Monday, December 20, 2010

Pharaoh (1966)

Historical setting: Antiquity, Ancient Egypt, 11th Century BC

Genre: Drama, Political

Country: Poland (Locations: Poland, Egypt, Uzbekistan)

Language: Polish

Director: Jerzy Kawalerowicz

Plot Summary: The Egyptian state is facing difficulties, the Assyrians are pressing from outside, the State is near bankruptcy, deeply indebted to Phoenician merchants, and the people is poor. Ramses XII dies and his son Ramses XIII is proclaimed pharaoh. To stop Egypt's rapid decline the young Ramses XIII decides to seize the great treasures that lie stored for generations in the temples, to spend it on social reforms and wage war on Assyria. But the clergy opposes his plan and a political and religious struggle begins between the priests and the young pharaoh.


The film is adapted from the late 19th century novel by the Polish writer Bolesław Prus, Pharaoh.

Film production took three years, beginning in the fall of 1962 with the setting up of a studio in Łódź. Filming took place in Europe, Asia and Africa. Most of the indoor scenes of the pharaoh's palace, the temples and the Labyrinth were shot at the Łódź studio. The Warsaw River Shipyard built an Egyptian ship according to drawings from 4,000 years ago. An artificial island was created on Lake Kirsajty, near Giżycko, Poland, and planted with palms and lotus for the scene involving Ramses' row on the Nile with Sara.

Mass scenes were filmed mainly in in the desert Kyzyl-Kum, in Uzbekistan, between June and October 1964. The crew worked there in very difficult conditions—at the height of summer, the noon temperature exceeded 50ºC (122ºF); the temperature of the sand was 80ºC (176ºF). Film stock had to be kept in cold storage. A very vexatious thing was the ubiquitous dust. Every day, 10,000 bottles of mineral water were delivered to the shooting location. Hazards included sand vipers and venomous spiders.

Some scenes were filmed at authentic Egyptian locales. For example, the scene in which Prince Ramses learns that his father Pharaoh Ramses XII has died and that he has now become Pharaoh Ramses XIII, takes place against the backdrop of the pyramids of Gizeh; but the crowds of tourists and the present-day appearance of the area made it near-impossible to find good takes.

2,000 Soviet soldiers would be available to the director during the stay in the former Soviet republic, and in Egypt more than 2,000 extras were employed.

2,000 cubic meters of wood from the forests of Siberia were used to build the sets of the palace and the temple.

6,000 uniforms were made, 3,000 pairs of shoes, 1,500 peasant clothes, 60 habits of priests, 700 bows with 13,000 arrows, 300 shields and 2,400 spears.

One of the historical consultants on the film was Poland's Professor Kazimierz Michałowski, a world authority in Egyptology. Another was Shady Abdel Salem, an Egyptian art historian who had consulted on the 1963 Cleopatra.

The producers made the artistic decision to keep the film in a predominantly golden-yellowish register and to almost completely eliminate bright colors; bright foliage appears only once—in the scene with Ramses and Sara on the Nile.


Ramses XII and Ramses XIII didn't exist. Assyria was not a great power in the 11th century BC.

Other errors and anachronisms include the parliamentary presence of representatives of the people, the mention of the Greek currency (talent) as a reward to the troops or the presence of Greeks and Phoenicians.

The role of the Phoenician traders and bankers, and the frequent use of all kinds of dirty tricks is exaggerated and is an anachronism.

The strained relations between Egypt and Assyria and the weakened state of Israel and Phoenicia are episodes that would be placed in the next millennium.

The capital of the New Kingdom was Thebes, not Memphis.

Although Ramses XIII did not exist, we can relate the events (not in the way they appear in the film) with the clash of Amenhotpe IV with the clergy of Amon, and the rise to power of the high priest of Amon, Herihor.


The film makes a great effort at recreating a primal ancient civilization, complete with the geography, climate, social stratification, politics, religion and warfare, paying attention to detail in the scenes of embalming and funerals, the court protocol, the waking and feeding of the gods, the religious beliefs, ceremonies and processions.

At the Cannes Film Festival, the director Kawalerowicz stated that given that they had not found in all Egyptian iconography handled, no image that allowed them to think that the kiss had been a form of erotic play, it did not appear throughout the film.

The actors themselves adopt on many moments hieratic postures as seen in Egyptian paintings.

We only see two buildings (the palace and the temple) that reflect the two centers of power highlighted in the story. There are no roads, no houses, only the desert and the sun with its continued ubiquity presenting the country's dominant landscape view.

The destruction of a ditch, recommended by the priests to avoid crossing the place where two beetles were fighting, gives the first hint of the important role of religion and priests.

A slave sees destroyed that ditch whose construction he had worked for 10 years and, after that, powerless, he commits suicide. He is the only worker in the film that it is mentioned his legal status, this could spread the common believe that slavery was the dominant form of work, when at that time (late 2nd millennium) other forms of dependency were predominant.

Writer: Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Tadeusz Konwicki (Novel: Bolesław Prus)

Cinematographer: Jerzy Wójcik

Production design: Jerzy Skrzepinski

Art Direction: Romuald Korczak, Franciszek Trzaskowski, Albin Wejman

Costume design: Maria Czekalska, Andrzej Majewski, Barbara Ptak, Lidia Rzeszewska

Historical advisor: Kazimierz Michałowski, Shady Abdel Salem

Producer: Kadr Film Unit

Official Budget & Gross:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hannibal the Conqueror (2011)

Historical setting: Antiquity, Rome, Carthage, 3rd Century BC

Genre: Drama, War

Country: USA

Language: English

Director: Vin Diesel

Plot Summary: A Carthaginian general leads an army, complete with war elephants, across the Alps to attack Rome in the 3rd Century BC. Supremacy in the Mediterranian is at stake. Two empires face to face, only one will prevail.

Writer: David Franzoni (Novel: Ross Leckie)


Production design:

Art Direction:

Costume design:

Historical advisor:

Producer: Vin Diesel, George Zakk

Official Budget & Gross: $50 million /

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Kingdom of Solomon (2010)

Historical setting: Antiquity, Israel, Old Testament, Bible, Islam, 11th Century BC, 10th Century BC

Genre: Drama

Country: Iran

Language: Persian

Director: Shahriar Bahrani

Plot Summary: Solomon, Prophet and King of Israel, has asked God to give him an ideal kingdom which has never been given to anybody before. He is told to prepare himself and his subjects with evil and unearthly creatures that haunt the men. This version about Solomon's life is based on Muslim beliefs extracted from Qur'an verses and some Jewish texts.

Writer: Shahriar Bahrani

Cinematographer: Hamid Khozouee

Production design:

Art Direction:
Hamid Qadirian

Costume design: Hamid Qadirian

Historical advisor:

Producer: Mojtaba Faravardeh

Official Budget & Gross: $5 million /