I just watched this movie again recently, and I found it to be equally as compelling, equally as exciting, emotional, thrilling, sad, desperate and victorious.
There is no question that this is one of the greatest movies about Israel ever made, and, without doubt, the best of all of the movies about the creation of the state of Israel.
I rate this movie Five Stars and a MUST SEE.
The entire reason I read Exodus (1958) in the first place was because it was adapted into a film with Paul Newman. I wasn't aware of the historical relevance of Exodus 1947 or the Arab-Israeli conflict so I didn't go in with any sense of familiarity, and Leon Ulris was not sympathetic to my plight. Plodding my way through the novel over a period of several months, I found sporadic moments of dramatic power in what the novel told me about the experiences of the Jews during and after WWII that I had not learned from other textbooks or Hollywood films. But between all that, I had no idea what was going on. The novel did not establish context to why the war was going on or where everything began, so it was confusing from the get-go. I struggled to find a singular sentence in the novel which did not contain a word I did not understand as terms simple as "Yemenites" and "Haganah" pervading me. Perhaps this is a sign of my own lack of education, but either way Exodus was still a slow text which was too heavy with scale ambition to provide consistent engagement. Since film adaptations tend to cut a lot out of their source material in the adaptation process as a means of establishing a more accessible and spectacle-driven film, I had hopes that Exodus would work better for me as a film. And with Otto Preminger directing a Dalton Trumbo screenplay, I simply hoped Exodus would be a compelling film of its own right.
Ultimately, Exodus is a meandering adaptation of its novel. Dalton Trumbo's screenplay strips away much of its novels context for better and for worse. The story is far less confusing and packed than the novel, but it also takes apart my favourite aspects of the novel. Among the few things I really liked about Exodus were the stories used to establish the horrific context that lead up to the contemporary events explained in the novel. One of my favourite aspects of Leon Ulris' novel was the tale of Karen Hansel Klement. Her shattering loss of innocence as a child and journey leading up to the events of Exodus was a powerful depiction of a young girl's suffering as a victim of Jewish oppression. Since Exodus cuts out all the back stories and limits them to being afterthoughts said in passing as part of conversation, this entire plot point is cut out. And so is the story of Dov Landau's experiences in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the other great part of the story. Essentially, Exodus is little more than a visual recreation of all the contemporary events in the novel which strips away its epic scope and subplots to focus solely on the main narrative in the same manner Stanley Kubrick would with his adaptation of The Shining (1980). However, The Shining has been praised for its achievements as a horror film while Exodus lacks the same panache.
The film adaptation of Exodus cuts to the point more clearly. Instead of getting bogged down in its excess of convoluted language as Leon Ulris' writing style did, Dalton Trumbo's screenplay adheres to the standards of contemporary films. The pace of the film is slow as expected, but it gives viewers time to take in the abundance of plot points which push the running time to a total of 208 minutes. However, the story it is actually telling fails to ignite much of a spark. Taking out all the plot points I liked about the Leon Ulris novel leaves the film adaptation with little real hope of achieving its potential. Otto Preminger does his best to bring out the raw drama in the screenplay without glamourizing things or hiding the true dramatic material, and it boosts the already high credibility of his status as a director who pursues taboo subject matter without fear. He proved his capabilities in pushing the boundaries with films such as The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959), and so he certainly establishes an extent of edge in Exodus which has its dramatic appeal. However, the story development wears thin. Due to its conventional structure, the story ends up being a series of conversations which occur in repetitive settings stretched on for a period of over three hours. The script maintains some interesting dialogue, but it just drags on for too long while forgetting to have enough style to support it. The musical score is brilliantly atmospheric and carries an epic feeling while the cinematography captures the broad scope of things, but the setting of the film provides little more than a front for a lot of talking. There are sporadic shots of the land to establish context, but it is not enough to call the film much of a spectacle. As good as the production values of the film are, it doesn't bolster the scale of the film until the final act where the tale becomes centred around the fight to reclaim their homeland as the Israelites did in the biblical story from the Book of Exodus. The spectacle hits its high point here as it depicts the courageous battle the people put up including the suffering that came with it, but the damage is already done by this point. The end point for Exodus proves to finally reach a strong dramatic mood which has simply dropped in and out of the story up until then, but since that's where it all ends there is just a feeling it neglected something great that it really could have been.
When it comes to the smaller scale of things, it is revealed that characterization is proves to hardly be high point of Exodus. This is notable from the beginning where the emphasis on the passion shared in the romantic relationship between Ari Ben Canaan and Kitty Fremont is very much bereft of feeling. It's obligatory that the two will end up in a passionate affair as it's both in the story and a traditional trope of classic films, but there isn't much development in the heart of the story. Still, as much as the story stumbles in the characterization department I can definitely certify that the cast is essentially the one thing which carries grand constancy throughout the 208 minute running time.
Ari Ben Canaan doesn't feel like too much of a character in Exodus, hardly the heroic leader that he really should be. But with Paul Newman in the role there isn't too much to complain about. The actor's handsome appeal puts a natural charm into the role while his instinctive ability to command the dramatic spirit of the characters around him feeds into his dramatic strength. Paul Newman ties himself into the profession of the story by speaking all his lines with determination to pursue Ari Ben Canaan's ambitions, commanding the focus of everyone around him and the audience as well. His chemistry with the surrounding actors shows his strength in a refusal to give up on his beliefs, and that empowers the character in tune with Leon Ulris' vision well enough. Paul Newman proves a capable lead once again.
Alas, Eva Marie Saint achieves a performance of mixed quality. Kitty Fremont had far greater depth which was explored in Leon Ulris' writing, but it predictably neglected in the film adaptation. Eva Marie Saint plays Kitty Fremont like a generic leading lady from countless other films of the era with little spirit to separate her from the countless supporting stock characters that fill the narrative in Exodus. As a result, she fails to make all that much of an impact or illuminate a strong romantic chemistry with Paul Newman. She stays in a dramatic mood for the entire film, but her inability to achieve any other mood ends up rather monotonous. Eva Marie Saint's chemistry with Paul Newman and Jill Hayworth is decent, but for everyone else there is little vigour in her charisma.
Sal Mineo delivers the greatest performance in his tragically short career in Exodus. Having grown since his brilliant performance in Rebel Without a Cause, Sal Mineo maintains the same maturity as an actor yet steps out of the teenage nature of John "Plato" Crawford for the role of Dov Landau. However, he doesn't lose sight of the shattered innocence that made Plato great, rather putting it in a different context this time. Sal Mineo's ability to maintain the hard edge of a determined Zionist which he can instantly turn around with the vulnerability of a forced Sonderkommando haunted by the wreckage of his past, captured in one scene where he confesses to the role he was forced to play in disposal of Jewish corpses. The ability to organically progress between different emotional states with a swift nature that never feels rushed is an incredible skill which enhances the credibility of Exodus' drama.
Karen Hansel Klement is very much oversimplified for a cinematic depiction since the film cannot capture the in-depth nature of Leon Ulris' writing, but Jill Hayworth's performance is brilliant. The script reduces her to being a one-dimensional stock character without the heavy emotional turmoil that she is said to have experienced in the novel, but Jill Hayworth perfectly encapsulates the innocence of the young girl with her youthful charm and naïve nature despite the harsh reality of the world around her. Karen Hansel Klement provides a great characterization of the character I favoured most of all from Leon Ulris' writing.
Exodus offers a powerful collection of performances and some strong production values, but its insistence on adhering to the central premise of the novel with its abundance of talking, slow pace and bloated length without the brilliance of Leon Ulris' contextual backstories or sufficient spectacle to justify 208 minutes of running time ensures that Otto Preminger's adaptation captures all the stretches of its source material while neglecting the larger ambitions.
After World War II the Jews really have no place to go and are often found in detention camps that are as bad as the concentration camps they previously found themselves in. The British are no help to the Jews and the Germans exiled them. A secret Jewish/British officer will smuggle as many Jews into Palestine as possible hoping to sway the United Nations votes.
"They've been so long without love they demand all of the love you have."
Otto Preminger, director of Anatomy of Murder, Laura, The Man with the Golden Arm, Bunny Lake is Missing, Carmen Jones, Angel Face, and A Royal Scandal, delivers Exodus. The storyline for this picture is interesting and unfolds well but the script and acting was a bit cheesy and disappointing. The cast delivers uneven performances and includes Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Lee Cobb, Jill Haworth, Sal Mineo, and Peter Lawford.
"A man who has nothing but his work is only half a man."
I DVR'd this film because it had one of my favorite directors (Preminger) and actors (Newman). Unfortunately, this wasn't as good as I hoped. It was a bit cheesy and the lines were stiff at times (as were the performances surprisingly). The story is good enough to make this worth watching but this isn't as good as it should have been.
"What's unusual about the Jews dying?"
This film is pure Zionist propaganda, with terrible stilted acting, triumphalist unreal dialogue and an inane fictional scenario, like all propaganda films tend to be.
In short: it's chuck full of romantic bullshit, ergo gratia, a group of Jewish immigrants pull a Masada on a ship off the coast of Cyprus and so on and so forth with an ending that will make any self-respecting viewer's stomach turn or even vomit.
How unfortunate that many, if not most, of the places here depicted have been destroyed by the very same people this film tries to sanitize and exult.
This film could easily be placed up there (or more appropriately "down there") with the Nazi film Jud Süß ("Süss the Jew")
3:30 hours LOOOONG... no wonder comedian Mort Sahl, so they say, when attending the premiere, apparently bored by the lengthy film, stood up after three hours and exclaimed, "Otto, let my people go!" Can't deny that both cinematography and locations were amazing, therefore I'm giving it a very generous high mark of 2 stars out of 5.
The best is its soundtrack, by far.
Exodus is an epic story of freedom, love and peace. It follows a group of Jewish people making their exodus from Karaolos camp to Palestine, led by Ari Ben Canaan, with the help of American volunteer Katherine Fermont. This is followed by the Jews' struggle against the British forces in Palestine, which involves a couple of bombings, a prison break, a dilemma between brothers, the death of a major character and a growing social ravine between the distinguishable groups of the society. The film ends quite inconclusively on a hopeful note as Ari and the remaining children of Gan Dafna ride off in trucks to battle.
I shall not discuss on the political aspects of the film, for, as some of you might know, I am not particularly well-versed in matters pertaining to politics. Rather, I am here to discuss this film as a film alone and nothing more. Now, on the main aspects, the writing seems to be pretty good and the acting not too bad either. Sal Mineo, who was nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role as Dov Landau in the movie, performed quite solidly overall. Paul Newman's performance, while not his most iconic, is still as great as ever. Eva Marie Saint did splendidly while Jill Hamount could have been a little better - she was, I'll admit, a little awkward and wooden in some scenes, though she is remarkably beautiful.
Now onto the technical aspects. The cinematography is brilliant, with sweeping and wide-angle views of the Palestinian landscape. The most notable aspect, I would say, is Ernest Gold's score, which has led me to learning about the film in the first place. The main theme later became a song, called This Land Is Mine and was remixed time and time again by hip-hop artists into their songs, including Ice-T and T.I.. It captures the epic-ness of the tale, the struggle of the people and the hope of a better, more peaceful world. Apart from Ernest Gold's original score, the film also features others pieces of music such as Chopin's Nocturne in E-flat, a rather familiar-sounding Johann Strauss Jr. waltz (I think it's either the Kaiser-Walzer or Rosen aus dem Suden, but I can't be too sure) and Hatikvah, the national anthem of Israel.
Overall, as a film, this is a remarkable three-hour epic featuring high production values and a great message of fighting for world peace in hopes for a better world in the future.
Exodus ist ein Bilderbuchbeispiel für eine Art von Film, die heutzutage nicht mehr gemacht wird, und auch gar nicht mehr verkauft werden könnte. Diese Aussage lasse ich mal so stehen, ohne echte Wertung, denn vieles was an Exodus anders ist, ist nicht gleichzeitig gut.
Zuerst einmal, Hut ab, für Premingers Entscheidung nur an Originalschauplätzen in Israel und auf Zypern zu drehen. Nur diese Entscheidung machte es ihm möglich, das wahre Ausmaß der Hitze in diesen Ländern einzufangen. Es sei ihm auch Respekt gegönnt für die unzähligen, toll choreographierten Massenszenen, in denen sich die Kamera elegant durch die Menge bewegt. In diesen Szenen, offenbart Exodus seine wahre Größe. Durch die Massen an Flüchtlingen bahnt sich die Kamera einen Weg - durch Nebensächlichkeit und Alltäglichkeit - hin zu unseren Helden. Aber der Weg gibt uns das ganze Ausmaß des Leidens des Volkes Israel zu spüren.
Ein Monumentalfilm, er erinnert teilweise stark an Lawrence of Arabia, mit großem Aufwand und ernüchternder Laufzeit.
Mehr als drei Stunden ließ sich Preminger Zeit seine Geschichte in Gang zu bringen. Den Film könnte man aber ganz einfach auf zwei zusammenschneiden, und ich würde das wahrscheinlich sogar begrüßen. Jede einzelne Szene lässt sich Zeit sich zu entfalten, der Spannungsbogen ist irrelevant.
Suspense im herkömmlichen Sinne wird erst gar nicht erzeugt, und so verkümmern Hungerstreiks, Gefängnisausbrüche und Straßenkämpfe zu Szenen, Momenten ohne herauszustechen oder als Höhepunkte zu dienen.
Paul Newman scheint mir auch etwas fehlbesetzt zu sein. Den Actionheld nimmt man ihm natürlich schon ab, den jüdischen Freiheitskämpfer eher weniger.
Alles in allem, kann man Exodus nur als flach und ereignislos bezeichnen. Ein Widerspruch wenn man bedenkt wie viel eigentlich passiert. Allerdings dehnt sich jeder Handlungsrahmen auf einen so langen Zeitraum aus, dass er obsolet erscheint und an Wirkung verliert.
It's a tad long but it's still an interesting story & the cast is strong which helps. The film centres on specific Jews and their personal journeys.
Paul Newman is convincing as a Jew but gives a solid performance. Sal Mineo is fantastic in his supporting role. Although the story is rich the film has its holes, but it is a must see film even just for the history of the event itself.