Please note: The Screenplay and Treatment (excerpted below) are both WGA/w registered.
What is Pharaoh Moses: An Imaginary Journey?
Why do we need another movie about Moses? Wasn’t Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 epic The Ten Commandments the last word on Moses? Not by a long shot. And not if we take a look at the potential to tell Moses’ story anew given to us by both the Bible and many other extra-biblical sources, all of which give us a deeper, expanded view of the nuances of his character and his possible deeds.
There is no doubt that Moses is one of the most famous characters in the Bible – yet he is possibly the most complex, and unquestionably the least understood. If we allow ourselves to look at him in a fresh, new way we can see how his story is relevant to us in our own time. Beneath his famous leadership qualities, his well-known humility, and his status as Israel’s greatest prophet lies a soul in constant turmoil. Although Hebrew, he was raised and educated in the king’s palace in a manner designed to train him as a future pharaoh. His divided early history resulted in an adult Moses with an identity bifurcated in multiple ways – Hebrew/Egyptian, rich/poor, master/slave, placid/angry – who has trouble being fully accepted, let alone comfortable, in either Israel or Egypt.
Lost in the familiar arc of Moses’ story are the choices he made that could have led him in different directions than those that unfold in the Bible. Modern readers are generally not sensitive to the considerable role that free will plays in the Bible: events recorded in it have an aura of inevitability that make us believe that things had to go that way. But that is not true: what is recorded in the Bible’s pages is a record of the choices made by the protagonists that God then uses in order to accomplish salvation history.
This seemingly impregnable aura of inevitability did not always surround the Bible. Earlier ages created myths and legends about Biblical characters that are consistent with their personalities, propose different life events, and that indeed might even explain some of their idiosyncrasies. For example, the ancient legend that Moses served as king of Ethiopia after fleeing Egypt explains some unusual aspects of Moses’ life, like his marriage to a Cushite (Nubian, Ethiopian) woman, Zipporah.
In Pharaoh Moses: An Imaginary Journey, Moses’ life passes through the famous biblical high points but also takes some surprising turns – all of which have been drawn from actual sources (myths and legends, the Midrash, Jewish sages, ancient historical works and records, current scholarship). The result is a fresh telling of Moses’ story that culminates the same way as the Biblical one does – with Israel entering the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership forty years after the Exodus begins from Egypt – but which takes a very different road to get there, because Moses himself takes a different course through life, by his own choices.
INT.PALACE OF PHARAOH AKHENATEN, AMARNA, EGYPT – NIGHT
A large, lavish dinner banquet. Queen Nefertiti is seated at the king’s left, his daughter Princess Meritaten is on his right holding her 3-year-old adopted son Moses on her lap. The king’s viceroy, Ay, is also seated on the dais. Amid the general merriment, toddler Moses squirms off his mother’s lap onto the king’s. Surprised and delighted, Pharaoh lifts him affectionately.
Moses! You grow strong!
Now Moses . . .
Meritaten moves to retrieve Moses from Pharaoh. Before she can do so, Moses lifts the crown from the king’s head and sets it upon his own. Of course, it is too big for the boy’s head and slides down, stopping at his nose. Nevertheless, Moses is ebullient.
Look Father! I am king!
Gasps of surprise and horror ripple through the guests; finally there is a tense silence. The queen is shocked, the princess mortified. All eyes turn to the Pharaoh, whose kindly affection quickly stiffens into his customary haughtiness.
An anxious attendant rushes forward. Trembling, he removes the crown from Moses’ head and replaces it on the king’s. Moses bursts into tears; Meritaten is frightened and ashamed. She tries to soothe Moses to no avail.
Leave my presence!
Meritaten quickly leaves, carrying the toddler Moses, still kicking and screaming.