The Book of Eli, the Book of God

I’d say Hollywood has suddenly hit a new note, and a rather bold one.

I ended up with my friend on a seat to watch the Book of Eli because the showing of the film we actually wanted to see was canceled. My friend suggested the film out of curiosity and I went along with her. When the film actually started a cat was killed. I thought to myself, “Ok, this film isn’t for me. Let’s see where it takes us still.”

The idea of a third world war often used to haunt me as a child. I used to ask my father so many questions that his answers at times had to end up getting into politics and history. I recall him telling me that if a third world war erupted it would mean the end of the world, because the world now has what are called “nuclear” weapons that bring about destruction of all life on earth. I used to think so much about it. I rested with the fact that that would be what brings about Judgment Day.

The Book of Eli brings that fear so alive, and delves into what life would be like after such a war. Eli, the main character, appears to be a devoutly religious man, strong and ruthless with his enemies, and merciful with the weak. The book he keeps with him is the Bible—the last copy that remained. He carries the book and embarks on a journey towards a promised place, walking on foot, and faces the wrath of a person who tries to take hold of the book.

Two interests collide. Eli wants to deliver the book to a place where he knows it will be safe, and where its message is going to be spread again to bring about peace and harmony. And the other person wants the book because it will guarantee him power and authority over his subjects.

Now that is two ways of looking at religion, an issue that so many reformist thinkers in the Muslim world have engaged in, and so many have actually acted upon it. Ali Shariati, for one, argues that history Islamic history has gone through a dialectic relationship between these two types of religion: the religion of authority and the religion of the people. The former stands for oppression and authoritarianism, the other for faith and revolution. Both types use the same book, each with its own interpretation.

What amazed me after having watched the film is the title. The Bible is actually referred to as Eli’s book, not God’s. Offensive this may be to some devout religious people, it is in fact an attempt to hit straight to the message: It is a book for man, it is what man does with the book that matters, otherwise it would only be paper.

But wait! That’s not all that Hollywood sent us through this film. Eli appears on a very early scene in the film wearing a Palestinian scarf around his neck, what is commonly known in Arabic as the Hattah. Eli, with his Palestinian scarf, carried the responsibility of the book with the entire message of justice to mankind, protecting and preserving it. Eli and his Hattah represented the religion of the people, those with the free will who refuse to submit to the tyrant.

Change is everywhere. This is not just a new Hollywood note; this is a giant leap.

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  1. #1 by Reem Bakheet on February 10, 2010 - 5:02 am

    Great News, yesterday I watched a movie about the dark ages being the gold ages for the world because of the Muslims inventions.. And now this.. There is a change going on.. There is a movement toward opening subjects that were not allowed before..

    Like

    • #2 by Arwa Mahmoud on February 10, 2010 - 8:50 am

      Absolutely, Reem. This film is very open and bare! And I love what it has to say!

      Like

  2. #3 by Marwa Elnaggar on February 10, 2010 - 5:04 am

    Hmmm… that does sound interesting. The Palestinian hattah is either an unconscious prop (which doesn’t seem likely) or a real “symbol”. Here in the Arab world it symbolizes Palestine and the Palestinian struggle for freedom, and generally the struggle against oppression (note the way it is actually “banned” in some places, and anyone wearing it is singled out by police). I wonder if it has the same meaning in the West.

    And the naming “the Book of Eli” is also intriguing. It is obviously echoing titles of books within the Bible, but is it really referring to the Bible Eli is carrying around? Or is it more of a reference to Eli’s own quest? Does that (the fact that a man is prepared to undertake a quest to spread peace and save “religion”) become the “book” that will bring peace?

    This movie does seem like one that should be watched.

    Thanks for the review!

    P.S. Just one question: why did the cat have to die? was that really necessary for the plot?

    Like

    • #4 by Arwa Mahmoud on February 10, 2010 - 8:39 am

      Thanks Marwa for further pointing out why the Palestinian Hattah is so important for us in the Arab world.

      The questions you pose about the film are right into the very plot. I think it’s somewhere in the middle, but if I give a detailed answer I would definitely ruin it. Since you came to this point, I think you should definitely go and see it. You will enjoy what this film has to say.

      The killing of the cat was in fact a rather unfortunate beginning, the interesting message behind that, however, was in what was done with the cat’s meat. I would say it was an attempt to set the scene for a desperate and very much upside down world.

      Like

  3. #5 by teeth whitening on February 10, 2010 - 8:40 pm

    I don’t mean to be too in your face with this, but let’s just say I definitely have a different view on the subject. Great post though…

    Like

    • #6 by Arwa Mahmoud on February 11, 2010 - 6:45 am

      Thanks for your comment! Why don’t you share with us what you think?

      Like

  4. #7 by Greg on July 25, 2010 - 5:43 pm

    The King James Bible that is represented in the movie is the Christian Bible not Muslim. Jesus Christ is the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE. No man comes to the FATHER except by and through the Lord Jesus Christ!

    Please consider this in light of the movie you are commenting on and what it represents.

    I will pray for you.

    Greg

    Like

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