• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as current film releases with spiritual significance, and a few bits and pieces on the Bible.

    Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    Solomon (1997) Scene Analysis

    I reviewed Roger Young's Solomon (1997) last week, so here is the corresponding scene analysis. The film is a fairly comprehensive treatment as it starts before Solomon becomes King (1 Kings 1), and continues on to after his death and the reign of his successor. Since only Solomon's birth is mentioned in 2 Samuel, film covers pretty much all of the historical accounts about Solomon. It also interweaves the narrative of his life with quotes from the three books of wisdom associated with him - Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs.
    Part 1
    [extra-biblical episode(s)]
    Adonijah plans to become king - (1 Ki 1:5-8)
    Abishag selected - (1 Ki 1:1-4)
    [extra-biblical episode(s)]
    Bathsheba informs David - (1 Ki 1:9-35)
    Solomon anointed king - (1 Ki 1:38-53)
    David crowns Solomon - (1 Ki 2:1-9, 1Ch 28:1-21)
    [extra-biblical episode(s)]
    Death of David - (1 Ki 2:10-12)
    [extra-biblical episode(s)]
    Adonijah and Abishag - (1 Ki 2:13-22)
    Deaths of Adonijah - (1 Ki 2:23-25)
    Joab Takes sanctuary - (1 Ki 2:28-34)
    Solomon asks for Wisdom - (1 Ki 3:4-15)
    [10 years later]
    Solomon sets up tribes - (1 Ki 4:7)
    Solomon marries Pharoah's daughter - (1 Ki 3:1)
    Solomon's many wives - (1 Ki 11:1)
    2 women and a baby - (1 Ki 3:16-28)

    Part 2
    Solomon builds the temple - (1 Ki 5:1-6:38, 11:28)
    Dedication of the temple - (1 Ki 8:1-9)
    God appears to Solomon again - (1 Ki 9:1-9)
    Queen of Sheba - (1 Ki 10:1-13)
    [extra-biblical episode(s)]
    Various proverbs - (Pr 6:6; 30:25, Pr 1:7, Pr 7:2, Pr 22:6, Pr 12:1, Pr 11:12, Pr 12:10, Pr 15:1, Pr 17:14, Pr 17:27-28, Pr 6:16-19)
    Sheba's acclamation - (1 Ki 10:6-7)
    [extra-biblical episode(s)]
    Song of Solomon - (SoS 1:2)
    [extra-biblical episode(s)]
    Quotes from Ecclesiates - (Ec 2:8, Ec 1:8-9, Ec 1:13, Ec 1:18, Ec 2:1-26, Ec 3:20, Ec 3:1-22, Ec 8:14-17, Ec 3:11, Ec 6:11, Ec 9:11, Ec 12:1-8)
    Solomon's offering to Ashtoreth - (1 Ki 11:1-6)
    God rejects Solomon - (1 Ki 11:9-13)
    Jeroboam's Rebellion - (1 Ki 11:29-39)
    Solomon tries to kill Jeroboam - (1 Ki 11:40)
    Solomon's death - (1 Ki 11:41-43)
    Israel Rebels Against Rehoboam - (1 Ki 12:1-17)
    Notes
    As noted above, the screenplay for this film incorporates phrases from three of the books commonly attributed to Solomon. These fall into three self contained sections. The first covering a variety of Proverbs, the second is a single quote from Song of Songs/ Song of Solomon, and the final section is an abridged summary of Ecclesiastes. There are a number of points to make here.

    Firstly, is this self containment neat or lazy? On the one hand it certainly was a lot easier to write this scene analysis than it will be to write one for Peter and Paul. One the other hand it seems unlikely that Solomon would deliver these proverbs in the public, but ad hoc manner he does here.

    This links nicely to my second point - what does this film consider the relationship between the finished books we have and the king who is routinely associated with them? Most scholars would consider it unlikely that he was the author of the final versions of these books as we have them, but would consider them to be at least derived from him in some way. The film cleverly lands in fairly neutral territory in this regard. These works have clearly been associated with Solomon, and he delivers them in semi-formal fashion. Yet, at the same time, they are far from being the finished product. The words used resemble the biblical text closely enough to suggest that perhaps someone wrote them down at a later stage, or that Solomon himself had them memorised and was able to recite them to a scribe/write them down himself at a later date.

    Thirdly, the abridged summary of Ecclesiastes is very neat, and incorporates much of the book, particularly its order and most famous passages, and flows very smoothly. Ben Cross's acting here also makes this scene very effectively. It would certainly form a nice video clip for a bible study group looking at Ecclesiastes. The same could be said for the passage from Song of Songs.

    Finally, whilst the film does very well at depicting Solomon's fall from grace as a gradual process, there is no doubt that the break-up with the Queen of Sheba is displayed as the most significant. It is this event that prompts the words of Ecclesiastes, and sees a significant rift occur between him and his council. This is underlined by the length of time given to this episode (which takes just one chapter in the bible).

    It is always telling with a biblical film how they distribute their screen time. The comparison is made simpler by films such as these which divide into two parts. The material depicted here covers approximately twelve chapters from 1 Kings. Yet the halfway point occurs after only the first few chapters. The chapters where Solomon builds the temple are passed over fairly swiftly, before the film then spends quite some time on the romance between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba (Ch. 10). Admittedly this section is also inflated as this is where the wisdom quotations occur. The film also spends sometime examining the lesser known events of chapters 11 and 12, which is most welcome.

    A couple of further observations. Firstly, the dedication of the temple scene is played down somewhat. In Kings, this dedication is accompanied by a major blood sacrifice ("so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted" 8:5), and God responds by filling the temple with a cloud (symbolic of his glory). Here there are neither, although a bolt of lightning does strike as the doors are shut.

    It's also interesting that whilst this is one of the more honest accounts of these events one thing is still glossed over. The role of Abishag here is changed into some form of herbalist, rather than her somewhat more bizarre role as a human hot water bottle in 1 Kings 1:1-4. Whilst the text is clear that "the king had no intimate relations with her", she certainly went into his bed.

    One final alteration to note. In scripture, the arrival of the Queen of Sheba is the next major event after the dedication of the temple, suggesting that the visit is triggered by the dedication (see for example 1 Kings 8:41-43). Solomon's wisdom is in building this temple rather than the case of the 2 women and the baby (what would have happened if neither woman had reacted, or if both had?)

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