, a movie over 200 minutes would not have made any business sense in today’s market, no matter how good the narration is.
We truly live in a great era where access to information has never been this simple. While there are many sources to confuse people, moviemakers who go to great heights to research a topic and present it, keeping in mind the relevance is much appreciated.
What we believe is what we see; what we see is what is shown, for there are no boundaries when it comes to expression! Perceptions are a mere indicator of a story, an idea, and how it has flown through time, tampered by scholars from different eras, narrated to the best of their understandings.. straying here and there while ensuring the essence to last, only to be carried on to future generations with more discoveries and additions.
That to me is the beauty surrounding the various stories, myths, and creative works that surrounds them! There is no truth but the recording of facts based on shreds of evidence! It would be interesting to re-visit the same topic in a decade or maybe in 50 years.
So let it be written, so let it be done!