14 June 2006 | chrismcreynolds
Very good and very accurate for a screenplay
There were not very many errors or even extra-biblical plot elements. I would guess that there are not more than a dozen films that are both widely available and as accurate as this one. Still there were a few odd things that made me wonder...like at the start of the film, Jacob is with "his grandfather"? How can this be? The last time we know for certain that both Isaac and Abraham were alive together was earlier in Genesis when Eliezer returns from finding a wide for Isaac.
Abraham must have died somewhere around the time either just before or just after the twins (Jacob and Esau) were born. In the film, Isaac and Abraham actually die within the same year, or possibly Isaac dies first! Well, that is trivial but my point and my concern is that when a film is as accurate as this it can lead some to learn incorrectly if they assume everything is accurate.
The things I like about this may also seem trivial, but they are plentiful and continue throughout the film. When Jacob has to flee to Laban's village, it takes several days. There was an interesting thing they added to the film that actually may be a logical addition from the story that we are not told. When Jacob leaves for Laban's, the Bible does tell us that Isaac sends him to take a wife. We are not told about a dowry and this is a very interesting mystery. Why? Now only is this a very important custom, but we also know that Abraham and Isaac were very very wealthy. None of the films I have seen even begin to show how much so. When Abraham went on an urgent mission to save Lot (before Sodom was destroyed) he had over 300 men with him that were on his payroll. That many people can watch over HUGE herds but even if they only had 10 animals to watch over per man, this is 3000 head of various animals. Heck, even if he hired a man for EACH ANIMAL, he still has a herd of 300. That is not super rich but certainly not poor. There is no way that anyone would expect to take a wife without a dowry unless his family was very very poor! Yet we have no idea why Jacob arrives without a dowry.
The film postulates that he did have a dowry but that he lost it on the way. This occurs when Jacob sees a man tracking him and fears either his brother or an assassin on his brother's behalf (it is a brother in-law of Esau) and Jacob hurries up a hill with his donkey holding him back. The dowry is packed on the donkey and falls off the hill down to where the assassin is chasing, who after all was most interested in killing him to steal the dowry. This made a lot of sense because I can't figure out any other reason why Jacob would show up without a dowry, knowing his sole purpose was to take a wife and the only other factor was yes, the timing was more urgent because of the fight with Esau.
Another thing I appreciated was a scene soon after he loses the dowry. In the Bible, there is a dream Jacob has about the ladder (known as "Jacob's ladder", and it is symbolic for Christ as the bridge that joins Heaven and earth). The digital effects that were used to depict this though not especially fancy, I thought they were just right in that they were beautiful without being too fancy or "showy" the way so many effects people in modern film seem to over-do their scenes at times. This was a beautiful shimmering golden ladder that came down to the stone lined path that Jacob was following until he laid down to sleep that evening.
The rest of the film was done just as well in following the Bible closer than most screenplays manage, even with a topic as important as the Bible. All of the actors handled several complex situations just right. I don't think I could improve on the screenplay without making it far more complicated so obviously that is unfair of me to expect anything better. The pace even seemed roughly the same as in the Bible in that they glossed over sections we don't know as much about and expanded really only when the detail was available with the only exception as I indicated (the dowry).
The only other way for me to rate this film higher would be for them to somehow make it more interesting, but them that is hypocrisy for me to ask for authenticity and entertainment! The story is what it is. I am rating it an outright 8 as a film and a 10 for a Biblical adaptation. I feel that the production values (the lighting, balance, score etc. things that are normally ignored by most unless they are annoyed by it) were also just right. I just realized that I saw a pack of I think 6 Bible film adaptations and they were all really excellent. It contained all of the best adaptations together, except for "Jesus of Nazareth" (which I have on VHS and is worth buying on its own). The 6-pack includes the story of Saul and David (either 2 separate films by era or probably originally a mini-series), I think it does contain the classic film from the '50s, "The 10 Commandments" (some consider it the best Bible adaptation of all but I think several from this 6-pack are better) and if I find the site I will post comments again. It looks really worth owning.
I don't want to set anyone's expectations too high.. As I have said, this is not the most interesting story to some people but if you go in to it with that in mind I think you will be pleasantly surprised.