12 December 2005 | G_a_l_i_n_a
"Exodus", the book and the movie
Adapted from one of the best books of the last century, Otto Premenger's "Exodus" (1960) had all the components of an exiting, deeply moving masterpiece. It was made by a very talented and celebrated director ("Laura" , "Anatomy of a Murder"); most scenes of the film were made in locations where the original events had occurred; one of the best ever American actors(Paul Newman) played the main character, Jewish hero, a fearless Freedom fighter, Ari Ben Canaan; Sal Meneo gave an absolutely compelling performance as Dov Landau, a young man, a boy really who had survived the horrors of Auschwitz, the only survivor of a big family from Warsaw. Ernst Gold won an Academy award for his truly magnificent musical score. Sadly, "Exodus" is not a masterpiece it is an overlong, heavy handed, and rather unimpressive movie that caused satirist Mort Sahl to say, "Otto, let my people go" as he watched the film's 220-minute preview. Ironically, with all this running time, the best, the most inspirational parts of the book did not make it to the film. Among them are historical events dealing with the origins of ghetto system, pogroms in Russia, the long and fascinating journey of two brothers from a small Russian town to Palestine by foot, the ideas of Theodor Herzl, the birth of kibbutzes in Palestine, and enormous labor of kibbutznicks to make the land fertile, to grow plants and trees where the desert, rocks, and swamps had been, as well as the tragedy of European Holocaust and dramatic story of United Nations voting for partition of Palestine in 1947 and the war of the infant state against its multiple and hostile neighbors for the right to exist and be an independent country. I watched the movie just before I left for my trip to Israel a few weeks ago and I took the book with me there. Reading the book while be able to see the places it describes with such passion and love, to see the land that is called "promised land" or "Holy land" WAS one of the most emotional and unforgettable experiences in my life, watching the movie was not. It is just an illustration to the fantastic book no more, no less. IMO, the book deserves the same treatment that Puso's "Godfather" had received it should've been adapted into several movies, not just one. Like in Godfather, Part II, the scenes of the past and present should've alternated, given the viewers deeper insight in the events and the passions and politics behind them. Or even better, perhaps "Exodus" should've been adapted into TV mini-series format where every important character would've had enough time for his/her story.