• 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


    Friday, February 07, 2014

    David, a Young Hero and David, A King of Israel (1958)

    The The Living Bible series tends to stick very rigidly to the biblical text and the three episodes that feature David are no exception, so I've not got a huge amount of comments on these films. I say "three" because the elderly David does appear at the start of the episode Solomon, A Man of Wisdom. So anyway, here's more of a scene guide to these episodes (something I wish I'd kept closer tags on as I was writing up the others in this series). N.B. Where an incident occurs in both Samuel-Kings and in Chronicles I've referenced if from Samuel-Kings.
    David, A Young Hero
    David playing the harp whilst shepherding (Psalm 23)
    Anointing of David (1 Sam 16:1-13)
    David plays for Saul (1 Sam 16:14-23)
    David and Goliath (1 Sam 17)
    Saul throws a spear at David (1 Sam 18:10-17)
    Jonathan warns David using arrows (1 Sam 20)
    Given my post a few days ago about Saul's mental health problems the one moment of this production that really stood out was the scene where David is brought in to play his harp. It's interesting that the narrator seems to provide both a natural description of the problem as well as providing a supernatural explanation. Initially Saul's problem is described as "black moods of despair" - which is notable not least because we have not been shown Saul's rejection by God. Moments later, though, the cause of Saul's problem is put down to evil spirits.

    Given the film's low budget it does a good job of making an effective Goliath. By limiting the two competitors to only one shot in which they both appear some of the awkwardness about Goliath's relative size is effectively dealt with, and whilst the sound effects on Goliath's voice may lack sophistication they are certainly effective. I also like that David is clearly a late teenager/young man here rather than a young teenager/boy.

    The film does end at a curious point which very much underlines the fact that this is the first instalment of a two-parter. Jonathan confirms that his father is trying to kill David and so David heads off into "the wilderness". When David returns he will be played by an older actor. Most David films change actors shortly after his felling of Goliath suggesting it is this action that turns him into a man. Here however it is his having to flee Saul and live a life of the run that ages him and matures him.
    David, King of Israel
    The 400 come to David (1 Sam 22)
    Protection of Keilah (1 Sam 23)
    David spares Saul's life (1 Sam 24)
    David spares Saul's life a 2nd time (1 Sam 26)
    Elders make David king (2 Sam 2-5)
    The Ark Brought to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6)
    Covenant with David (2 Sam 7)
    It's slightly peculiar that for an episode called David, King of Israel only a third of it (5 minutes) involves David actually being king. Given the series' conservatism it's no surprise that it overlooks the troubles of his reign, not least his affair with Bathsheba and the problems with Absalom.

    One other pouint that stood out for me was in the scene where David spares Saul's life for the first time. Whereas most other films tend to depict Saul wearing his coat at the time, here he puts it down on a nearby rock, a rather more plausible scenario in my opinion. That said the robe itself is more like a women's wrap than any kind of robe, and the actor playing Saul clearly seems to struggle to wear whilst giving the impression that he has not noticed a large piece of it is missing.
    Solomon, A Man of Wisdom
    David announces his successor (1 Kings 1-2)
    David passes on his plans for the temple (1 Chr 28-29)
    [rest of episode]
    This film does go where most other films about David don't however covering the messy situation surrounding his successor. That said the ousted Adonijah seems rather more relaxed about David's pronouncement than the Bible suggests and the two half-brothers shake hands in a manner which in no way suggests that Solomon is about to butcher his rival. Bizarrely the next scene depicts David having sprung up from his death bed and explaining his plans for the temple. It is, to say the least, a rather odd arrangement.

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