Exodus (TV, 2007)


From Death Ray 08.

FILM: TWO AND A HALF STARS

2007 • 100 mins

Director: Penny Woolcock

Writer: Penny Woolcock

Starring: Bernard Hill, Daniel Percival, Claire-Hope Ashitey

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Worthy, confused projection of the Biblical Moses story into the near future, with gratuitous art by Anthony Gormley.

Exodus is a classic bit of Channel 4 programming, a throwback to the days before the channel decided wall-to-wall reality TV and property programming was the way forward, back when they were interested only in edgy youth slots, art flicks and tits.

Woolcock attempts to bring the Moses legend up to date, playing with sundry modern worries, an abundance of water metaphors, and a burning effigy made by Anthony Gormley. Pharoah Mann (Hill) is a right wing politician who cleans up the streets, dumping immigrant and criminal alike into a detention camp called Dreamland. His adopted son Moses, an immigrant himself, visits this camp when he discovers his real identity. In the camp, Moses kills a guard. Trapped by his crime, he is disgusted at the plight of “his” people, and begins to wage war upon Pharoah.

The film tackles the issue of the rights of societies versus the rights of individuals unflinchingly. Pharoah (one of many characters to follow the traits of their Bible originals) is not a heartless man, though his pragmatism has gone too far. Moses is depicted as blinkered and ruthless as he attempts to free the “Israelites”, willing to inflict all manner of horrors on people Pharaoh points out are mostly blameless, and those Moses are helping become appalled by his actions.Needless to say, it all ends in tears.

Behind its excellent performances, what Exodus is trying to say is hard to gauge. Is it a feminist polemic against patriarchy, casting Pharoah, God and Moses as various shade of bastard riding roughshod over the meek as they enact their petty vengeances? Is it speculative fiction? A statement that some problems are intractable? Or simply a retelling of an ancient story about angry men with the worshipful aspect stripped away? The result is a schizophrenic film that, for various reasons, doesn’t succeed in any of these goals.

The ending, a descent into violence and watery deeps, takes us back to the beginning. If the film’s intention is to display cyclical nature of things, this coda is appropriate, but ultimately it only serves to underline how loosely the parts of this sum fit.

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