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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Revival of the Jewish Hero

Steven Spielberg is going to direct a Moses big, big picture, one to rival the iconic The Ten Commandments of 1956. Mel Gibson and Joe Eszterhas are working on a film about the Maccabees. These plans show a mini-trend to return to several themes which have been lost in the past decades of anti-heroes, a la James Joyce's Leopold Bloom. I grew up on Charlton Heston's Moses, as that is one of the very first movie I ever saw. The 1995 version of Moses, with Ben Kingsley is good and historically more realistic than The Ten Commandments. Some Christians like it better.

The point here, however, is not so much a comparison of interpretations of Moses, the greatest Jewish hero, but the fact that two great directors have taken on Judaic, Old Testament historical and religious figures as heroes for two important movies. We are in need of role models in the States and elsewhere, and these leaders are good, old fashioned heroes.

Moses is a hero, as well as a religious leader, and maybe that is a point of concern. He cannot be seen merely as the man, who cooperating with the Will of God, freed the Hebrews from slavery. He must be seen as "the" Prophet, who transmitted the Decalogue to the entire world-Revelation from God through Moses.

The Maccabeus clan provides us with many heroes. I am not sure what Mel Gibson will do with Judas Maccabeus, but I am looking forward to the interpretation. Those two books of the Bible are some of my favorites, and I have taught Josephus in the past, who, of course, is the great historian outside the Biblical texts not only for the Maccabean Wars, but for references to Christ. I shall be following the making of these two movies with interest. A Judaic revival of heroes is a poignant sign of the times.

PS I cannot refer to The Ten Commandments without mentioning one of the worst lines in cinematic history: "O Moses, you stubborn, you splendid, you adorable fool!" Anne Baxter's famous line to Charlton Heston-her Nefretiri to his Moses. I am sure both Gibson and Spielberg will avoid such schlock.