Dances with Wolves
The first time I saw this amazing film was in the cinema (in London). I'm so glad I went to see it on the big screen. What an experience!
Set in London, UK, mostly during second World War. About Winston Churchill becoming the prime minister, the man to stand against Hitler. What a remarkable piece of history; Churchill was clearly the man-of-the-hour. In other circumstances, small chance he would have become Prime Minster.
A great film with a brilliant performance by Gary Oldman, with an excellent script, and with top-notch directing by Joe Wright. I feel SO CONNECTED with this movie. The subject matter is close to my heart, having lost members of my family to Hitler's madness. Britain became my second home country; I lived there for over 25 years, with 20 of those amazing years in London. What a great city, with many wonderful theaters, among them the National Theatre.
Gary Oldman has long been one of my most favorite actors, so when I heard about this film being produced, I got excited; you can imagine. When I finally got to see this remarkable film, it totally lived up to my expectations. God storytelling and plenty of substance to the drama; the true British spirit comes through beautifully.
The film ‘David’ (Jonathan Price is Saul/ Nat Turner is David) is in two parts. For commercial reasons (I think) the 2 parts had to be of (near) equal length. Part one covers the shocking story of how Saul after becoming the first Hebrew king, ends up chasing David, almost to death (certainly to the death of Saul). Some brief scriptures (like for instance 1 Samuel 14: 47 & 48, 52) indicate lengthy events and years of struggles that are not described in detail like other parts of the story; clearly, there is much more to Saul’s life than chasing David.
But Cinema Films (and films for TV) tend to focus solely on the drama that is written in detail (in the scripture), kind-of forgetting that a great deal more happened to the leading characters. The result is a somewhat one-sided representation of what really went on. Saul’s life was a great deal more than just seeking David’s life, but the film makes it look like that…
The same goes for King David; his kingship is covered in part 2 of this film (film ‘David’). It looks as if all David did was ‘having his affair with Bathsheba’ and then dealing with his rebellious sons, through to the death of Absalom; end-of-story. This is a long way from what David’s life story really was. Difficulty here is, again, that the scripture focusses mostly on these (unhappy) events, and hardly gives us anything else. Yet, it we know from other sources that David worked very hard, for years on end, running the kingdom, fighting his enemies, training up people, initiating laws and decrees, and organizing/ building a host of structures, including relations with the outside world, to build the kingdom. Under David’s leadership Israel moved from being a primitive agricultural nation to becoming more civilized, centralized and better organized etc.
He established strong borders and built the Kingdom of Israel. He did this with great skill and through passionate leadership. He fought many battles; never lost a fight. He became feared by his enemies and greatly loved by his own people. The 2 films that I have seen so far, ‘Saul & David’ (1964), and ‘David’ (1997), both leave out entirely the larger context that I’ve just described in Saul reign as well as David’s. Too bad!
In the ‘David’ film, during part 1, we only see king Saul operating from his tent in a camp. This is Saul’s base, all the way through all of Saul’s life (in this part 1 of film ‘David’).
Once David becomes king (at the end of part 1), all of a sudden he is living in a very sumptuous large impressive palace. It doesn’t make sense really how the film has organized this.
Surely Saul had some indoor place for head-quarters, however primitive. I imagine that he upgraded a couple of times through his years in office. The film does depict (very briefly) how David conquers Jerusalem.
But we never see David build his palace, and we never see him live anywhere else, other than in this expensive palace. It would have been better to see David pick-up where Saul left off, and gradually work his way up, in regards to his housing etc. I guess there was no budget to bring this kind of reality into the movie.
Back to the (1997) ‘David’ film. Part one, after lengthy tittles, gives images of David & men sneaking into Jerusalem. This suggests David ‘taking’ the town. Next, even while tittles are still coming through, David walks into this sumptuous palace. It suggests that this large and wealthy building was simply ‘waiting’ for him. Scripture speaks of David totally rebuilding Jerusalem, and building himself a palace. We see none of that; suddenly David ism all settled.
Soon after these images the film ‘goes back in time’ as the story proper begins with king Saul etc. In both parts the film follows scripture rather loosely. I guess that’s what films tend to do.
After the 7-day wait, and Samuel’s confrontation with Saul, the film has Samuel give Saul a ‘second chance’; Samuel instructs Saul to attack Agag etc. The film then leaves out the entire situation of how God gives the Hebrews victory over the Philistines, and rushes into the Agag situation. Saul has been rather liberal with the instructions he had received earlier. It is the final straw for Samuel, and the 2 men part ways for good. Poor story telling!
The way Samuel its down to wash his face is good film making. A close-up of a candle shows an unusual wind sweeping through. God’s voice speaks (through Gielgud?). It works!
Samuel says to Saul: “All God asks of you is that you obey his commands. Instead you’re as rebellious as a heathers witch. You reject the Lord; now he rejects you and your kingdom.’
Saul pleads this 7 that. Samuel responds:
“You cannot bargain with the God of Israel. I will go to find someone better. You will not see me again until your dying day!”
We see a dagger with blood on it in Samuel’s hand; it suggests that he personally killed Agag.
Soon after Samuel visits Jesse to see Jesse’s sons. A little odd that Samuel doesn’t see the sons one-by-one. He just looks at the group and somehow knows that the one he is looking for is not here. When Samuel is told about young David in the fields by the sheep, Samuel goes out there to look for David. Nice choice, and good film making. Samuel & David have interesting conversation. Samuel anoints David with oil; beautifully staged and filmed; the music is too much.
Saul suffers from an ‘evil spirit’. Jonathan ‘finds’ David. David plays for the king, and speaks Psalm 23; beautifully done. Saul likes what he hears, and appoints David to be his musician/ personal assistant. Saul suggests the David can sleep by his sons; he orders the young guys out of his tent; he’s ready to sleep. As they leave the tent, Jonathan expresses his gratitude to David for calming his father etc. The 2 young guys hug; in this moment they become friends. A great moment in the story (that is so full of madness).
Story of Goliath is well done; well written; well filmed. One of the best versions that I have seen!
Announcement on the screen: 10 years later I’m sorry to see the (younger) David actor go (Gideon Turner). Nathaniel Parker is now David. This actor is a little older, but not that much older. I liked Gideon Turner better. Obviously the producers/ writers had to figure out how to cover the whole life of David. However, Nathaniel Parker looks very youthful and hardly gets any older (looking) in the later part of the film. Did they consider having a clearly OLDER actor step into the story, at a later point in the script? Gideon Parker could have easily been made to look OLDER and been able to carry the story, a great deal further.
Overall there are problems with all the characters getting older, and the film not really working this through systematically. For instance, the second child of David & Bathsheba seems to stay a young child for a very long time, even while all the other sons of the king are now in their twenties. Never mind, the film producers choose to ‘keep things simple’; there is a certain charm in this approach. A typical TV film approach perhaps?
When Saul threatens to kill David a maid gets killed instead (in this film); there’s no mention of such a thing in the scripture. In my view, not a wise choice, and unnecessary.
David, now on the run, is given a donkey full of good by Jonathan. Scripture doesn’t mention this; it is a little odd, because David stopped by at the priest of Nob for the VERY reason that he didn’t have anything with him; he had fled in great haste, running for his life. Now with a donkey full of provisions, there was no need to see the priest of Nob. Poor writing.
Interesting to have Nathan visit Samuel; scripture doesn’t mention this, but it is good (in my view) to connect these 2 men. Soon after, Samuel is dead.
Lots of events happen, as David moves from place to place. The film tries to give the viewer the main sweep of these events. A feature film would have done more with this. Still, the story moves forward, even though we loose the sense of time, how the years pass.
Suddenly we’re at the ‘final battle’, Saul having to fight the Philistines once more, and they out number the Hebrews heartily. Saul wants to speak to Samuel who has dies; so he arranges a medium. Samuel turns Saul down; there is no hope. Even so, in the morning Saul appears optimistic and even spiritual (religious?). Moments later the Hebrews get slaughtered.
The film makers made the most with a shoe-string budget, I imagine.
Via some flash-backs and flash forwards, we’re suddenly in the story of David’s affair with Bathsheba; I’m hardly ready for it. I even resist partaking in this story… For some reason I don’t like this David; this second part of the film feels like a different movie altogether, and I’m not keen.
We never see David in action regarding his kingdom, no military action, no affairs of state. It’s like this man is rich and being a little bored in his wealthy home and empty life. Didn’t he have other wives? What happened to Abigail? Is not clear. Who are the mothers to his young sons?
I remember now, the film shows us later who they are. Somehow it didn’t sit right with me, that from Saul and Jonathan being slaughtered, we move into the Bathsheba affair so instantly.
OK; I’ll let it go. Overall, this second part of the film, for me, never finds a good rhythm; the story-telling is awkward. After Bathsheba we’re straight into the rape of Tamar, the killing of Amnon (by Absalom), the ‘take-over’ by Absalom followed by his death. The king comes back to his palace, and the film is finished. Many things wrong here, with the film, but I don’t have the appetite to try and work all of that out. Actor Nathaniel Parker is sharp and strong; almost too good looking, too comfortable. I’m keen to get a glimpse of the real David, whoever he is, and sadly I feel no closer to him after watching this film.
King David speaks a number of Psalms, here & there in between scenes. It doesn’t work great for me; the film gets away with it, but it doesn’t really add anything. At times we hear a Psalms being spoken as through a voice over. At times the actor speaks a Psalm quite loud and forceful; nice try, but still not convincing. I wonder what is the problem? I haven’t met the poet David yet.
Should they have given Bob Dylan the part, or Dylan Thomas? How come it is so difficult to make a successful film on this man? I wish I knew. Back to the scriptures. (And on to watching Richard Gere as King David.)
King David (1985)
Days of Heaven
Richard Gere, Sam Shepherd, director: Terrance Malick. Great film!
Dead Man Walking
What an impressive movie, with a power-house performance by Sean Penn. In an interview I heard him say that he didn't want to act too often; it was too painful, he said. When I saw this film, I understood what he meant.
This is one of the films that overwhelmed me when I first saw it, in the cinema of course. I was in my teens and my life took a pauze as this film 'took over'; the images, the story, the power of cinema, I couldn't think of anything else for several weeks. During that time, I saw the film over and over again; in the same cinema. Over time I couldn't keep this expensive habit up, so I needed a plan B. No problem! There was an intermission in the film in this particular cinema. During the intermission people would spread out in the foyer, and even into the street (to smoke).
So I turned up outside the cinema (cinema Bellevue in Amsterdam) around this time, and waited. A brief announcement invited the people to go back to their places. I joined the small crowd, filing back into the building, lingering at the end of the que, to find myself an excellent seat. In this cinema the second half of the film started with a train going through a tunnel, and then, with powerful images and sound effects, 'bursting' out of the tunnel. I saw this 'second half' of Dr. Zhivago, at least another 5 times. It changed my life!
Years later, a remake was done, as a TV series. I was cynical at first; would be impossible to outdo David Leans' work. And it would be of course; David Lean was the one who did the trail-blazing, the man with such grand scale vision and daring to get it on the screen, in those analogue days. Still, the TV series rose to such a level; I loved watching the whole story (written by Boris Pastenak) all over again. I AM ZHIVAGO!