127 Min. | Adventure – Biography – Drama | December 1976
IMDB Rating: 8.4
Director: Moustapha Akkad
Starring: Anthony Quinn, Irene Papas, Michael Ansara
The Message Review
Still, Akkad’s initial intention didn’t fail, nor had “The Message” lost its cultural significance. The noble purpose of The Message was simply diluted in a mass of events and uncontrolled sociocultural representations that contributed to erode the image of Islam within the average Occidental eye. Ultimately, for one film trying to depict the positive values for which Islam stood, the scarf, suicide bombers, hijackers, the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the Great Djihad or the Prophet-drawing controversy contributed to a whole negative mythology damaging the image of Islam.
The Message opens in the Mecca of the sixth century, where people from different regions of the Arabic peninsula came to pagan pilgrimages. At that time, like the Merchants who were banished from the Temple by Jesus, some rich exploiters made a real business out of a religious obedience counting no less than 300 idols, all represented in statues and totem-like figures. Slavery naturally existed, so did such infamous ‘traditions’ as baby girls’ burials. But the days of these barbarian practices were numbered and rumor had it that Muhammad met the Ange Gabriel and received a Revelation. Muhammad was an illiterate shepherd in his forties but the Miracle happened when he was capable to read the Divine Message. Islam’s founding event was the miracle of Muhammad’s reading, which says enough about the importance of knowledge as a virtue more valuable than any skills at fighting.
This is why Muhammad is spoken about but never seen, but his aura is powerfully indicated by all the other performances, notably the late Anthony Quinn who plays Hamza, the prophet’s uncle. Many other epics would be made about Islam, but “The Message” remains the milestone, the first to tackle the difficulty of representing the prophet and its resonance in the Islamic world is indubitable. Till now, Maurice Jarre’s score, rightfully Oscar-nominated, is used in many religious programs and is widely associated with Islam, as if it was capable to translate into notes, this very aura Muslims tend to embrace without totally touching it. No one is perfect after all, only God is.
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