Moses (1996) TV
Director: Roger Young
Starring: Ben Kingsley (Moses), Frank Langella (Memefta), Christopher Lee (Ramses), Anna Galiena (Ptira), Enrico Lo Verso (Joshua), Maurice Roëves (Zerack), Anthony Higgins (Korah), Philippe Leroy (Tuntmin), Philip Stone (Jethro), Anton Lesser (Eliav), Anita Zagaria (Jochabed), Dudley Sutton (High priest), Federico Pacifici (Hur), Urbano Barberini (Nahbi), Paolo Calabresi (Palti), David Suchet (Aaron), Sonia Braga (Sephora).
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
In Egypt, Pharaoh has declared death to all new-born Hebrew males. The mother of Moses places her son Moses into a reed basket and floats him on the Nile River. Ptira is bathing in the Nile. As she comes out of the water, she hears a baby crying and finds Moses.
The Pharaoh is not all that happy with Moses. When Moses and Memefta, son of Pharaoh, walk together to see Pharaoh, Memefta gives Moses a little shove and Moses falls. Pharaoh says that Moses has tripped himself and tells Ptira: "Ptira, come get your adopted son." There is definite competition between the two boys. Memefta knows that Moses is not really an Egyptian, but Hebrew. But he teases Moses with the possibility of releasing the information.
But Ptira insists to Moses that he is is not Hebrew, but an Egyptian prince. Angry, Moses replies: "I am nothing. . . . You pretend mother."
Moses intervenes to save his brother Aaron from a beating by an Egyptian overseer, but in the process kills the man. Moses must leave Egypt.
On his journey, Moses intervenes to protect three female shepherds a well from being driven away by a group of male herders. Sephora asks him to have dinner with her sisters and their father, Jethro, priest of Median. Moses says he has to keep going, but Jethro insists and sends Sephora to fetch him. At dinner, Moses accepts their invitation to stay with them for awhile.
The Pharaoh, the Great Ramses, dies. He is mourned for one full phase of the moon.
Moses marries Sephora. While performing shepherding duties, he sees a burning bush that is not consumed by the fire. God speaks to Moses saying: "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob . . . You will free my people from Egypt." Moses does not want the job. He feels he is not capable enough to perform this huge task. But God says that he will give Moses two signs to use to convince any doubters: turning his staff into a cobra snake and turning his hand from normal to an old man's hand and back to normal. He also gives Moses Aaron to speak for him.
Moses travels back to Egypt. He meets Aaron on the way as God has already told Aaron to be the speaker for Moses. There are lots of doubters among his people, but Moses convinces most of them by revealing the two signs God gave him.
Moses and Aaron got to see Memefta, now Pharaoh. Pharaoh reacts very negatively: "Moses, how dare you show your face?" He criticizes Moses for not even coming to the funeral of his Egyptian mother. Moses explains that he did not know of his mother's death. Moses then delivers his very simple message: "Let my people go!" This only makes Pharaoh angry and he increases the work load on the Hebrew slaves.
A Hebrew overseer, Zerack, is beaten for not meeting the impossible production quotas. This is the beginning of an extremely bad relationship between Zerack and Moses. Zerack becomes a constant whiner and critic, who plagues Moses and tries the prophet's patience.
Moses and Aaron return to Pharaoh. Moses demonstrates the two signs, but Pharaoh refuses to be impressed. Moses repeats his basic message: "Let my people go!"
Pharaoh has a son, the heir to the throne of Egypt. He takes his sun to bathe in the Nile. Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh there. Moses tells him that if Pharaoh does not relent God will turn the Nile bloody: "There will be blood for seven days, the fish will die and the rivers will stink of fish." Pharaoh ignores the warning, but soon has to cry "uncle" for the waters of the Nile have become undrinkable. He gives the Hebrew slaves a day off from work to assuage Moses.
But as soon as the water returns to normal, Pharaoh insists that the slaves must go back to work and make up for loss of production during their time off.
A plague of frogs descends on Egypt. Pharaoh cries to Moses: "Lift these plagues. . . Yes, I will let your people go."
The Hebrews pack to leave Egypt, but troops arrive and force all of them back to work.
Moses talks to Pharaoh again telling him that hale will kill every human and animal not protected by shelter. The come the locusts. Pharaoh will still not relent. So now Pharaoh becomes very ill with sores on his face. Pharaoh relents again and says the Hebrew slaves can leave. But Pharaoh balks when Moses says they will take all their animals and possessions with them.
The final blow to Pharaoh comes with "passover." God decides to kill all the first-born Egyptian male children of the Egyptians. So that God will pass over the living places of the Hebrew slaves, the Hebrews paint some blood on their doors. Pharaoh loses his own son. He tells Moses: "Go away from my people and be gone." But once the Hebrews have actually left, Pharaoh changes his mind once again and he and part of his army goes after the slaves. The Hebrews get across the Red Sea with the parting of the waters. But when Pharaoh sends his men onto the sea bed, the waters close on his troops killing them.
Having difficulties in the desert, the ever-critical Zerack speaks against Moses. Fire burns some of their tents and possessions. Zerack shouts: "God didn't lead us her to die, Moses." God seems to agree as manna (ingredients for bread) starts falling from the sky to feed the Hebrews. God then gives the Hebrews meat to eat by providing an abundance of birds to catch.
Three months later. Moses hears Mt. Sinai calling him. Zerack casts doubts on Moses's communication with God and wants God to speak to all the people, not just Moses. Moses talks to God and He agrees to come to Mt. Sinai to talk to the people. God gives the people the Ten Commandments that they must obey.
Moses goes up Mt. Sinai again to talk to God again. He tells the people to remain pure to receive the law. Joshua accompanies Moses.
32 days have passed and Zerack convinces the people to proceed without Moses and make a graven image (a cow). Moses and Joshua return. Moses is furious when he sees the idol and throws two tablets holding the Ten Commandments onto the ground, breaking them. Zerack starts in on his litany of critical comments: "See, Moses can not lead us out of the desert." This so enrages Joshua that he kills Zerack. Those backing Moses and those backing Zerack start killing each other.
Moses goes back up the mountain to ask God's forgiveness. He returns with the written commandments again. To preserve them, they place the tablets in a large chest called the Ark of the Covenant.
The sister of Moses, becomes critical of Moses. Is she to replace Zerack? No, because Miriam develops leprosy, which she sees as God's punishment.
Moses sends Joshua on to the promised land. The land ahead is already occupied by Hittites and Jebusites. When the bad news is delivered to the Hebrew people, some one suggests that "maybe we need a new leader . . . one that will lead us back to Egypt." A fight among the people breaks out. It is stopped by an earthquake. Moses is sick of all this fighting. He tells the people that ten times they have challenged God. He tells them that all men who have lived 20 or more years will dies in the desert. This is met with uproar and wailing.
Miriam dies. Moses smacks the cliff rocks with his staff, delivering water for the people. Aaron dies.
Moses takes Joshua up Mount Nebor, to the top of Pisgah. He tells him that it is he who will lead the people into the Promised Land, which is just on the other side of the mountain. God has told Moses that he will see the Promised Land, but will not enter it. God is calling him home. He takes his farewell saying" "I go up the mountain, but won't come down."
The last scene is the wailing of the people when they hear that Moses is not ever coming down from the mountain.
Good movie, but a little long winded. Makes me feel at times that they had to put in fillers to get enough for a mini-series. Boy, did I get tired of listening to the complaints of that whiner Zerack. I was wondering why somebody didn't silence him and then Joshua comes to my rescue, killing Zerack. And, man, did Ben Kingsley ever look funny as an Egyptian. He was o.k. as the mature Moses, but not the younger Moses. Maybe they should have gotten a younger actor to play the younger Moses? And the very European-looking Frank Langella as Pharaoh? Not a good fit. And how come Moses didn't say anything about his wife once he left her to do great things?
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
See Ten Commandments (1956)
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