29 July 2012

Film review: Egypt, Rediscovering a Lost World (2006), BBC, ****


Focusing on three of the most important discoveries from the world of the ancient Egyptians, this series journeys back in time to explore Howard Carter's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, the Great Giovanni Belzoni's finds from the reign of Ramesses II and Jean-François Champollion's deciphering of the hieroglyphs. Join Carter, Belzoni and Champollion as they overcome immense obstacles to unlock the secrets of an as-yet undiscovered world and reveal their seminal finds. Then travel even further back, to the amazing period of Egyptian history unveiled by their astounding work.

Disc 1:
Episode 1 and 2 : Carter and Tutankhamon
Episode 3: Belzoni and Ramses, first part

Disc 2:
Episode 4: Belzoni and Ramses, second part
Episode 5 and 6: Champollion and the hieroglyphs

Disc 3:
The making of the pyramids
Extras: trailers, photo gallery, fact files, visual effects


Tut Ankh Amun funeral mask, Cairo Museum
This is a fictional rendering of the life and work of the three most important discoverers of ancient Egypt. It is a comprehensive work, at least as much as can fit into three DVDs packed with action. The idea of a fictional narration instead of a pure documentary is a good one in this case, as it helps bring the characters to life. The three stories of research and discovery are interlaced with the personal lives of the three men, their strengths and weaknesses, and it all makes for an entertaining as well as instructive narration.

I am not sure why the authors chose this particular order of the episodes, in that Belzoni should come first, as his discoveries preceded the work of the two others. Carter's episodes should be the last: not only did he work a century after Belzoni and Champollion, but his subject, Tutankhamun, lived a thousand years after Ramses and the inventors of the hieroglyphs. The viewer might want to watch episodes 3 and 4 first, then 5 and 6, and finally 1 and 2.

Abu Simbel before restoration
Acting is not going to win any Oscars but that's not why one buys this set. The third "bonus" DVD on the pyramids is the worst of the three. The CGI are rather poor (more like 1990s than 2010) and the narrator's voice tries to be solemn but is just boring.

You can read my review of the book on Giovanni Belzoni by Marco Zatterin (in Italian) here on this blog.

Buy the European DVD set here:

In the US you can buy it here:

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