Joseph (1995)  TV

 

 

 

 

Director:  Roger Young

Starring:  Ben Kingsley (Potiphar), Paul Mercurio (Joseph), Martin Landau (Jacob), Lesley Ann Warren (Potiphar's Wife), Alice Krige (Rachel), Dominique Sanda (Leah), Warren Clarke (Ednan), Monica Bellucci (Pharaoh's Wife), Stefano Dionisi (Pharaoh), Valeria Cavalli (Asenath), Kelly Miller (Tamar), Gloria Carlin (Bilah), Michael Angelis (Reuben), Vincenzo Nicoli (Simeon), Colin Bruce (Levi).

Made for TV movie.

Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. 

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

The opening scene is at the slave market of Avaris.  Potiphar, the chief steward of the Pharaoh, is looking to buy a slave.  He decides he wants the one who is in the corner, the one who believes in only one God, the Semite, he who is Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel. 

Potiphar's overseer is Ednan and he rides Joseph hard because the new slave will not show deference for the Egyptian god Amun. 

Potiphar's wife sleeps sixteen hours a day and the slaves have to be quiet around the house.  She likes the looks of Joseph and starts to look out for his welfare. 

One day Joseph is able to earn the respect of the overseer.  Ednan was going to put the new idol in an area where it would gradually sink into the ground.  Joseph saved Ednan and the architect from possible loss of their heads by setting up the idol in the place where it was supposed to be placed, that is, on higher and drier ground.  The illiterate Ednan is shocked when he learns that Joseph can read and soon starts relying more and more on Joseph. 

Potiphar's wife tries to seduce Joseph, but he resists.  She continues to try to have sex with Joseph with no luck.  She finally becomes so frustrated and angry at Joseph, that she accuses him of raping her.  She demands of her husband that he give Joseph the death penalty. 

But Potiphar has his doubts.  He knows his wife is a loose woman and he trusts Joseph.  Potiphar speaks to Joseph alone and demands that Joseph give him something from his life experiences, some reason, to trust him. 

Flashback. Joseph's Story.   

God brought the Israelite Jacob and his family and tribe to a fertile plane near the Hevite town of Shechem.   Joseph has ten brothers.  They all have the same father, but the mother is either the one of the sisters Leah and Rachel (wives of Jacob) or their slaves Bilhah and Zilpha.  He also has a sister, Dinah. 

Jacob receives visitors: Hamor, King of Shechem, along with Bera, the King's counsel, and the King's son Shechem.  Jacob agrees to pay taxes for the land.  Shechem notices Dinah and takes a liking to her.  As he leaves, Hamor invites Jacob to come to a wedding celebration (and to bring Dinah with him). 

When Hamor has left, one of the brothers, Simeon, suggests they resist Hamor by force.  But Jacob scolds him saying that Simeon always wants the sword.  At the wedding celebration, Shechem rapes Dinah.  Hamor and Shechem come to talk to Jacob about making this sin right by having Shechem marry Dinah.  Jacob replies that she can only marry a man who is of her faith.  Hamor thinks this over and says o.k. to this, including circumcision. 

Jacob may be mollified, but Simeon plots revenge.  When the day arrives when the Shechemites are recovering from their circumcisions, the brothers and other members of the tribe attack the fortified village.  They kill many Shechemites and burn many of their buildings.  Brother Levi kills Shechem and retrieves Dinah, who is upset at the death of Shechem. 

Jacob is furious with his sons.  He calls their actions ruthless, merciless.  He announces that they now have to leave.  And so they were forced to leave Shechem.  They travel to Beth-El, to the land that God promised Jacob.  God tells Jacob to be fertile and increase. 

Rachel gives birth to a son, Benjamin, but dies soon after the birth. 

Nine years later.  Reuben, the eldest son, wants Bilhah even though she belongs to Jacob.  Leah sees the couple together and tells Jacob.  He is very angry with Reuben and tells him that Joseph will have authority over the tribe, not Reuben.  This makes Reuben even madder and more jealous of Joseph. 

When the brothers are together herding sheep, they decide to eat a lamb.  Joseph reminds them that their father has forbade this, but this just causes the brothers to taunt Joseph mercilessly.  They tell Jacob later that the lamb was killed by a wild animal. But Jacob doesn't believe his sons; he is not fooled.  The brothers blame Joseph for Jacob's anger and make reference to betrayal and and spying in regard to Joseph. 

Jacob is so pleased with Joseph that he gives him a beautiful coat.  This increases the jealousy among the brothers.  Also adding to this was Joseph's interpretations of his dreams that one day his brothers and his father will fall prostrate before him.  Spurred on by Simeon, the brothers discuss killing Joseph, but Reuben says he will not have the blood of his brother on his hands.  Instead, the brothers throw Joseph into a dry well pit. They then sell Joseph into slavery to the Ishmalite traders.  Back at the encampment, the sons then show Jacob the coat (bloodied by the brothers) and tell him that Joseph has been killed by a wild animal.  Jacob is distraught. 

Back to the present.  After listening to Joseph's life story, Potiphar asks him to tell him exactly what happened with his wife.  Joseph tells Potiphar of his wife's attempts at seduction.  Potiphar then calls in the household.  He announces that Joseph will go to Pharaoh's prison.  This infuriates Potiphar's wife and she tells her husband that he has humiliated her.  He replies that one humiliation deserves another. 

The scene switches to Joseph serving as a bookkeeper in prison. 

Seven years later.  Joseph has become known as a talented interpreter of dreams.  He makes two interpretations of the dreams of the Royal cupbearer and the Royal baker, who have been placed in prison on suspicion of theft.  He says the cupbearer's dream means that he will soon be set free, whereas the baker's dream means that Pharaoh will have him hanged.  Shortly after, that is exactly what happens. 

Meanwhile in the Land of Canaan brother Judah has left Jacob's encampment because the grief over Joseph there is just too much for him to take.  On a journey he has sex with a prostitute (whose face is partially hidden from him).  Since he has little money with him, Judah gives the woman his staff and seal as assurances that he will pay her the following day.  When Judah returns, the woman, the staff and his seal are all gone. 

Judah returns to his father's camp.  He needs advise from Jacob about what to do with his daughter-in-law, Tamar.  He gave her his first son and he died and she still had no child.  He then gave his second son to her and the same thing happened.  But now, he has hesitated to give his third son to her because he is afraid the same thing will happen again.  But now Tamar is pregnant and refuses to say who the father is.  Jacob replies that this is a problem that Judah must solve himself.  Judah sighs and says that this means that Tamar must be put to death in the Canaanite custom.  Then Judah receives a shock.  Tamar comes to him to deliver the staff and his seal.  Judah then realizes that it is he who is the father of the child for it was Tamar who pretended to be a prostitute and had sex with him. 

Back to Egypt.  The Pharaoh has had two dreams that have disturbed him greatly.  He asks his vizier and his staff what the dreams mean, but they do not know.  Potiphar sees his opportunity to help Joseph out of prison.  The cupbearer and Potiphar communicate to Pharaoh that Joseph can interpret the dream.  Joseph is brought and he tells Pharaoh that the dreams mean that there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of drought.  Joseph also advises that the drought's terrible effects can be avoided by having all the farmers give one-fifth of their crop to Pharaoh for storage for the coming drought years. 

Pharaoh is pleased with Joseph and makes him the governor of Egypt with near complete authority over the upcoming project.  Joseph's new name is Zaphenath-Paneah (meaning savior).  Pharaoh also gives Joseph a wife: the beautiful Asenath, confidant to Pharaoh's wife and daughter of the high priest of On.  Overseer Ednan is made his assistant. 

Seven years later.  Joseph has two children: Manasseh and Ephrain.  The drought has arrived and times are tough. 

Times are also tough in the land of Canaan.  One of Jacob's sons says that they should travel to Egypt where grain has been saved in great abundance.  Joseph recognizes his brothers and has them thrown into jail.  He did this because he felt that his brothers had not really changed from the day they sold him into slavery.  He tells the brothers to go home, but they must bring back the youngest son Benjamin.  To make sure they return, he holds Simeon as a hostage. 

Jacob finally agrees to let Benjamin go to Egypt with his older brothers.  There they learn that in their absence their brother Simeon has been very well treated indeed.  Joseph toys with his brothers a while longer, but eventually reveals his real identity.  The brothers are shocked, but, after some hesitation, they embrace their brother. 

Joseph tells his brothers to go home and bring Jacob and the entire settlement back to Egypt where Joseph can guarantee that they will have enough to eat during the time of the drought.  Jacob arrives in Egypt and is extremely glad to see his son Joseph again. 

 

Good movie.  It sticks closely to the Biblical of Joseph. his fathers and his brothers, but that is better than inventing a lot of new plots to make the story more interesting.  Strong cast. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

 

See The Story of Jacob and Joseph (1974) TV.

 

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