Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Cecil B. DeMille’

The Message (1976 / 1977) — movie review
Today’s review is for “The Message” (originally titled: “Mohammad, Messenger of God“), which was released in Arabic in 1976 and in English in 1977.  The English version of the movie stars Anthony Quinn as Hamza (the Prophet’s uncle), Michael Ansara as Abu Sufyan ibn Harb (the leader of Mecca), Irene Papas as Hind (Abu Sufyan’s wife), Johnny Sekka as Bilal, and Michael Forest as Khalid.  Although the movie is “about” Mohammad, the movie follows the Muslim tradition of not portraying the Prophet or his voice.  Therefore, the movie has a few awkward scenes where the camera appears as the Prophet’s view and his lines are said (or rather repeated) by one of the actors on screen.  The movie depicts the historical drama (biopic) of the Prophet from his conversion until his death, and the birth / growth of Islam as a religion.
I first saw this movie almost twenty years ago when I was working as a contractor in Saudi Arabia for their national steel company: Hadeed.  A co-worker of mine, who became a friend, was trying to convert me from being Catholic into a Muslim (Sunni).  This may sound a bit strange, but I found almost all Muslims felt it their duty to Allah to try to convert all non-believers.  This was never a pressure-sale kind of thing, it was simply an attempt to share the joy of his / their faith.  In any case, my first viewing had the benefit of having an English speaking Saudi there with me to elaborate on parts of the movie.  Obviously, I didn’t have this luxury for this second viewing.
To start off with, the movie is just under three hours long.  I think this is partly an effort to stay true to the story and partly for the production value of making the film into an “epic” like “Lawrence of Arabia” or any of the Cecil B. DeMille Hollywood Jewish / Christian epics.  Due to life getting in the way, I had to break up the viewing this week into chunks of 30 minutes, 60 minutes and 90 minutes.  I don’t believe the viewing (or this review) suffered from this as I now do this quite often.  The nice thing is the movie is free on YouTube, so you only have to write down where you stopped and you can go right back to that spot or a couple of minutes earlier with no problems at all.  I must admit to finding viewing of older movies (particularly made for TV movies) on YouTube to be a lucky fortune for me.
So, is the film any good?  Is it accurate?  Did I learn anything about Islam which I didn’t already know?  Yes, yes and yes (well, kind of).  This is not a “great” movie in the sense of great cinema.  It is a great movie in the sense of relating God’s will for mankind.  I don’t mean God / Allah seeking to turn everyone into a Muslim as much as God’s will to have men live in peace, respect women, help the poor and those less fortunate, and most of the doctrines of the other two religions of the book (“the Bible”).  Given the length, the movie has slow parts, but it also has some fairly well done battle scenes (for its time and special effects).
Is the movie accurate?  Not being an expert on Islam, I can’t definitively speak to this.  I can only say my friend felt it accurate enough to recommend to me (and view with me) and to relate that Wikipedia says the historian advisors worked on the entire filming while the religious experts did not.  The religious experts quit before the movie was completed.  It should be pointed out the film took over half a decade to get completed and was shot with two different casts (one for Arabic and one for English).  Part of this delay was due to the difficulty of keeping funding and part was due to location issues – some of the countries involved in shooting pulled their permissions over religious grounds.
Did I learn anything?  Yes, but not really anything “major-new”.  I was reminded of things and certain parts were emphasized in this second viewing (and background reading), and I think that was a good thing.  My Saudi friend either wasn’t aware of the political issues, the funding / duration issues or the multiple version issues, or if he did know about them, didn’t feel they were important enough to mention them to me.
I would say, that if you are coming into Islam blindly by stumbling onto this film, you will certainly learn a lot about the faith.  However, it should be recognized the similarities between Islam and Christianity are cherry-picked to hi-light the beliefs most closely aligned, and the differences are virtually ignored (unstated).  I don’t have any problem with this because I am aware of some of the differences.  They might be more problematic for someone less informed.
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended movie.  It is an older movie and it shows in the production values.  A historically based epic, I think the movie faithfully relates the story-line of the beginnings of the Islamic faith.  As such it is recommended viewing for anyone interested in comparative religious studies, Middle-Eastern history or, more specifically, the Islamic faith and its origin in Saudi Arabia.
.
On This Day In:
2017 Not Yet That Well-Organized
2016 Probably Whatever Was Sought Yesterday
2015 What We Choose To Divide Us
2014 Peace With Honor
2013 Dangerous Systems
2012 Useful Science
2011 Say It, But Please Don’t Make Me Listen

Read Full Post »

Day 4.  Sunset jog, finished in the dark; another 13 laps; another 3.25 miles; another hour(ish).  Fitbit is still saying 5 miles and about 65 minutes.  I’m not actually tracking the time.  I’m just trying to get through the distance each day.  The evening was dry and warm with a intermittent breeze which was cold but not steady.  The temperature was probably only a couple of degrees warmer than yesterday, but it felt much warmer without the rain.  The breeze was nice.
Sometimes, when you pull your eyes up from the pavement in front of you, you can see some amazing sights.  This evening’s was a partly cloudy sunset with the most brilliant turquoise sky I can remember seeing in ages.  The blue was framed by clouds with pink and yellow edges.  It looked like something out of a Cecil B. DeMille movie.  Anyway, it was definitely a high-light!
The process is starting to feel easier.  My legs and feet hurt less each day.  No change in weight yet (it’s only been four days), but my clothes feel better (slightly looser) – so that’s a good start.  Now I just have to keep it up.  It feels good to be a runner again…
.
On This Day In:
2014 Some Things I Learned (Mostly) In The Army:
2013 Who You Are
2012 Mine Stands
2011 Aversions

Read Full Post »

On last Tuesday evening, I watched the movie: “Exodus: Gods And Kings” (2014).  The movie stars Christian Bale as Moses, the protagonist in the Bible’s book of Exodus, which describes the Hebrews release from slavery (“bondage”) by the Egyptians around 1400 to 1300 BCE.  The Pharaoh, Ramses, is played by Joel Edgerton.  I really intended to go see this movie at the theater because I am big fan of viewing “spectacle” special effects on the big screen.  Just as seeing a large picture of the Grand Canyon doesn’t do justice to seeing the Grand Canyon, so viewing a tidal wave on a 32 inch screen three feet away is not the same as going to the movies.  I think this is a revelation to movie goers at multiplexes.  They “think” they are seeing a movie on the “big” screen, when actually they are seeing most of the movies on the secondary screens and the viewing experience is actually viscerally different.  But, that’s a discussion for another day…
Exodus” is a longish is movie which takes time to develop a lengthy re-telling of a man’s conversion to faith.  Despite frequent “miracles”, Moses simply refuses to accept the power of God until the very end of the movie.  Some viewers will have a problem with this (the length of the movie) for a host of reasons.  For the person of faith, what does God have to do to make you believe?  For the average movie goer, “Man this movie is taking forever to get to the FX!”  As someone who struggled with finding (and keeping) faith, for most of his life, the movie’s slower pacing (in parts) did not particularly bother me.
Does the movie follow the story from the Bible or its most recent and popular depiction (DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments“)?  Sort of, but with fairly significant changes.  Do they matter?  If you are a Biblical literalist, yes.  And, they (the differences) may even be offensive.  If you are someone looking for a rational explanation for some of the 10 plagues / “miracles”, no.  Well, yes.  There is still no rational (i.e., natural) explanation for what happens, but at least the story tries to throw you a bone.  In either case, literalist or rationalist, my question would be: what are you really expecting from a major motion picture?  You’re only expectations should be a “fair” treatment of the source material and entertainment.  I think this movie / adaptation tries – and mostly succeeds – to deliver both.
The acting is pretty good, but several of the “big” acting names have fairly trivial roles – Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley, to name just two.  The special effects are pretty good.  (Again, I regret not seeing this on a big screen.)  The movie, I think mostly due to variance from the Biblical story, is not as predictable as I thought it was going to be.  I frequently thought, “they did that well” or “that’s not what’s in the Bible“, and I think that is a good thing because it raises questions which make me want to go back to the source material (the Bible) and see if my memory or the interpretation is correct – or if the interpretation (movie) brings me new light to and new understanding of the Bible.  I personally feel anything which makes me go back to the Bible is a good thing.  But again, that’s a discussion for another day, too…
Final recommendation: strong recommendation!  Good entertainment value without any sex and very little violence (considering there’s a couple of battles and a whipping scene).
.
On This Day In:
2014 Not In Any Sense
2013 The Circus On TV
2012 To Be Stronger
2011 Are You Sure?

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: