Faraon [Pharaoh] (1964)

This is not a movie about the Amarna Period, but nonetheless I thought it was worth mentioning.  This Polish movie, with subtitles in English, has been posted in full on Youtube here by its studio.  I watched the whole thing last night.  

It is a fair chunk of movie.  I have never really seen a film set in Pharaonic Egypt that had any intellectual heft, or pretended to.  This movie is an exception.  It’s based on a Polish novel, by Boleslaw Prus, about a fictional Pharaoh Ramses XIII at the close of the Twentieth Dynasty.  Egypt was a weak and imperiled state then, in comparison to the Nineteenth Dynasty, and Prus used Egypt as a setting to examine state power itself.  Although popular, it appears to be a dense and cerebrally focused novel, if the film is any basis for comparison.  

Assuming that the film’s story was streamlined and dumbed down, it’s hard to imagine how much rougher the going was with the novel.  The film is turgid to the point of dullness, and yet I was somehow drawn to keep watching through to the end.  Part of that was that one of the characters was named Pentuer, and I expected this was meant to be this Pentawer and thus that he was going to get horribly buried alive, so I thought that was worth sticking around for.  That never happened.  

It is hard to know whether to recommend this movie.  It’s certainly beautiful, packed with carefully researched props, costumes and location shots.  It’s also very much a period piece from Eastern Europe in the ’60s.  But it is nice to watch a movie set in ancient Egypt that actually takes its setting and subject seriously.