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  Bible: In the Beginning..., The The Lord Moves In Mysterious WaysBuy this film here.
Year: 1966
Director: John Huston
Stars: Michael Parks, Ulla Bergryd, Richard Harris, John Huston, Stephen Boyd, George C. Scott, Ava Gardner, Peter O'Toole, Zoe Sallis, Gabriele Ferzetti, Eleonora Rossi Drago, Franco Nero, Pupella Maggio, Robert Rietty, Peter Heinze, Roger Beaumont
Genre: Drama, Historical, Fantasy
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: In the beginning the Lord God Almighty decided to create something out of the formless void of the universe, and began on the first day with light, which He separated from the darkness; in that way day and night were born. Over the course of the next few days He separated the land from the sea, conjured up the beasts and the plants, and eventually someone to look after this new world, a man he created in His own image from out of the dust of the ground. This man was named Adam (Michael Parks) and he was free to wander this Garden of Eden as he wished, it was the Paradise his God had made for him. To make sure he wasn't lonely, the Lord took one of his ribs and fashioned a woman, Eve (Ulla Bergryd), for company - and that's where the trouble started.

This version of the early chapters of Genesis was an odd proposition from the start. Biblical epics were falling out of favour during the mid-nineteen-sixties from their heyday of the fifties, so flinging masses of cash at a selected Bible story was no longer a guarantee of success, and though it had begun life as a sensitive Robert Bresson film - too sensitive for Italian producer Dino de Laurentiis as Bresson was quickly fired for exercising his arty sensibilities - it wound up as a considerably more lavish John Huston movie, just one of the stranger entries in his truly eccentric filmography. Strange because he was an athiest, or if he didn't go that far he was at least agnostic, which might have made him an dubious choice to helm a project so devout.

As it was, although the end result was something of a marathon with all the tough to sit through bits you might imagine, it was both a fairly accurate depiction of the source and a look askance at it from a position which subtly invited you to question what you were watching and see how it matched up with the religious beliefs you had yourself. This tension came off better in some scenes than others: in the Garden of Eden sequence, seeing what had been text can prompt such questions as why God bothered putting the Tree of Knowledge there in the first place since being all-knowing He would be well aware that Adam and Eve would partake of it eventually. Maybe he was just bored of watching them frolic every day and wanted to spice things up with sin?

That said, you may be more distracted in the Eden sequence by the Austin Powers-esque hiding of Parks and Bergryd's norty bits using not so subtle impediments to the audience getting an eyeful. Soon after, they have been cast out and suffering their problem child Cain (Richard Harris) killing his brother Abel (Franco Nero), though Huston was obviously more interested in getting to the sequence where he was cast as Noah, which was interesting as he was also the voice of God. In this part, as if acknowledging the hubris of the director taking the role of one of the fathers of mankind, we are the closest this gets to comedy as Noah is something of a Chaplinesque figure without overindulging in the slapstick (though there is a little), yet that does not stop the enormity of the flood's massacre visited upon his creation by a dissatisfied supreme being ending up rather sobering when Huston allows it.

But after Nimrod (Stephen Boyd) and his Tower of Babel (possibly the most visually impressive, if shortest, part of the film) we get around an hour of Abraham and his adventures. Here is where your attention may begin to flag, as while overall it's a patchy film with tedium threatening to set in, George C. Scott took his casting very seriously indeed and that leaves him curiously uncharismatic - the fact he and his screen Sarah, Ava Gardner, reputedly hated working with one another doesn't help. Yet there are still bits and pieces where the story moves towards approximating engaging the audience, most patently in the Sodom sequence: no, we didn't see what the Sodomites gave their name to, but we do see Lot (Gabriele Ferzetti) witness the debauchery (mostly a woman fondling a goat) and have to offer up his own daughters for raping to a mob who were very taken with his companion, Peter O'Toole as a messenger of The Lord, appropriately ethereal. Abraham sacrificing his own son concludes the film, no coincidence it too questions God's sanity: it's intermittently intriguing. And very big. Music by Toshirô Mayuzumi.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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