• 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.

    Wednesday, May 30, 2018

    David and Goliath (2015)

    Back in 2013-14 I wrote a chapter for the book "The Bible in Motion" about film portrayals of David (and, by extension, Goliath). There are two problems with committing this kind of thing to paper. Firstly, you will inevitably come across an odd portrayal that you had somehow not discovered before and secondly, the moment you're done, someone releases a new version and your work looks outdated.

    So I must admit that I hardly leapt for joy back in 2015 when I heard that Tim Chey was producing a film called David and Goliath and I must admit that given the David film fatigue I was experiencing, when the trailer came out and looked pretty bad then I decided not to exert the effort needed to try and track it down.

    But then of course Netflix picked it up, their not always entirely effective algorithm suggested it might be my kind of thing and I added it to my list. And there it stayed, at least until last week when I realised it was about to disappear and that I needed to see it before it would cost me good money to do so.

    I have to say my initial hunch was right. David and Goliath is probably the worst Bible film I've ever seen, and, as anyone who knows anything about this subject will be aware, it's a very competitive category. It starts with a script that feels like it was never submitted to serious scrutiny. It's a little unfair to pick on an historical screenplay for anachronistic dialogue, but then I can't remember another film where soldiers talk about their percentage chance of winning, or dismiss those to be executed by saying "Have a nice day". True some films have entirely tried to use modern style dialogue (and probably been praised here for doing it), but here the more modern sounding dialogue clashes with the parts which use epic-movie-speak.

    Elsewhere Goliath's pre-fight challenge to David sounds like a cliche from ringside at the WWF:
    "Your God can't save you little rat...I'll eat your head. Nobody can defeat ME…You coward, you little maggot, you little weasel. I am God, you are nothing. I hate your guts. You moron. I'll show you. I'll destroy you..."
    Is it being contemporary? Is it comedy? Perhaps it's making the point that Goliath was unlikely to have been very articulate, but the film is full of this kind of clunky dialogue. "Let me get this through your THICK, STUBBORN SKULL!" David's brother yells at him at one point, "that man was created to kill people!"

    The problems with the dialogue are exacerbated by acting that is almost universally poor, with the cast seemingly resorting to shouting in almost every scenario from attempting intimidation, to being mildly annoyed. There's also repeated use of time lapse scenery footage, but bizarrely the bright lush scenery used in these sequences neither matches the geography of the action sequences, nor their style.

    To be fair this is a low budget effort, and. given that, some of costuming works quite well, the red cloth and leather tunics worn by the Israelites give a tip of the cap to Rome, whilst still being distinct.

    Usually I like to write positive reviews; flaming films rarely does much to improve the world, and other people do that far better. So I focus on what a film does well, what I learnt from it and so on. I try and understand what the filmmakers were trying to do and write about that. Here, however, it's almost impossible to do that. It does do much well and it's difficult to discern what the filmmakers were trying to do. It doesn't even provide a new angle on the story, or have a strong message - indeed, perhaps most damningly of all for an evangelical, faith-based project, it doesn't even make decent propaganda.

    Having said all that, on going to IMDb to add some quotes from the film, I found that far more people had been there before me and done the same. So some people are clearly not only watching it, but also connect with the movie enough to post the quotes. I don't know whether this is a sign that I'm overlooking the extent to which some people will cherish even films that I think are very poor, or an indication that it's beginning to gain a cult following of the so-bad-it's-good variety. I can certainly see the appeal of the latter option. Now that David and Goliath has disappeared from Netflix I find myself wanting to watch bits again one more time or show them to others. After all, where else can you get to see a giant call his diminutive foe both a rat and a maggot and still fel the need to add "weasel" to the list as well?

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