Coded green.

Saturday 20 October 2001

Screen picture

Pic of the day: Screenshot from the movie Joseph, King of Dreams.

King of Dreams

Actually, I'm glad I got this movie by mistake. I picked the cover of Prince of Egypt, but the video guy put King of dreams in the box instead. It seemed slightly irritating when I discovered it, but now I find that I really loved this movie. I've watched it in Norwegian and English, and tried to learn the song More than you take.

It is only fair to remind you that I am a believer, and the story of Joseph is one that I remember from so far back that I don't know when I learned it. It may have been in school; it may even have been before: I could read a while before that, and according to my mother I preferred true stories. Yes, I am aware now that there is little scientific evidence for this story. It is presumably a myth, but I doubt it is a fable. Rather I suspect it is based on stories of real people, who have been handed down: One part of one life, one part of another life. I may be wrong. It may be divinely pure truth, for all I know. I would certainly not mind. But I'm not going to use this particular part of the Bible to show how good a believer I am.

Anyway it is as myth this story has been taken by those nice folks at Dreamworks. They have changed this part and that, moved the spotlight from myths that were important 3000 years ago to myths that are important today, and kept a core. Because some things don't change.


One part of the story - and one of the best known parts even - was subtly watered down. When Potiphar's wife had tried to seduce Joseph (which she incidentally did in a rather family-friendly way ... nothing to make the kids blush there) - he said to Potiphar: "I could never betray you." But in the original, Joseph said that he could not do this sin against God. True, he also reminds the wife that it would be a betrayal against his master. But still, there is a subtle point lost.

Why did I notice? Because long ago, I myself was young and at least a little better looking than today. And when it once happened that a married woman took hold of me and kissed me, that was what I thought: How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against her husband? (I could not. I guess I hurt her feelings, and I wish I had been alert so I could have averted this earlier. But I was too innocent, I guess, to realize.)

I realized this subtle difference there and then, almost as I thought it. And I have thought about it sometimes later. What does it say about me? Well, it says that I'm no Joseph, I guess. I mean, the original Joseph. I have more in common with the Joseph of the movie.


Like the child Joseph in the movie, I was the one who got special treatment. My brothers worked on the farm from their childhood; I did very little work. (There was a reason for that, my asthma. And my brothers did not resent it so intensely either, I think.) I also got special treatment in other ways, such as food. On the other hand, Joseph is portrayed as being much smarter than his brothers. I was not smarter than mine. I had no reason to believe I was special, but I did. I wanted to be more than the usual. When other boys wanted to become police or fireman or pilot, I wanted to become a prophet.

But when I left home at the age of 15, it was not because of my brothers, and I was not sold into slavery. Quite the opposite. The fear that I had felt during my childhood was lifted from me when I left all old schoolmates behind and came to a faraway place where no one knew me.

I guess I did - perhaps do - have unusual gifts, albeit not quite divine! But I've not done much with those, another difference. Sometimes I wonder if I have buried my talent, like the cowardly servant in one of Jesus' parables. It is not a pleasant thought.


You got to give a little more than you take,
you got to leave a little more than was here.
You may be prideful of the strides you will make
but keep one thing clear:
You're just a player in a much bigger plan
and still you have to give it all that you can.
The very measure of your soul is at stake:
You got to give a little more than you take.

More than you take (from King of Dreams).

Uh, yes, it is somewhat banal. The measure of your soul is that you give a little more than you take? Yeah, I guess it may be appropriate to a normal. But it was not appropriate to the original Joseph.

On a related note, I'm sorry to say, is the sweet love story baked into the movie. It is all cute and decent. We know that Joseph took a wife in Egypt, but we don't know the details, so the movie feels free to make her the niece of Potiphar's wife, and a kind-hearted girl with a wilful cat. She turns out to be pretty near Joseph's equal and a very valuable help in both his work and his personal life. In fact, in the end the impression remains that it is human love rather than divine that triumphs in the life of Joseph.

I am sure this is better than nothing, and I don't mean to slaughter the movie. Even though it is a "family" movie, I was close to weeping a couple times. But yes, it is watered down. And I have written quite enough for today. I had more to say, but I don't trust myself to do so after midnight.

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