The Painted Veil

Animation film voiced by Christian Slater, Alfred Molina, Elliott Gould, Kathleen Barr, Christopher Gaze. Narrated by Ben Kingsley. Directed by Bill Boyce, John Stronach
Running Time: 85 mins
Rated: Rated G

This children's film is a retelling of the life of Moses (Slater). Narrated in grand style by Ben Kingsley, Moses is given away as a baby and sent downstream on the River Nile where he is found by Pharaoh's daughter who takes the child as a gift from God and raises him as her own, an Egyptian Prince. Moses later discovers he is a Hebrew by birth and is then called by God (Gould) to become a prophet to the Pharaoh, Ramses II, (Molina) and to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land. After the plagues Pharaoh relents and lets the Hebrews go, until he has another change of heart and leads the army in pursuit of them. After their deliverance, Moses is given The Ten Commandments, which rules over the wanderings of the Jewish people until they are admitted to Promised Land, except for Moses who is prevented from leading them in as pay back for the people's lack of fidelity to the Covenant.

For obvious reasons I wanted to like this film, be able to recommend it and, indeed, promote it to you. Sadly for me, and maybe for the film, I cannot do any of these three things.

Given how good animation films can be these days, this version of The Ten Commandments looks like amateur hour. With such a star studded cast, I can only think that the producers spent all their money on the actors and had little left over for the vision and the music. But this is not a radio play, it is a film, and, even though it only goes for 85 minutes, it fails to have any real visual or aural interest.

It also makes a number of biblical errors and unnecessary embellishments on the story. The most serious one is to use the word Jehovah as a translation for the Hebrew name for God, YHWH. The term Jehovah was first used by Dom Raymundus Martini, a Spanish Dominican, who in 1270 tried to Latinize the Old Testament name for God. He did his best but was wrong. Even a little bit of research by the filmmakers would have shown how inappropriate this is in the 21st Century.

This is only one of several textual problems in the screenplay which means that 'spotting the error' might be the only creative way to view the film. A missed opportunity if ever there was one.

Anchor Bay Entertainment Out April 24

Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Film Office

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