Film: Mohammad, Messenger of God
There is no compulsion in religion. A man may take many years, or only need minutes. It is God who decides the time.
A 1976 film directed by Moustapha Akkad, and starring Anthony Quinn, Mohammad, Messenger of God
(US title: The Message
), chronicles the life and impact of Mohammad and his teachings, primarily told from the perspective of his uncle Hamza, (though other historical figures from early Islam also pop up from time to time). The film mainly focuses on Islam's early years, covering several significant events, and ending with a battle to reclaim the city of Mecca from corrupt leaders.
Though born from a personal desire of director Akkad to try and help bridge the cultural gap between Western and Islamic cultures, to say the film had a difficult time getting to the big screen is an understatement. Due to Hollywood's resistance in tackling the subject matter, and difficulty securing funding, Akkad eventually had to leave the United States in order to make it, and continued to encounter financing problems and religious objections to the film, initially shooting in Morocco (with the blessings of King Hassan II), only to be kicked out several months later when the King changed his mind. After shutting production down for two months, Akkad somehow managed to get funding and filming locations from none other then dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi of Lybia (who even provided a few thousand soldiers from his army to act as extras).
Unfortunately, the film's release didn't mark the end of its problems; The Supreme Council of the World Mosque Conference in Mecca denounced the film, and the scholars from The Council of Islamic Research at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, who had helped research and approve the script, condemned the film
as an insult to Islam. In short, nobody
in the Islamic world seemed to approve the movie, and it was widely banned (though Turkey and Tunisia did show it for a short while).
But worst of all came on the eve of the film's US release, when a radical group, believing that the film was sacrilegious, took 149 hostages in a siege
, killed a reporter and police officer, and demanded that all copies be destroyed (though they did have other demands that were not related to the film), eventually being persuaded by ambassadors from several Islamic countries to end the siege peacefully.
Despite its troubled production and release (and subsequent fall into obscurity), the film seems to be enjoying a slow rise in critical favor, with many noting that it tries to present a balanced, respectful view of Islam and Mohammad. A remake
was talked about in 2008, but nothing has been heard about it since. Coupled with the current political climate regarding Islam, it remains to be seen if it will ever be made.
This work provides examples of:
- Leit Motif: Whenever Muhammad is present or very close by, his presence is indicated by light organ music.
- Role Called
- The Voiceless/The Ghost: For very obvious reasons, Muhammad is never seen or heard in the film. The closest we ever get to seeing him is glimpses of his staff, sword, tent, and camel. Interestingly, at certain times the film actually has the camera present Mohammad's point of view (though he remains silent).