A 1965 feature film directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz.
Ramesses, the heir to the throne of ancient Egypt, takes part in military training as a leader. During the training he meets a beautiful Jewish woman named Sarah, who becomes his lover. The arch-monk Herhor observes with distaste as the ambitious prince starts to show more and more interest in state affairs. Herhor convinces the old ruler to break his promise to give control over the army to the heir. Ramesses is very unhappy with the monks having so much influence on Egypt’s politics and them having great treasures hidden in an underground labyrinth at a time when the pharaoh’s vault is empty. He wants to conquer Assyria to gain wealth for his country. The monks are secretly preparing a peace treaty with Assyria - they are willing to trade Phoenicia for peace. The Phoenician merchants, alarmed by this, become the prince's allies. Meanwhile, the young Ramesses leads an army to quench a rebellion by the Libyan armed forces. During the battle, he learns that Sarah and his son have been murdered and that his father Ramesses the 12th has passed away. The murder was committed by the Phoenician priestess Kama and by the Greek Lykon, Ramesses’ lookalike.
The young pharaoh reforms the country and decides that he will seize the monks’ treasures. However a common vote about the issue of handing over the riches kept in the labyrinth to the state isn’t unanimous. In this situation the young ruler decides to make use of the army. He wants to raid the main temple and imprison the arch-monks under charges of treason. The monks are the sole possessors of astronomical knowledge in Egypt. They use this knowledge against the pharaoh. A few minutes before an eclipse of the sun occurs Herhor addresses the army and the rebelling people. During his speech he calls on the god Amon. The natural phenomenon is viewed as a portent of divine disfavour. The army panics. The pharaoh decides to continue his fight…
The screen version of ‘Faraon’ (Pharaoh) is an ascetic adaptation of Bolesław Prus’ novel which focuses on the clash of two political approaches: the pragmatic one, which is presented by the monks and the romantic one, which is presented by the young pharaoh.
Tadeusz Lubelski, 'Film Fabularny' (Narrative Film) in 'Encyklopedia Kultury Polskiej XX Wieku, Film, Kinematografia'
The film accentuates the struggle between Ramesses the 13th, who wants to reform Egypt, and the monk Herhor. The picture also shows the friendship with the monk Pentuer, the love for the beautiful Jewish woman Sarah and for the priestess Kama, the story of the secret pact made with Assyria, an eclipse of the sun, which is used by the monks to subdue a crowd, and the treacherous assassination of Ramesses the 13th, who is killed by the young pharaoh’s lookalike. The pharaoh has an army but he has no money. The monks have money but they don’t have an army. Absolute power will go to the party which will have one and the other. Ramesses is right, he wants to create a powerful country with a strong military which could withstand the threat posed by Assyria. The monks are also right. They want to ensure peace for Egypt by signing treaties and they expect this peace to economically strengthen the country. This clash of concepts will remain unsettled, neither party will win.
Małgorzata Hendrykowska, 'Kronika Kinematografii Polskiej' (A Chronicle of Polish Cinema), Poznań 1999
Martin Scorsese Presents
Faraon (Pharaoh). Directed by: Jerzy Kawalerowicz, screenplay based on the novel by Bolesław Prus: Tadeusz Konwicki, Jerzy Kawalerowicz, director of photography: Jerzy Wójcik, music: Adam Walaciński, scenery: Jerzy Skrzepiński. Cast: Jerzy Zelnik (Ramesses the 13th and Lykon), Andrzej Girtler (Ramesses the 12th), Wiesława Mazurkiewicz (queen Nikotris), Piotr Pawłowski (arch-monk Herhor), Stanisław Milski (arch-monk Mefres), Leszek Herdegen (the seer Pentuer), Mieczysław Voit (the monk Samentu), Barbara Brylska (Kama), Krystyna Mikołajewska (Sarah), Ewa Krzyżewska (Hebron), Emir Buczacki (Tutmozis), Kazimierz Opaliński (Beroes, Chaldean seer), Edward Rączkowski (Dagon, Phoenician merchant). Production: the KADR Film Group, the Łódź Feature Film Studio 1965. Colour, 35 mm, 5039 m, 182 min.
Translated by: Marek Kępa