Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, 1956
This film is a partial remake of DeMille’s 1923 silent film. In remaking this epic story, DeMille made the decision to create an historical series of events with as much realism and special effects as were available to film makers in the 1950’s.
While there are many elements of this film that could be discussed at length, one of the greatest to draw your attention to the characters and the background is the art of costuming.
“What a costume designer does is a cross between magic and camouflage. We create the illusion of changing the actors into what they are not. We ask the public to believe that every time they see a performer on the screen he's become a different person. “Edith Head, Costume Designer, What Mrs. Head created in this film was costumes that enhanced each character and accented the changes that some characters made during the story.
The visual costuming of Ramses II preparing for battle enhanced the feeling of rage and sorrow. In the dance of the veils by the Midian daughters the color and lightness of the veils against the darkness of the tent enhanced the lighter setting of the scene action. Egyptian princesses were dressed in or gowns to symbolize their status, while the Bedouin women were dressed in heavier fabrics. Each costume enhanced the character rather than distracting from it.
The overall character and costume change of the main character, Moses, gave a visual transformation. From the Princely garb of power and strength, to the minimal clothing of a slave, to the heavy robe of a sheep herder, Moses’ character was transformed with costumes to match each transitional period and to visually pull one into his personal journey.
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