Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Writer: Aeneas MacKenzie, Jesse L. Lasky Jr., Jack Gariss, and Fredric M. Frank
Cinematographer: Loyal Griggs
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1 and Part 2...
I kept thinking back to The Rugrats “Hanaka” episode and how it was my only enlightenment to this story, as Sunday school did a pitiful job of explaining it. No matter your thoughts on religion, being unable to appreciate this film because it’s Christian is as stupid as not being able to appreciate The Iliad or Odyssey. In a day and age when the Right relies on its Christian base to drive elections, running against issues like abortion and gay rights, it’s stories like this that demonstrate the true hypocrisy. The Ten Commandments is a story about what wealth and power can do to a society. You can’t help drawing a parallel between the complete disregard both Ramesis' have toward slaves - with Ramesis II criticizing Moses for wanting to improve the plight of their situation. Is raising the minimum wage, providing child care, health care, or any basic securities to the poor really that terrible and un-American - or is it that some of the middle and upper classes plainly don’t want to help them, seeing them as worthless, having chosen to be where they, whether by God or individually.
The movie has us rooting for Moses to go back and free the people from bondage - and were Moses alive today, does anyone really think he’d say the poor don’t need any help? I keep thinking about the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Worship False Idols” and all of the mega church preachers who demand you send them your money, providing salvation and resolve from whatever problems you're experiencing, who are provided complete tax exemptions, as highlighted in the John Oliver segment. Why is this so easily ignored compared to the other Christian tenants? I’m not a very religious person, but the thing that absolutely drives me crazy is how often those who are often the most vocal in their religion, often driving their personal politics, are also those who refuse to put the meek first; who couldn’t less about the poor or making their lives better. Watching a film like this is important because it shows you how corrupt it has gotten, and that once upon a time, a story like this provided a moral tale; that perhaps more people should look to Moses and have the courage to fight for the downtrodden with any means necessary, rather than idolizing the fee market; that may be providing more is the moral thing to do rather than stripping more away.
I just finished a class on the French Revolution, where I learned that the Nobility and Clergy essentially controlled the vast majority of the nation’s wealth and power, upwards off 99% (sound familiar?), and that many Middle Eastern countries in the 20th experience similar civil uprising due to similar circumstances, such as in Egypt or Syria, where the lower classes fought to reclaim the lands that were controlled by a few powerful individuals. This is a circumstance that has occurred again and again throughout history. There is a right side and there is a wrong side, and yet it boggles my mind that some could defend it otherwise, as though the disparity we’re experiencing is somehow different compared to situations past.
It’s why the revenge Moses carries on against Ramses II’s is so badass. It’s not some pretty and purply solution. It is God’s wrath - an omniscient being who’s willing to make people go thirsty and kill first born children in the name of freeing the tens of thousands who are held in bondage. When you hear that we can’t have significant improvements because the rich can’t bear additional taxation; that it would depress the economy; whatever - keep this story in mind. Because the God in The Ten Commandments would probably say fuck all that. You either share some of your wealth and power, or bear the full wrath of his power.
What if this is really just a metaphor for true events that took place thousands of years ago, which took on mythical proportions as the story was passed across millenia? What if the plague was simply brought about by the masses living in abject poverty with no one caring for their safety? Or that the Nile turned red because of how many slaves were slaughtered? If true, it would show that people have the power to take things back, so long as they have the inspiration and the leadership. This film serves as a great metaphor for any moment of inequality. Secular or religious, you need to see this - for the message, for the production value, for the story.
BELOW: DeMill'es intro - "Are men property of the state or are they free souls...?"
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Thoughts on films, old and new
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