When the backing for The Message vanished mid-production, it was Libyan leader Muammar al Gaddafi who ended up financing the film, as well Moustapha Akkad’s next and final film, Lion of the Desert. Although Lion of the Desert was the bigger failure, The Message was a much bigger risk. It attempts to tell the story of the prophet Mohammed and the birth of the Islamic faith while keeping in accordance with Muslim belief, which does not allow a depiction of the man on film.
The character of Mohammed is often portrayed as the camera, and we are his point-of-view as other discuss issues around him, though a fight sequence is attempted without showing more than a sword. Since not even his wives or sons could be shown onscreen, the character of his uncle, Hamza (Anthony Quinn), became the main character in the film. This actually works quite well, despite the awkwardness of the scenes where actors were forced to pretend to listen to unspoken dialogue, as not even the prophet’s voice was permitted to be imitated.
Despite the great lengths went to in making a film which is both informative and respectful, while still retaining some entertainment, there was a great deal of controversy over the release. This would have been fascinating material for a featurette or documentary to go with the disc, but this “collector’s edition” is sadly void of extras.
Entertainment Value: 5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 8/10
Disc Features: 0/10
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