• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Wednesday, March 29, 2006

    More info on the new Ten Commandments TV Film

    Peter T Chattaway has posted the full text of his interview with Katherine Orrison, the abridged version of which I commented on last week.

    In this extended version, she mentions that ABC are running a new version of the Ten Commandments this April. There is some information up on the ABC website now. There is also an official website

    There are a few points I'd like to make, based on the photos.

    Firstly, this film, which has been billed as the most realistic, clearly seems to have in mind a far smaller exodus than those of DeMille. I think many scholars would agree that the numbers of Israelites stated in the bible are somehow symbolic and therefore larger than was actually the case. (See right)

    Secondly, It's unclear which episode is being depicted in that photo. It may be some sort of pre/post Red Sea shot. On the other hand the three figures standing on a hill whilst Moses raises his arms, are reminiscent of the battle with the Amalekites in Exodus 17. Given that there is also at least one picture from a battle this would seem to be the case. Of all the various Moses films, only De Bosio's Moses (1975) shows this episode.

    That said, it is somewhat remarkable that there are no pictures of the Red Sea (although it is on the poster mentioned in the story section), so perhaps this film is going to portray the Hebrews having a more active role in gaining their freedom. That said the picture of the parting of the sea in the poster looks like it is straight out of DeMille, which rather dashes my hopes that this film might show us a "Reed Sea" as we find in scripture.

    Thirdly, there is a shot of the water turning into blood (below, right), which evokes an earlier Moses film, although I can't remember which, off the top of my head. The exodus picture in front of the city is also very reminiscent of both of DeMille's Ten Commandments films, although the numbers here, again, are much smaller than DeMille's.

    There's not much shown of Omar Sharif, who is playing Jethro, despite the fact that his name has been the big draw used in the publicity. There is also one shot of the Ark of the Covenant, so that combined with the possibility of episodes from Exodus 17 mentioned above suggests that this film will go far further into the life of Moses than most, which usually draw to a halt once the Ten Commandments have been given.

    There is a fair bit of blurb about the film on both sites. From the photos and reading between the lines a little, it seems that this film will bring a stronger emphasis on the role of Zipporah, who seems to disappear out of Moses life after she saves him with an improvised circumcision in Exodus 4. It is not until Exodus 18, that Jethro re-unites them. Even so, she is never mentioned again (by name at least).

    It also appears that this will be yet another film which shows Moses not discover his true identity until adulthood. Whilst this is certainly viable, it would be nice to see another film where Moses grows up aware of his identity.

    One subplot which sounds very interesting is Moses relationship, not with Ramsees himself but with, Menerith, his step brother and one of Ramsees's officials. Hopefully this means that Moses will be shown as more insignificant in the royal courts than is usually the case.

    Overall then, there is much to look forward to. Whilst some episodes look to be telling the story in a very similar fashion to DeMille's two films of the same name, it is also clear that much of the story will be told in a different way.

    The Ten Commandments airs on Monday April 10th (Part 1) and Tuesday, April 11th (Part 2) at 9/8c

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    • At 5:52 am, March 30, 2006, Blogger Peter T Chattaway said…

      Hi Matt, I actually watched a preview copy of the new mini-series last night, and am hoping to write it up in the next few days (once I get some other things out of the way). But for what it's worth:

      (1) Yes, Moses is raising his staff during the battle with the Amalekites there.

      (2) Definitely a classic DeMille-style Red Sea, not a naturalistic scholarly-style Sea of Reeds, here.

      (3) This movie's Moses is actually told about his true ethnic identity when he is just a boy.

      (4) Despite the inclusion of the Ark of the Covenant, I believe this movie pretty much stops after the Ten Commandments and the Golden Calf, just as DeMille does; however, it adds a lot of material between the Red Sea and those climactic bits.

      I'll save the rest for now. BTW, will this be broadcast in England, too?

    • At 7:50 am, March 30, 2006, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Thanks for the info Peter. I'm surprised you say he's told his ethnic identity when he's just a boy. The ABC website says Moses is raised "with no memory of his true family, Moses has risen to the stature of Prince. Upon discovery of his heritage..." he goes on to liberate his people. You can seee why I wrote what I did!

      Sadly I'm not aware of this broadcasting over here just yet, but I'll certainly be checking the Easter schedules more closely nearer the time. The RHI people don't seem easy to contact though.


    • At 9:47 am, March 30, 2006, Blogger Peter T Chattaway said…

      Well, Moses is already a prince of some sort when he's a boy, so maybe that's what they meant...?

      Seriously, they zip through a lot in the first 20 minutes. Moses is found by the princess ... discovers his true heritage ... becomes an adult ... kills the taskmaster ... and flees to Midian ... all in the first 20 minutes! I think DeMille took the better part of two hours to get to that point in the story.

    • At 11:07 am, March 30, 2006, Blogger Matt Page said…

      I think that's good. This is usually the overblown part of the story. It actually only covers 15 verses in Exodus.



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