From An Economic Perspective It Will Be Problematic
February 18, 2015
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Exodus: Gods and Kings
Question – who attends a cinema showing at 11.30 on a Monday morning? Answer – well, apart from TOWT and I making use of our free vouchers – now I have reduced my working commitments we have to make cuts somewhere – five others. A word of warning – the Vue Camberley is not somewhere to go if you want to save on the heating bills. It was bitterly cold in the cinema and I thought I had gone back 20 years of so when I saw steam rising from the heads of the viewers only to realise it was their breath. Still, the temperature meant I didn’t snooze.
I wanted to give this film a fair viewing – after all, anything that upsets the Egyptians for containing historical inaccuracies – the contention that the Jews built the pyramids and the parting of the Red Sea was down to an earthquake rather than divine intervention got their goat, apparently – must have something going for it. But when Ramses uttered the words that form the title to this post in answer to Moses’ request that the Jews be freed, I lost the will to live. This film is supposed to have been set around 1300 BCE and whilst the Mycenaeans were clever chaps and sailed around the eastern part of the Mediterranean, there is no evidence that they were hotshots in economic theory nor had they proselytised their theories to the pharaonic Egyptians who, doubtless, would have been too haughty to pay them much heed. Looking at my trusty Liddell and Scott the earliest usage of oikonomia I can find in Ancient Greek occurs in the works of Plato some 800 or more years later. Perhaps the modern Egyptians were right after all.
Unsurprisingly, the film is about Moses leading the Jews to the promised land or at least as far as the other side of the Red Sea before the film peters out, but it would be better described as based on an idea supplied by the Old Testament, so limited is the reference to the biblical text . It’s been done before – Cecil B DeMille’s The Ten Commandments being the most notable – but the update has the benefit of modern graphical techniques making God’s assault on the Egyptians – boils, hail, dead babies and vomiting bulls – fairly terrifying. To soften them up we have attacks by crocodiles and sharks tuning the waters of the Nile red with blood. The blood to water ratio must have been very high because the discolouration of the river lasts an almighty long time. This is not the happy-clappy benevolent God that the C of E espouses.
The tone of the film is one of unrelenting grimness as disaster after disaster strikes the Egyptians ending up with the majority of their fighters being killed, or at least those who survived the unnecessary cliff erosion which caused most of their chariots to plunge over the side. By the time Moses descends the mountain with the ten commandments to signify we had almost reached the end, the overwhelming feeling was one of relief rather than that it was the start of a new era.
God rather than being a disembodied voice or, presumably because Ian McKellen was otherwise engaged on Gandalf duties, a chap with a long beard, was a small boy – an interesting take but making it seem highly unlikely that anyone, even someone who had had a blow to the head, would have followed his lead.
I think to get the best out of this Ridley Scott film you just need to suspend all critical faculties. If you do that, it is entertaining enough.