Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Plot Convenience

For the most part, movies are a form of entertainment. As such, they sometimes demand less attention to detail than they might were they a form of historical document. I'm okay with this... as long as the film's pace justifies playing a little fast and loose with reality. This scene is such a case. However, it was the basis of something that could have turned into an argument at one point:

(no real spoilers and work safe)

A few years ago, Raz and I went over to Mike's apartment for a bit. Tomer was over there, and they had been watching The Mummy; the scene above showed up not long after we got there (we all left shortly afterwards, as I recall). Tomer, ever eager to show off how much more informed he is than any other human being on the planet, pointed out that it was neat that Beni and Imhotep spoke real Hebrew, and that he could understand him.

I mentioned that while it was nice for the movie to have done, it didn't make much sense that Imhotep would understand modern Hebrew. Tomer, however, countered that the research he had done led him to believe that Hebrew hadn't changed much in the interim. Here's where the argument would have come in, as any actual research would have shown quite the opposite - I knew that even without having done any research - but as I was a guest in Mike's home, I didn't pursue the matter... one of the few cases of me suffering a fool. I just couldn't believe how idiotic a statement that was on so many different levels.

It is impossible for any language to remain unchanged over three thousand years, much less one that spent a good portion of that time not being spoken conversationally. Even if, for some reason an Egyptian priest had any reason to learn the languages of his slaves (and think about that prospect for a few moments), he wouldn't recognize it three thousand years later. In fact, the modern form of Hebrew was developed by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda in the 19th century for the very reason that there was very little correlation of pronunciation from community to community.

Is this a flaw in the film? No, not really. If anything, the scene is both pretty funny and advances the plot, which makes it effective. The idea that Imhotep would recognize Hebrew is a bit woolly, but it is an acceptable conceit within a film that has a walking, talking mummy in it anyway. But it isn't something worth scrutinizing, especially if you want to prove how knowledgable you are when you're not.
Tags: cinema, jerry goldsmith, movie moments
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