Friday, June 5, 2009

King David Meets Mr. Spock

I am of course interested in dramatic portrayals of King David and fictional works based on his life. While writing The All-American King, I read Abigail by Lois Henderson, God Knows by Joseph Heller, and The Bathsheba Deadline by Jack Engelhard. Since the publication of my book, I’ve read Unspoken by Francine Rivers and William Faulkner's classic, Absalom, Absalom! And if NBC ever brings it back, I will continue watching Kings on television.

Yesterday I rented the DVD David, a TNT television production from 1997. The scope of the movie is impressive. It covers events in 1 & 2 Samuel from Saul’s anointing to Absalom’s rebellion against King David—a runtime of three hours. The plot for the most part followed the biblical narrative. Most exceptions were likely the result of budgetary limitations. For example:
  • there were no opposing armies lined up against each other during the Goliath scene
  • Goliath did not look like a giant, but was instead an angry guy, somewhat taller than average, with muscles
  • major battles looked like small skirmishes
  • several characters from the Bible story did not appear in the movie, e.g. Abishai, Asahel, Ish-Bosheth, and Abiathar

And some of the action scenes came off as cheesy. The same can be said for the dialogue at times, like when David was boldly reciting Psalms while stabbing enemy soldiers who seemed to be doing little else on the battlefield than waiting for David to kill them.

I was familiar with only two of the cast members in David: Leonard Nimoy who played Samuel and Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks) who played Bathsheba. The actor who portrayed Joab did a fine job, though he was much older than David—a bit distracting given that Joab was David’s nephew. The guy who played Nabal the Calebite was a hoot.

Nimoy as Samuel was great, though it was a little strange when he approached Saul after a battle and said, “Captain, I find it highly illogical that you spared the life of King Agag. The Romulans . . . I mean the Philistines will see this as a sign of weakness.” Then later, Samuel told David to bring the Ark to Jerusalem so the Israelites would “live long and prosper.” Okay, that didn’t happen. But Samuel did tell Saul at his anointing that his kingdom would prosper. Just hearing Nimoy say the word prosper was worth the price of the DVD rental.

Richard Gere portrayed King David in a movie back in the 1980s. I’ve yet to see that one, though I’m thinking I’ll rent it sometime.

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