Ashdoc's movie review---Exodus ( 1960 )
The real problem for the moviemakers was an impossible one---to match the novel on which the movie was supposed to be based . And EXODUS is one of the most influential novels of the 20th century , a masterpiece if there ever was one ( GODFATHER and CARPETBAGGERS are others ) . But the novel is so vast in scope and scale that it was not possible to pack all it's events in one movie , even though the movie was already long at 3 hours 15 minutes . A miniseries would have been more apt to film the novel , but it would not have had the grandeur of a film would it ?? Certainly not in the era of small TV sets which did not have HD ; the movie was made way back in 1960 when TV technology was in it's infancy . So a cinemascope movie that left out some of the events in the novel was made .
The movie starts with an American nurse ( played by Eva Marie Saint ) who is a volunteer at the internment camp of holocaust survivors in Cyprus wanting to adopt a young danish Jew girl and take her back to the US . But fate has other plans as a rebel Jew ( played by Paul Newman ) who had fought in the British Jew brigade smuggles many Jews including the danish girl onto a ship which is renamed the 'Exodus' , and the ship is destined to sail to Palestine . The Danish girl ( played by Jill Haworth ) is in love with a holocaust survivor ( played by Sal Mineo ) and wants to go to Palestine and not America . The American nurse also boards the ship , and the rebel Jew threatens to blast the ship by dynamite if the British authorities do not remove their blockade of the ship . So they relent and allow it to sail to the cheers of the Jews not only in the ship but also in the internment camp . Their joy is to be seen to be believed ; the call of the holy land promised for 2000 years and now at last in reach after innumerable sufferings is something that others like me will not even begin to understand....
All the Jews have stories of persecution and horror to tell ; the stories are beyond the imagination of those who have led secure lives . For example , the holocaust survivor loved by the danish girl had chosen to co operate with the nazis to bury murdered members of his own community by dynamite in order to save himself , and the nazis have done unspeakable things to him . The British officers guarding the internment camp also look at the Jews with condescension and think of them as troublemakers .
The movie has two love stories---one of the american nurse who first loves the character played by Newman , but feels different from his family and rejects him until a life and death situation makes her realise her love for him . The other is of the danish girl who has fallen in love with the holocaust survivor . The two lovers are opposites ; he has seen the worst form of persecution under the nazis , while she has seen compassion as all danish citizens marched out wearing the star of David ( jewish symbol ) when the nazis asked the Jews to identify themselves thereby hiding the Jews . Naturally she has a wide eyed innocence about her . But it is she out of all people who is selected by fate for death at the hands of the Arabs ; she who constantly worried about the holocaust survivor...such is the hand of destiny in the midst of war .
And war it is , as the Jews and Arabs have to fight it out for claiming Palestine . The film has bomb blasts and assassinations and full scale fighting . The Jews' moment of triumph is shown in the movie---when the United nations passes the resolution for partitioning Palestine to form a Jewish state . And more fighting has to be done . Some Jews like the character played by Paul Newman are friendly enough with some Arabs that an Arab friend lays down his life to save him ; he is buried along with the danish girl . Naturally , the character played by Newman dreams of a nation where Jews and Arabs with live like equals . But as history tells us with the benefit of hindsight , dreams are not always fulfilled !!
Inspite of it's shortcomings , the movie has the ingredients of an epic . And I went on to like it as I saw it more . Acting is not natural but theatrical , but the director has woven the events into a well told story . Music is of course the strong point of the film , and is tinged with emotion with the Israeli national anthem being it's theme . Photography is okay .
Three stars out of five .