Lifetime/Sony’s The Red Tent takes Anita Diamant’s 1997 New York Times Bestseller and adapts it into a two-part, three-hour miniseries about the wives of Jacob from the Old Testament in the Bible. Starring a strong cast that includes Minnie Driver, Iain Glen, Morena Baccarin, Debra Winger, Rebecca Ferguson, and Will Tudor, the film focuses on the under-appreciated character of Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah, from Genesis 34. It’s all about the survival of women in a patriarchal society intended to control and limit them, but does it really jive with the Biblical narrative?
I’m not absolutely sure. I do know that the men in the narrative are painted as a major… jerks. It seems fair that the revisionist, male-dominated history would write the stories of the women smaller and make the men heroic, but the level of “court intrigue” and dramatization certainly seems to play into the crowd-loved Game of Thrones (where Glen and Tudor are regularly found). Jacob knows upfront that Rachel (Ferguson) has duped him with Leah (Driver) but he contrives tension so that he can wed both of them (and their maidservants). When Jacob tells Dinah the story of his friction with Esau, he has some negative things to say about his mother which may or may not have been “factual”. [Again, how you read this narrative from the Bible as myth or literal probably makes a difference.]
But in a cinematic landscape where atheists Darren Aronofsky and Ridley Scott can deliver Noah and Exodus, respectively, what can we make of The Red Tent? Using the Jacob/Esau storyline as an example, we can see that the actual confrontation could’ve played out that way, that specifically, that intense. But what of Jacob’s wrestling with the angel? Taking Diamant’s Jewish background into consideration, the wrestling was still true to the Jewish narrative, and the divinity of the moment has been stripped down and bared. [Now, it may or may not be true to the book, I don’t know.] But forgiveness is important to the moment that director Roger Young (Barabbas, Jesus) does bring across, even if he ignores the divine.
Ironically, I found myself thinking of Maleficent, the Angelina Jolie-reimagining of Sleeping Beauty. The reimagining for itself isn’t bad, but the feminist overtones where men are either evil or (at least) moronic, they make the story somewhat off-putting when comparing to the scripture. The men and women aren’t any more or less smart in the Biblical narrative, but the combination of the removal of God’s immediate action (like Exodus) and the overarching, thematic agenda (like Noah) made this one more than I could recommend. rating: burn it