Sunday, August 2, 2020

Guest Post: The Last Egyptian, A Black Comedy Set In Late Roman Egypt

Got another guest post from Luis "Lou" Salcedo, he who wrote the earlier synopsis for a Seth Rogen comedy set during the reign of Justinian. Now he's decided to write a black comedy set in late Roman Egypt. Behold...

The Last Egyptian

Since there are sparingly few notable movies on Roman Egypt, besides Agora (2009), I had a fleeting thought for an A24-style black comedy-drama. The Last Egyptian would be a satirical black comedy starring Rami Malek as Flavius Onuphrius, a mid 5th Century Roman officer from Egypt who comes home after years serving the Empire abroad.

Flavius Onuphrius (Rami Malek) serves under Magister Arnegisclus (Mads Mikkelsen), leading a detachment of the Emperor's Palatines. Onuphrius scouts ahead and is ambushed in a skirmish. Onuphrius and a select few return to Arnegisclus, who decides that it's time to take the battle to Attila (Fabio Ide). On the following day, the Romans meet the Huns at the river Utus.

Arnegisclus' army is wiped out. Onuphrius is shot in the eye and left for dead, witnessing Arnegisclus and his fellow soldiers get cut down one by one. Fade to black. Onuphrius is discovered by Prefect Constantinus (Mark Ruffalo) and made to report his findings to Emperor Theodosius (Chris Sarandon) and he faints from shell shock.

Onuphrius finds himself in the imperial infirmary and receives word from the doctor (Hank Azaria) that he's been dismissed unceremoniously from service. No pension or land, especially since we're talking a millennia and some change prior to OSHA. He finds out that his long term partner, the actress Eudoxia (Dasha Nekrasova) had left him for senator Liberius Babylas (Rob Lowe).

Onuphrius gets a letter from his father informing that his mother had passed away and he would want him to come visit Syene (modern day Aswan) to give respect to her gravesite. Having nothing better to do, he decides that it's time to come home.

In Syene, Onuphrius reunites with his baby sister Kattrin (Yara Shahidi), a Rupi Kaur-esque poet/scribe and his elder sister Lucra (Hannah Simone) who's married to Isidorus (Dominic Rains), a bandit leader who seeks to drive out the Romans. Onuphrius' father Pamoun (Bassem Youssef) is the priest to Isis. He guilt-trips his son into helping him maintain the temple as his youngest brother Shenoute (Mena Massoud) converted to Christianity and is now a deacon in the newly constructed church.

As the weeks turn into months, Onuphrius' assistance turns into being a participant in Pamoun's schemes, chiefly trying to accuse the newly appointed priest Hormisdas (David Chokachi) of being a proto-Pizzagate guy grooming young men and women to serving a foreign god and being responsible for the climate change, barbarian invasions, etc. All these accusations fall flat and the temple continues to fall into disrepair as more people visit the church.

Onuphrius starts a relationship with Sophia (Lucy Boynton), a down to earth baker. He confides that he wants to run away from everything, ever since his father would spend more time worshiping Isis than raising him. Sophia suggests that he tries to rebuild that connection.

The relationship between Onuphrius and his father is slowly rebuilt and he gains more enthusiasm participating in his father's crazy, hare-brained schemes, seeing it as making up for lost time. Onuphrius suggests using Isidorus and his bandits to ransack the church. The bandits do so but this only angers the town. The temple of Isis, also Onuphrius' mother's burial place, is burned to the ground by a mob.

Onuphrius and his family, including a saddened Shenoute watches the temple's destruction from a distance. Pamoun mourns the temple, seeing it as an extension of his devotion to his wife. Onuphrius points out that while the temple's destruction is a loss, the family's shared memory of the mother, the temple and conspiring together made them a much stronger family.


Flavius Onuphrius - Rami Malek
Pamoun - Bassam Youssef
Sophia - Lucy Boynton
Kattrin - Yara Shahidi
Shenoute - Mena Massoud
Lucra - Hannah Simone
Hormisdas - David Chokachi
Liberius Babylas - Rob Lowe
Isidorus - Dominic Rains
Arnegisclus - Mads Mikkelsen
Constantinus - Mark Ruffalo
Byzantine Doctor - Hank Azaria
Emperor Theodosius - Chris Sarandon
Attila - Fabio Ide

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