"The Ten Commandments" is a milestone film. For some, those of us in their 50's or older, it represents the end of an era: Some call it "The Golden Age of Hollywood"; the beginning of the end of the studio system; and the end of a period in which the real founders of the "public art" took, or began to take, their final bows -- DeMille, Zukor, Goldwyn, Selznick, and others.
For those of us who saw "The Ten Commandments" on the big screen and in one of the now extinct gilded movie palaces of yesteryear, the picture holds special memories. There is a sense of nostalgia that accompanies any new viewing of this one-of-a-kind Victorian pageant. For many, I'm sure, the nostalgia extends beyond the film itself.
There were problems in the mid-fifties, as in every decade since the real Moses came down from Mount Sinai. Polio, the continuing menace of poverty, the material and spiritual separateness of what we called "colored people", Communism, etc. But . . . there were virtues too, many reflected in the writing and performances of "The Ten Commandments": Virtues like courage, strength of character, personal honor, and endurance were paramount (no pun intended). The biggest problem in schools was students chewing gum in class. Today, it's students "shooting-up" in parking lots or shooting down their classmates in the halls. . . America had an identity then.
DeMille's vision was, always, of "an ideal". He painstakingly produced authentic looking packages in which to wrap his vision -- embellished by the "glitz" of what was, then, the "ideal" Hollywood portrait: Bluer than blue skies; shimmering, jewel-encrusted costumes; out-sized architecture; dramatically convenient thunderbolts; and perfectly lovely female leads, with make-up invariably and predictably un-smudged. DeMille gave his audience what they expected from an "A" picture. He wasn't interested in realism. His idea was to reinforce values he'd learned from his parents and his brother (a noted playwright) in a dramatic format which could be "felt" by young and old, alike . . . more a reverence for time-honored principles than the analytical, ironic, and questioning approach dominant in the films of today. There was in the 50's and the 40's a more amicable attitude toward "orthodoxy" -- in all its forms. Hence, the overwhelming popularity of every DeMille production released during that period.
After fifty years, "The Ten Commandments" is still impressive visually, dramatically, and especially in terms of the intensity of its convictions (reflected in all the biographies of the principals) . . . something which cannot be said of many similar big-budget pictures of the same era.
One day, someone may attempt a re-make. Expect that it will be visually impressive and less "stagy". But . . . expect, as well, that it will be punctuated with the obligatory mandates of political correctness; an uncertainty about its message; and a healthy dose of Twenty-First Century cynicism. It will be more "realistic" to be sure, but far less "authentic" -- like a perfume ad, physically attractive, but without a "heart".
The Ten Commandments
Adventure / Drama
The Ten Commandments
Adventure / Drama
To escape the edict of Egypt's Pharoah, Rameses I, condemning all newborn Hebrew males, the infant Moses is set adrift on the Nile in a reed basket. Saved by the pharaoh's daughter Bithiah, he is adopted by her and brought up in the court of her brother, Pharaoh Seti. Moses gains Seti's favor and the love of the throne princess Nefertiri, as well as the hatred of Seti's son, Rameses. When his Hebrew heritage is revealed, Moses is cast out of Egypt, and makes his way across the desert where he marries, has a son and is commanded by God to return to Egypt to free the Hebrews from slavery. In Egypt, Moses' fiercest enemy proves to be not Rameses, but someone near to him who can 'harden his heart'.
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March 26, 2013 at 8:41 pm