The end of the XXth dynasty saw Egypt and her empire showing signs of decay. She is crippled by the enormous human and economic effort required to construct and support great cities, temples and tombs, and to wage foreign wars, plus the vast expenses demanded to maintain the Pharaoh's court and imperial armies, many of whom comprise foreign mercenaries. In the east, the Assyrians are rapidly expanding their empire which is threatening both Phoenicia and Israel. War between Egypt and Phoenicia would serve the Phoenicians' cause well but Egypt has no reserves to pay her armies although is fearful of the growing Assyrian menace. The power behind the throne of Pharaoh Rameses XII lies with the select body of the priests led by the high priest Herhor. These worshippers of the gods Amon and Osiris are jealously fighting to guard their position and influence as rulers of Egypt. The young, rash and hot-headed prince Rameses, heir to the throne and commander of the armies, sees the solution in open confrontation with Assyria, and sets himself against the priests to this end. While on military manoeuvres in the Nile basin, Rameses meets the beautiful Hebrew girl Sarah and brings her back to his palace as his mistress. Meanwhile, in the temple of Amon, a secret messenger front Assyria arrives and seals a peace treaty with the priests but at the cost of relinquishing Egypt's rights to Phoenicia. The Phoenicians try to incite Rameses to make war with Assyria. They use the influence of Kama, a seductive priestess-dancer in the temple of Astoreth, with whom he becomes increasingly infatuated and turns his attentions away from Sarah. In due course, Sarah bears Rameses a son whom he wishes to proclaim his heir but learns from Kama that the high priest Herhor has baptised the child as a jew with the intention of offering him to the Israelites who have been clamouring for a king. Angered by this Rameses sends both Sarah and the boy into slavery and tries to overcome his remorse in wild orgies. Kama, then runs away with Likon. The empire is running out of money so Rameses needs to find more in order to continue repressing rebellion. He goes to the temple where he knows priests are hiding gold but gets assassinated.
FARAON is a great film, one of the best of the whole epic genre with sumptuous visuals a nicely paced plot. It's ruined, however, by Cinema Paradiso's DVD which is dubbed with no other options. It has a big impact on the film, not least because the actors who can only find work dubbing are not exactly at the top of their field. So see this, just don't get it from Cinema Paradiso. ***** for the film: ** for the version.