• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Thursday, August 31, 2006

    David (1997) Scene Guide

    Here's the corresponding Scene Guide to Robert Markowitz's David, which I reviewed last week. In drawing this up, I'm aware several of the incidents are paralleled in 1 & 2 Chronicles, but I've given preference to the older Samuel, Kings (and Psalms).
    Part 1
    Death of Saul and Jonathan - (1 Sam 31)
    Capture of Jebus - (2 Sam 5:6-16)
    [Extra-Biblical Episode]
    Saul meets Samuel - (1 Sam 9)
    Samuel anoints Saul - (1 Sam 10)
    War with Amonites - (1 Sam 11)
    Samuel rebukes Saul - (1 Sam 13)
    Saul spares Agog (Amalek) - (1 Sam 15:1-15)
    God rejects Saul - (1 Sam 15:16-35)
    Samuel Anoints David - (1 Sam 16:1-13)
    David plays to relieve Saul - (1 Sam 16:14-23)
    (Psalm 23)
    David and Goliath - (1 Sam 17)
    (Psalm 66)
    David & the philistine foreskins - (1 Sam 18)
    (Psalm 68)
    Michal saves David - (1 Sam 19)
    David and Jonathan - (1 Sam 20)
    David at Nob - (1 Sam 21)
    (Psalm 63)
    Saul kills the priests of Nob - (1 Sam 22)
    David Nabal and Abigail - (1 Sam 25)
    David spares Saul's life - (1 Sam 24 & 26)
    (Psalm 57)
    Death of Samuel - (1 Sam 25:1)
    Amalekites capture Abigail - (1 Sam 30)
    (Psalm 94)
    The Witch of Endor - (1 Sam 28)
    Death of Saul and Jonathan - (1 Sam 31, 2 Sam 1:19)
    David Dances - (2 Sam 6)
    David refused temple building - (2 Sam 7)
    David and Bathsheba - (2 Sam 11:1-5)

    Part 2
    David and Uriah - (2 Sam 11:6-27)
    Nathan rebukes David - (2 Sam 12:1-14)
    (Psalm 51)
    David's child dies - (2 Sam 12:15-23)
    Birth of Solomon - (2 Sam 12:24-25)
    [Extra-Biblical Episodes]
    Amnon, Tamar and Absalom - (2 Sam 13)
    Woman of Tekoa - (2 Sam 14)
    Absalom's conspiracy - (2 Sam 15:1-12)
    David Flees Absalom - (2 Sam 15:13-37)
    (Psalm 83)
    Shimei curses David - (2 Sam 16:5-14)
    Hushai and Ahithophel - (2 Sam 16:15-17:29)
    Death of Absalom - (2 Sam 18)
    David returns to Jerusalem - (2 Sam 19)
    David names his successor - (1 Ki 1:28-35)
    God's promise to David - (2 Sam 7:12-16)
    One of the particular points of interest in this film is the use of the Psalms. Firstly it's a little strange that this up-to-date version of David's life, spoken in modern English, is punctuated every now and then by Psalms taken from the King James Version. What is more interesting is how the tone of those Psalms darkens as the film progresses. The first Psalm David recites is Psalm 23, which, despite its frequent use in funerals, is actually incredibly upbeat. This is a man so sure and confident of the hand of God in his life that he doesn't even fear a hypothetical journey through the valley of the shadow of death, and is more focussed on the table that God has prepared for him than it's less than desirable location.

    This is followed by two Psalms that are increasingly concerned by the existence of said enemies, Psalms 66 and 68. By the fourth Psalm (Psalm 63), David is beginning to sound a little more distant from his God, even if he is choosing to offer him worship anyway. That is quickly followed by pleas for mercy (Psalm 57), demands for vengeance (Psalm 94), repentance (Psalm 51), and finally a desperate plea for God to speak / act as the writer's enemies close in on him (Psalm 83). It's fair to say that the progression of these Psalms corresponds to the way the tone of the film develops. This also corresponds roughly to the pattern of David's walk with God found in David and Bathsheba.

    There are a few places where there are visual references to other passages from Samuel. For example, whilst the narrative doesn't cover the start of the incident with Nahash the Ammonite, Saul is joined at that point by a number of men who have no right eye (although in the text it implies Saul gets there in time to save them. It depends, I suppose, on quite how long it takes to send pieces of ox to the coasts of Israel!)

    That however, may also be part of this film's tendency to de-mythologize the stories. If so, it is an interesting place to start. Perhaps the most striking example of this is in the battle between David and Goliath. Goliath is actually well short of the height given in the text (six cubits and a span - over nine foot), still large compared to David, but no so extraordinary. It does bring to mind the way Gregory Peck's David suggests that even in his lifetime Goliath's height has been exaggerated, only for the film's climatic flashback to actually verify the biblical measurement.

    Finally, whilst the film subverts the text in that example, it continues the Bible Collection's squeamishness with Old Testament polygamy. So just as Keturah makes no appearance in Abraham (Gen 25:1), and the Cushite wife of Moses (Num 12:1) is similarly absent, we see something similar here. Firstly, Ahinoam (David's third wife - 1 Sam 25:42) is entirely absent, even though the preceding story, where David marries Abigail (1 Sam 25:1-41) is included, as is the following verse explaining that Michal had remarried (1 Sam 25:43). Later on we are shown David with three of his wives (the re-instated Michal, Abigail, and Bathsheba), but poor Ahinoam is still absent. Finally the narrative ends with God's promises regarding Solomon, rather than the more obvious scene of David's death, thus circumventing the unusual role of Abishag. (1 Kings 1)

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