The Ten Commandments
Those who study history are able to enjoy a number of very inspiring people who in the face of great oppression and challenges, stood up against an oppressive force on the world stage and was successful in their task or who died a martyr for a just cause. When history and Hollywood are able to marry such a story and when done correctly, that only adds to the mystique and inspiration which the story already possessed. This is present in three films which should be considered required viewing for anyone who believes that heroes no longer exist and for those who need an additional reminder that they do exist.
Good Night and Good Luck, The Ten Commandments and Schindler’s List, all portray real and historical figures who for a time, stood up, either formally or informally, against the oppression of their government or public opinion. Also, at the time, the latter two could easily have become a martyred but survived the ordeal whereas the former did sacrifice his famous career for the ideals which he shared and in which he turned out to be in the minority. It is so very important and adds greatly to each individual story as it is portrayed in each respective film, that it really did happen. Fantasy has its place in literature and in film.
However, when one watches each of the aforementioned films and realizes that at least the main story lines to each film are correct and portray a real event in history, it cannot help but remind the viewer that history does and will continue to repeat itself and that one should carry away from the viewing of each film that despite not being given the same stage as these individuals, standing up against oppression, even on a small scale, is very important. This is what these films teach and it is what helps to make these works of art, films and not mindless tripe which Hollywood has seemed to be content to produce, at an exponential rate.
Films which inspire action for the benefit and welfare of another human being are films which reminds us that no man or woman is an island onto themselves and sometimes it will behoove their conscious when they are reminded of such high and necessary ideals which all too often, are absent in one’s mind. One of the most recent examples of Hollywood exalting the efforts of a fearless individual; Good Night and Good Luck, (2005) a film about the historic fight between Edward R. Murrow and Wisconsin Senator Joseph P. McCarthy.
It does not seem accurate for one to give credit to Murrow for single handedly bringing down McCarthy since many historians would argue that was self inflicted. This however does not mean that the fight that Murrow gave against McCarthy did not have long lasting effects, nor should it be believed that the fight was only as big as the egos of two men. Good Night and Good Luck is sure to become a classic, and even more importantly, historically accurate example of how one man, despite risking his career and being labeled as a Communist; a very dangerous label in the 1950’s America, can stand firm upon his convictions and continue to fight.
This is what Good Night and Good Luck represents. This movie represents the reactions and level of responsibility when the media offers a voice of dissent and how the freedom of the press, even in times of the Cold War, needs to be protected. In the years after the end of World War II, The United States of America quickly realized that the Soviet Union would prove to be a formidable task against the desire for world peace. The Soviet Union, being able to match the strength of the United States in weapons and resolve, proved a vital threat to the United States for the next forty five years.
Even though there would be more dangerous times between the two super powers, the 1950’s was a time of great concern within the United States. The fear that there might be Communist spies within the government, scared millions of Americans. There were indeed Communists spies who have been able to infiltrate the government, but that number had become so over exaggerated, that Senator McCarthy would later be censured by the Senate, brought down by his own sense of hysteria and then in 1957, died in relatively obscurity. However, in the years: 1953 and 1954, the entire country was transfixed with the Murrow/McCarthy dispute.
Even though in this historical battle, there are two single names which stand out, this is far from a dispute which included only two high profile people. When Edward R. Murrow first decided that he would detail the story of Milo Radulovich, a member of the U. S. Air Force who had been discharged because of the suspicion that his father and sister had read and perhaps subscribed to, newspapers with known Communist leanings, Murrow would set into motion, a cynicism towards the government, on behalf of the press, which still continues today.
Murrow certainly was not the first to regard the actions of the government as dubious but was one of the first with regard to the newest medium of its time: television. Radulovich was considered a security threat but does not go quietly into the night. When Murrow decides that he will detail Radulovich’s story, he knows that he is treading on very thin ice. The fear of retribution from one man ( McCarthy) is the least of his concerns, but rather, what will stem from taking such a stance.
In doing so, Murrow is labeled a Communist and the fall out soon begins. The question will soon follow: What responsibility does the media have to report the truth and to what degree will that truth continue to be told despite an overwhelming belief, and correctly so, in the reprisal that will be sure to follow? These are all important questions, some would say, that possess self evident responses. However, in the early 1950’s the medium of television was in its infancy as regarding the mass appeal and production of television upon the American stage.
Murrow continued to detail the leveling of personal rights and freedoms of very common people in favor of obtaining more power and bringing the country into a sense of mass hysteria, Senator McCarthy continued his witch hunt. What serves as one of the greatest sources behind this mass and appeal that McCarthy had, was the fact that so many millions of Americans feared Communist infiltration and possibly another World War in which nuclear weapons would be the weapon of choice. Armed with that power, Senator McCarthy was able, at least for a time, to receive all that he demanded.
Not only were the American people afraid of Communist infiltration within the United States, McCarthy’s fellow senators were afraid of a fall out from the people who voted them into office, if they were to public ally challenge McCarthy and question either his motives or his facts. This would not last for long and hindsight is always 20/20. However, in this early years, Senator McCarthy had amassed more power than any other member of Congress since Huey Long, who also ran rough shot against the personal freedoms of the individual, became a Senator from Louisiana in the mid 1930’s.
So what exactly did Murrow risk by standing up to McCarthy? In the movie, Murrow is confronted by the head of CBS, William Paley who, despite his concern for stirring up trouble, told him “I’m with you today and I’m with you tomorrow” in what seems on the surface to be a strong endorsement of the work that Murrow was doing. “In reality, it was the end for Murrow and CBS would eventually turn their back on Murrow. ” Not only did Murrow, in taking his stance, risk being labeled as a Communist, but since that would translate into lost revenue for CBS, Murrow’s job was also put in seriously jeopardy, as it was in the end.
Murrow received pressure from the Armed Forces, members of Congress, a public admonishment from a then popular and powerful Senator McCarthy, sponsors and viewers as well. Alcoa, the sponsor of the Murrow programs, upon realizing that their bottom line was now being put in jeopardy with their continued association with Murrow, would eventually pressure CBS to downsize the influence of Murrow until he was a non factor in broadcast news.
The realization of his greatness and the historical importance of the event, would not be realized, as it often is with history, until decades later when the Communist witch hunts had died down. This noble and historic fight in which one man took on a very powerful senator, an entire television station and the television industry, who in Murrow’s belief, was shying away from serious news and conflict in favor of “fluff” in which the daily exploits of a movie star or the latest fashion trends take center stage except for what really matters. Murrow would die in 1965, but his legacy would continue.
Keith Olberman, a news anchor for MSNBC News in America, ends every broadcast with Murrow’s signature: Good night and good luck in tribute to the man and what he stood for in life and in broadcasting the news. In the last scene of Good Night & Good Luck, the mise en scene helps to end the film on a proper note. One of the real strengths to the film was that it helped to blend newsreels from that time with the film. The last scene included a speech by then president Dwight David Eisenhower in which he speaks about the freedom and process of law that every American has under the Constitution.
The camera closes in on the televised version of this speech and there is no sound other than what comes from the speech. Once the speech is over, the screen goes black and the movie is over. This scene helped to contribute to the rest of the film which had within its production, a message. Good Night & Good Luck is a film with a message and the last scene in the movie, its mise en scene, only continues that message in the hopes that it might resonate with the audience. The Ten Commandments (1956) is another example of a man who showed courage in the face of overwhelming odds.
Whether or not one believes that God’s hand of providence was responsible for Moses’ success, it is a historical fact that the life and actions of Moses did exist and did transpire as one of the most important events in ancient Egypt. The life and times of Moses is one of the most fascinating in human history and the beliefs of three religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity in which nearly four billion people claim to be, draw strength from the life and fearless actions of Moses.
After nearly four hundred years of oppressive and deathly bondage, the Jewish people have delivered to them, a man who will help them be lead out of this life and into a land of their own. However, this does not come easily as the Jewish people are to the Pharaoh, a great source of human labor in the construction of his mighty pyramids and infrastructure to his kingdom. The Ten Commandments was so beautifully shot, both for its time and even fifty years later, that there are countless examples of successful and effective mise en scenes within this film.
There are literally dozens and dozens to list and explain. One that strikes at the heart of the film was when Moses goes to meet Pharaoh in order to tell him that he must let his people go free from the bondage that they have been long suffering. The palace is decked in gold and marble and is perfectly conditioned. The same can be said about Pharaoh as well as his wife and even his servants. This is in stark contrast to the visual condition of Moses. He is unkempt and probably smells. He is haggard in his appearance and is old beyond his years.
The contrast is unmistakable and helps to give the visual message of the contrast in both of these figures; both in their motivations and in their faith. Moses, through a series of visits with the Pharaoh, who by adoption, is really his brother, seeks the emancipation of hundreds of thousands of his people from the oppressive and deadly slave labor which they are commanded to adhere to for the rest of their life, often times resulting in deadly consequences for those who oppose the rule of the Pharaoh, or who break under the backbreaking labor which has become their toil in life.
The Pharaoh has absolute authority. There was nothing which resembles a democracy in Ancient Egypt and the Pharaoh, despite the family ties that he had shared with Moses as a child, the Pharaoh would have had no problem in sentencing Moses to slave labor himself. In fact, Moses is sentenced to that once he discovers that he is Jewish but is later called by God to free his people from four hundred years of bondage.
Due to is historical accuracy, at least with the main points of the film, the ability of Moses to stand up to one of the most powerful people in the world at that time, while having nothing to his credit except faith in God, the actions of Moses in The Ten Commandments is one of the purest examples of a single individual standing up to a force so much stronger than he, one who witnesses this first hand could only believe that Moses had a death wish. Every day, individuals possess and accordingly have the courage to stand up for their beliefs and for the rights of others.
None has had their story portrayed so beautifully and inspiring as that of the story of Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List (1993). There is no single paper of academic study which could encompass every important aspect of this movie. All works within this medium can be placed within two main categories; movies and films. Movies meet the sole need for entertainment. They do not carry any lasting and important quality but are rather designed to incite the blind absorption of the mental images and often times empty message. These sadly, monopolize Hollywood at this time.
Films are much rarer and many times do not incite the same type of reaction which helps to turn a tidy profit for the studio but which are important to watch which serve as a sizable contribution to the medium of art through film. Schindler’s List is a rare exception in which is serves as an absolutely important film which carries an important message. However, it is also a film which enjoyed a great deal of success at the box office. Gross revenue exceeded $310 million and is considered required viewing in colleges and universities across the world.
An individual can make a stand against society and the madness which surrounds them by either an outward stance. Both can be just as effective. If Schindler had attempted to make his stand against the Nazi regime public, he would simply have been killed or put in a slave labor camp similar to the one which he ran, or at least the one which the Nazi authorities believed he ran. If the life of Oskar Schindler, at least at it portrayed in Schindler’s List is not an example of an individual standing up against society, then there are simply no such examples in film which would conform to that expectation.
Its importance lies in the fact that Schindler decided not to follow the crowd and the authority of the government in this instance. He risked his life and had to hide his actions for the duration of the war. However, in doing so, he saved more than a thousand individuals. There are few people who, armed only with their talents, can say that they saved more than a thousand people, almost by themselves and did so at the constant risk of being discovered and simply killed.
This is the story of Schindler’s List. In the last fifteen years, there still continues to be internal strife within countries, whose level of violence can be described as only genocide, (Somalia, Rwanda, Uganda and Darfur to name a few) the lesson of Schindler’s List, despite its importance and wide spread appeal, is still not be absorbed by the world as one genocide after another continue to impede the happiness and right to life of millions of people on this earth every year.
There is a severe shortage of people who are willing to stand up and fight against these oppressive government regimes which would seek to quell dissent in their country by simply killing a million of their own people. This is what occurred in 1930’s and 1940’s Germany as its citizens, frustrated by the oppressive and crippling effects that the 1919 Treaty of Versailles had upon their country, wished to be great again and sought out the Jewish members of their society, as scapegoats for their troubles.
A war begins and those who were not able to escape the Nazi oppression as they overtook one European country after another, were put in work camps and then finally concentration camps in which more than six million people would lose their lives. It is amazing and a source of much discussion as to why an entire country could have been blindly fooled and decided to follow Adolph Hitler.
Despite the fact that Hitler, in the 1933 elections, received only 1/3 of the vote, by the time of WWII, Adolph Hitler enjoyed an n exponential increase in his power and influence to such a degree, that it has not been surpassed in recent world history and hopefully never will. In this context, Oskar Schindler; a wealthy factory owner, upon learning that these concentration camps do exist, decide to take a stand; perhaps the first stand that he ever took as his life of leisure and fun did not yield the time or attention in such matters.
A transformation occurs within Schindler which is a good source for much study an inquiry. However, throughout the entire movie, even at the beginning when Schindler seems to only care about himself, by default, is saving the lives of dozens of Jewish people who would otherwise would have been rounded up and transported to the prison camps. If Schindler had stood up publicly and told of how the rule of Hitler was wrong and oppressive, how it would bring nothing but sorrow to the German people and what was being done in the concentration camps, he would simply have been killed or sent to a concentration camp.
This is not to say that those who did that, did die in vain. However, in the case of Schindler; one with the charm and resources to make a difference, keeping his motivations secret was the most useful thing that he could do in order to save the lives of his Jewish factory workers. As more and more Jews are being rounded up and sent to concentration camps, so too does the efforts of Schindler. Schindler commands to his disposal, every resource that he has; both mentally and monetarily in order to save the lives of his workers.
When told by his secretary Itzhak Stern that the shells that he was making were defective, Schindler replied: “If this factory every makes a shell that fires properly, I’ll be very unhappy. ” Schindler, by his very actions, was making a bold statement that perhaps for the first time in his life, he was making a stand. It just so happened that this initial stand was against the entire Nazi regime in one of the most oppressive times in European history.
Schindler hid more than a thousand Jews from the concentration camps by using every inner skill which helped him charm the Nazi officials to give him anything that he wanted, knowing that if Schindler were to get caught, his life would be over. He would be sent away to a concentration camp and the life of luxury and ease which he had grown accustom to, would be a distant memory. There are also numerous examples of successful and highly effective examples of mise en scene which add to the effectiveness of the film.
The most famous is of the small girl in the red dress that runs away while her family is being shot dead by the Nazi soldiers. The fact that the movie is shot in Black and white adds greatly to the effectiveness in the contrast of the colorless film in contrast to the color of the red dress, cannot help but send a further message of the horrors of this period in history. Also, the fact that the girl’s actions are put in slow motion as she tries to run away, also aids in the effectiveness of the film.
So much so that later in the film, when it is discovered that the girl in the red dress has been killed, it is one of the most memorable scenes of a victim of the Holocaust. This was the desire to help put a face to the more than six million who died in the Holocaust. It is not only what Schindler risked but in what that risk accomplished, that makes the conviction of Schindler so very important. Every life is important and had Oscar Schindler been at a different place in time in which he was able to save a single life far away from the Nazi backdrop and without a great film in which to tell his story, the sacrifice would still be noble.
However, when combining the fact that the movie dealt with one of the darkest chapters in human history but which offered a shining light in the life and actions of Oskar Schindler, who perhaps for the first time, risked any level of convenience, where in this case, the result would have been depth had he been discovered, in order to help others. Schindler’s List is not a story of open defiance but defiance none the less and one which should be required viewing for every person on this earth.
Whether the character is risking his life as he stands before the most powerful human being of his time and demands that the main source of his revenue be set free, or risks his career by exposing the oppression of his own government or who risks his life in order to save a thousand others, he is standing up for what he believes in and is content to let the chips fall where they may. One cannot help but be inspired by the actions of these aforementioned individuals.
And this is not to say that these are the only examples of one standing up against society as this is not the case. Every day, thousands or perhaps millions of people resist a greater force than their own, despite the impeding risk to their own life and security, in order to correct a wrong in society. Often times, these efforts are futile, at least in the short term and the person is murdered. However, when one chooses to remember and learn from the life lesson which their inner convictions gave to others, their death was not in vain.
When Hollywood and history come together to retell a story in which a single individual sought to evoke change on a grand level, and actually exceeded in his efforts, it would behoove the viewer to absorb the message which is being sent. All too often, films are not absorbed and the lesson falls of apathetic eyes and hearts. This should not be the lot to any degree, for these aforementioned movies as they are not only important in cinematic history, but in world history.
As long as these stories of human defiance towards government oppression or any oppression on such a grand scale continue to be told, their lives and actions were not in vain. When an individual stands up against the popular opinion of any governing body, whether it be formal or informal, outright or in secret, and risks his job, his reputation and perhaps even his life, it is something that we as a people should at least take notice of as it needs to incite a number of inner questions to be asked: “Is what he or she saying correct and right?
” “And if so, do I have the conviction to risk my own comfort and convenience in order to join in the fight? ” The eventual answer to the latter question for the individuals mentioned above, was a resending YES. And all those who recognize this sacrifice and are compelled to do good in the world because of it, have not only the individual but the film director and all those involved in the production of the film, to thank as we are indebted to them for making our lives count just a little bit more.
WORKS CITED George Clooney Good Night and Good Luck Warner Independent Pictures 2005 Cecil DeMille The Ten Commandments Paramount Pictures 1956 Spielberg, Steven Schindler’s List Universal Pictures 1993 “Schindler’s List” American Film Institute www. afi. com retrieved October 16, 2007 The Holy Bible New York: Oxford University Press 2000Sample Essay of AssignmentExpert.com