Ridley Scott’s “unconventional depiction of God” in Exodus

Many blogs were quick to note The Hollywood Reporter’s story today on the making of Noah. Few if any, however, noted a sidebar to the Reporter story which gave a nod to the other two Bible movies coming out this year, i.e. Son of God and Ridley Scott’s Exodus.

The sidebar doesn’t offer much new info about either of those films, but it does include this bit about Exodus: “Details are scarce, but sources tell THR that Scott, an avowed agnostic, has chosen an unconventional depiction of God in the film. If so, it faces the same challenge in wooing religious audiences as Noah does.”

That’s a pretty vague statement, but it gives you a sense of the kind of buzz this film is getting within the industry. And I can’t say it surprises me at all, as Scott has always seemed like an odd fit for the Moses story — mainly because, beyond his general agnosticism, he has also tended to be skeptical wherever quests for promised lands are concerned. See, e.g., his depiction of Christopher Columbus in 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), or his depiction of the Crusaders in Kingdom of Heaven (2005), or even his space explorers in Prometheus (2012). The protagonists in these films all go on quests or pilgrimages of some sort and come out disappointed in the end.

Then again, perhaps Scott’s sensibilities aren’t that far off the mark. After all, the biblical Moses is frequently frustrated by his stiff-necked brethren, and he ends up dying before the Israelites enter the Promised Land. So there’s certainly room to play with the idea that Moses, himself, was a disappointed quester of some sort.

The real question is what Scott intends to do with the character (for lack of a better word) of God. The film will still allow for signs and wonders, apparently — last year he told Empire magazine the film will “have to” include the parting of the Red Sea — but beyond that, there are all sorts of ways Scott could shape the material.

As ever, we’ll just have to wait until December 12 — exactly ten months from today — to see how, exactly, this movie turns out. And while I can’t quite say I’m “intrigued” by what Scott is up to, I’m certainly curious. Stay tuned and all that.

Update: Coincidentally, a reader just tipped me off to this article on Exodus that just appeared in the April issue of Total Film, in which Joel Edgerton, who plays the Pharaoh Rameses, makes a somewhat enigmatic comment:

“The scale of it is epic,” he muses, “but within that, Ridley and [screenwriter] Steve Zaillian really kind of draw into a sense of reality and find touchstones for how there’s a plausibility to the plagues and these grand things, so there’s still a sense of magic and awe, but also potentially within that mystery there’s something to hold onto.”

Make of that what you will, and check out the rest of the article below.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • KEN

    A few updates: IMDB listed Kingsley’s character name as “Nun” and Ben Mendelsohn joins the cast. http://moviehole.net/201473460batman-reunion-mendelsohn-reunites-with-bale-for-exodus

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/filmchat Peter T Chattaway

      Yeah, I saw that article on Mendelsohn earlier today, but it doesn’t say who he’s playing. This would actually be the third movie that he and Christian Bale have both been in, following The New World (2005) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Thanks as ever for the tips!

  • http://mindsquirrel.com/ Andrew Tatusko, Ph.D.

    Add to that the supposed promised land of the off-world colonies of Blade Runner. Those created to be slaves to build them turn out to be the most liberated and most human (post-human?) beings of all. Add to that Roy as the Prodigal Son and Tyrell as a (false) God. So much there. For Scott it is the anti-hero who never finds liberation in his mission and for Aronofsky it is a total obsession and addiction with something that it leads to self-destruction. Talk about two close-to-real depictions of otherwise anesthetized stories we see in the movies.


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