A huge amount was written in 2014 about Hollywood and the Bible. What is the fascination with a collection of ancient books in the current context of film making?
But the nub of many of the arguments put forward by a variety of commentators and scholars from a wide spectrum of scholarship and understanding centred on how true movie producers are to the biblical narrative in portraying the great narratives of the Good Book.
Ridley Scott’s latest attempt – portraying the life of Moses from Egypt to the Promised Land is a case in point.
I watched the film a couple of weeks ago now and have been thinking about it for quite some time. There is much that has been wirtten and much still to be written about the script itself and how the movie failed or succeeded to do its basic job.
Biblical literacy can only really be considered in the light of this film in a very basic way. Central characters, powerful themes, well known yarns – they are all there – but they are confused and mixed up with a mish mash of other material whose origin remains unknown. In other words, where does some of the nonsense come from and is it really necessary?
However, to be positive for a moment – what are the successful aspects of this film and how does it add value to the traditions around Moses?
1) Moses is introduced to a new generation
I imagine that many of the young people in the audience on the day that I watched the film had very little knowledge of who Moses was and what he did. And there is no doubt that the central thrust of his life – his birth, life in Egypt, calling by God and the Exodus itself, comes over well in the film. The nearness of the biographical account to the Old Testament texts is not really an issue at this level.
2) The powerful theological concept of Exodus is well treated
This was a surprise. The connection between exodus and inner and outer freedom – physical and/or spiritual – comes across well in the film. You can see how St Paul takes this up and talks about the new exodus and Jesus as the new Moses in the way this film is put together.
3) The scale of the Old Testament arena is well produced visually.
As is the case in many early films depicting biblical narratives, the vastness of the arena in which these great stories of freedom and the fight for God’s will to be done is again achieved.
This movie is certainly not without its flaws but it does providing a starting point for discussion and debate,