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The crossing of the Red Sea, a composited picture that contains live action, matte paintings, and special effects.

You are watching: It is written so it shall be done


The Egyptian sets are magnificent, enormous, glossy and also detailed, inhabited by hundreds of costumed extras. Yet the staging, perhaps inadvertently, goes beyond ‘authenticity’ –the lingering feeling of Hollywood grandiloquence generates apprehension that the following day Gene Kelly could stage a giant dance step on the very same set. The score through Elmer Bernstein, soaring and heroic, likewise raises the film up yet sets it as a mid-century production.

When the action moves to medium shots of Moses (played through Heston’s infant boy Fraser) gift rescued indigenous the Nile, Israelites working in dirt pits, or the alleys that Pithom, there is little sense that scale, depth, or dirt; these studio sets autumn flat. Sadly, the most important divine interventions, the burn Bush, tower of Fire, Moses’ employee transformed into a snake, and also the fiery production of the tablet computers of the law, space animated. This flaming cartoon impacts are about as unpersuasive together the ‘monster native the id’ in one more 1956 hit, Forbidden Planet. Top top this we may pine for contemporary special effects.


But the film’s heart is the acting, namely the see chewing love triangle of Heston, Yul Brynner, and also Anne Baxter. Heston – preferred in part because that his same to Michelangelo’s Moses – tasks a stolid upper Midwestern masculinity the is connected with few actors today. Unequal his revolutionary contemporary, Marlon Brando, Heston’s emotion and vulnerability had to it is in accessed through a difficult shell. Over there is a straight line through Heston’s most famed roles, indigenous Moses to Ben-Hur, all the means to George Taylor, marooned on a earth of damned, dirty apes. The is slow-moving to be provoked, yet then, watch out.

In contrast, the Siberian born Brynner exuded exoticism, befitting a duty like the King Mongkut the Siam, because that which the had end up being famous in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and also I. His Rameses is additionally played in ~ a narrow emotional range, through quiet seething and couple of outbursts. Yet Brynner’s herbal authority was critical to projecting both Rameses’s imperiousness and also blindness.


Finally, there is Ann Baxter, nephew of a open minded Lloyd Wright and also a Hollywood journey woman, who plays the vampish Queen Nefretiri together a manipulative bad girl. The subplot of her short-lived romance through Moses then unhappy marital relationship to Rameses is completely invented and gives the movie a 1940s emotion of love triangles and femme fatales. However Baxter reliably delivers some of the film’s cheesiest (“Oh, Moses, Moses, friend stubborn, splendid, adorable fool!”) and most bitterness lines (“You allow Moses death my son. No god can lug him back. What have you excellent to Moses? just how did that die? Did he cry for mercy as soon as you tortured him? lug me to his body! I desire to see it, Rameses! I want to check out it!”)


To the modern-day eye, or certain modern sensibilities, the primary cast is likewise disconcertingly “white.” To respond to we might suggest to the short presence of the differentiated African American actor, and also professional football player, Woodrow Strode, together the Ethiopian King, and several thousands Egyptian army personnel as, well, the Egyptian Army. Like any type of film, the is a product of its times.

For every impressive actor prefer Cedric Hardwicke (Seti) or Nina Foch (Bithia) there are one-dimensional hacks like John Derek (Joshua) or the stroked nerves girls that played Jethro’s daughters as giggly flibbertigibbets. Still, DeMille was both a craftsman and also eminently practical; rope swinging hunks prefer Derek were crate office draws, and also veteran character actors like Edward G. Robinson, Vincent Price and also John Carradine kept the non-Biblical B-story going when Heston and Brynner were off screen.

But does it still work? The genuine star the The Ten Commandments is God, that speaks directly to Moses and also works miracles that ultimately convince Rameses come let the Israelites go. Divine intervention and also national liberation is the significance of the Biblical account. What a contrast with Ridley Scott’s 2014 retelling, where Moses is a liberty fighter and God a vision on through a punch to the head that a kid brought, or the 1998 animated Prince that Egypt, wherein Moses cries due to the fact that of the plagues and with musical numbers that sound favor rejects native Frozen.

In 1923 DeMille made two parallel story to highlight the degeneration of contemporary values, however in 1956 the opted for a more subtle approach. He provides God the star, and also liberation the central theme, and through clever dialogue and narration Americanizes the Exodus once again. However Cold battle made the crest far greater than even those that killed Mrs. McTavish. “Man took ascendancy over guy – the dominated were make to offer the conquer – the weak made to server the strong,” the narrator – DeMille himself – intones. Moses’ critical words in the film, “Go – proclaim liberty throughout all the lands, depend all the citizens thereof” (Leviticus 25:10), also inscribed ~ above the Liberty Bell, make the link between ancient Israel and also America clear.


Film tells us not ‘who we are’ yet how we check out ourselves at any kind of given moment. Perhaps every generation gets The Ten Commandments the it wants. There room no ‘timeless’ films yet DeMille’s The Ten Commandments comes closer 보다 many, because of its subject matter, epos scale, and also outsized society impact. Even if it is its messages of person liberty and also the enduring partnership of God and the Israelites tho resonate, in America or elsewhere, is an additional question.

Alex Joffe is the editor of The old Near east Today.

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