Friday, January 09, 2015

Moses through the Eyes of Hollywood -HIRD

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Many of us as children remember hearing the story of Moses in the bulrushes, Moses confronting Pharaoh, Moses crossing the Red Sea, and Moses receiving the Ten Commandments.  The Moses story is so naturally dramatic that in many ways it was made for Hollywood.  I love it when a story is not only a great story but also a true story. 
Hollywood has told the Moses story several times, including through Cecil B Demille’s The Ten Commandments in 1956, Dreamworks’ The Prince of Egypt in 1998, Roma Downey’s The Bible Miniseries in 2013, and Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings in 2014.  Bruce Feiler comments that Moses is the quintessential prophet in North America, quoted extensively by people from all across the cultural and political spectrum.  Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and President John Adams all wanted Moses on the USA seal.  Martin Luther King Jr. continually quoted Moses in his leadership of the civil rights movement.  Many people identify with Moses as the classic underdog standing up for what is right against impossible odds.
My wife and I recently went to see the 140-million dollar movie Exodus: Gods and Kings.  The CGI was very impressive, particularly the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea. Christian Bale, best known for his portrayal of Batman in the Dark Knight, played a very interesting and strong Moses.  Someone described Christian Bale as God’s General.  Unique to the movie was an interesting portrayal of Moses as a guerrilla fighter, blowing up so buildings in Egypt that Pharaoh wanted to get rid of him.  
The burning bush account left me ambivalent.  In Scott’s story, Moses was buried in a muddy rock slide just before he saw the burning bush.  An implicit message could be that Moses, rather than meeting God, was suffering from brain damage.  The stunted god who turns up at the burning bush is an eleven-year bad-tempered boy.   Rather than being child-like, this deity comes across in petulant childishness.  AW Tozer said that how we envision God reveals a lot about us, and even shapes how we treat people.  If God is stunted and bad-tempered rather than mature and loving, then it does not bode well for us.  It is probably not a coincidence that there was no worship of this deity in the movie.  Who would want to worship such an unpleasant being?
The one redeeming relationship was the tender connection between Moses and his wife Zipporah.  If more had been done with that relationship, it might have saved the movie.  I wish that I could have given the movie five stars and commended it to all my friends.  Instead I was left saddened that a potentially great movie missed the mark.
There are over eighty references in the New Testament to Moses, more than any other Old Testament figure.  Jesus was even described as a prophet like Moses, spending time visiting with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration.  The most positive thing about viewing Scott’s Exodus is that it motivated me to reread once again the book of Exodus.  My prayer for those reading this article is that we might take the time to reread or read for the first time the amazing story of Moses the Prince of Egypt.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in Canada

-an article for the January 2015 Deep Cove Crier

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Peter Black said...

Ed, I've just discovered that I'd missed your post; however, I've just read it. I heard a couple of reviews in the media, but I thank you for yours, which shows significant and unfortunate flaws.
Thank you.~~+~~

Glynis said...

And doesn't that just go to show us that the only real truth is found in the Word of God? I don't think it is a bad thing to have these as movies, because I would rather my unsaved relative watch something like this to start them thinking instead of feasting their eyes on Pulp Fiction or some other horrible thing. I don't bother paying to see these movies for you know very well that it is all about the big bucks and not anything to do with telling the Truth, really.

Ed Hird+ said...

Thank you, Peter and Glynis, for your helpful comments.

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