As I watch biblical movies, I usually face a specific fear. Since the stories entailed in the Bible make perfect sense the way they are, personal visions or interpretations which carry significant changes may result in nothing but travesty and destruction. Still there are a lot of such productions which, though characterized by good direction and fine performances, tend to simplify, distort, ignore the gist. As a result, they appear to depict the events inaccurately. However, this phenomenon, fortunately, does not refer to "David" by Robert Markowitz, another movie from the new "Bible" series which has made an impression on me.
RELIGIOUS CONTENT: This movie not only depicts the life of the man who became the king of Israel almost 3,000 years ago, but also the times, events and all background history of his people, the chosen people of Israel. At the beginning of the movie, we have a memorable depiction of Saul (Jonathan Pryce) the first king of Israel who has wonderful possibilities but cannot use them properly. He finally commits suicide while lamenting his dead sons on the battlefield. To the contrast comes David, a shepherd boy who is anointed by the prophet Samuel (Leonard Nimoy) to be a future king and whose courage and confidence in God lead him to the unbelievable throne and glorious reign. He is a courageous soldier, the victorious leader and the noble king who builds a prosperous kingdom with the magnificent city of Jerusalem. At the same time, he is a poet who praises the Lord with his famous psalms that have survived as a model of sacred poetry in church till our times. Yes, he praises the Lord. He does that despite all the difficulties he is bound to cope with, all the sufferings arising within his own kingdom, within his own family, within his very self... He sings God's praises and never gives up being God's Man.
BIBLICAL PSYCHOLOGY: But, it is all distant past and today's viewers may sometimes ask a fundamental question: What is the gist of analyzing those events so deeply, events that passed long ago? Moreover, due to the deceptive nature of our modern times, we are easily led to doubt or disillusion. Then, we draw realistic conclusions. It seems that all we see in such movies (biblical movies) are just stories from the Bible in which you can believe or just treat as another sword and sandal epic. However, that view appears to be very dangerous and leads to serious simplifications. You start to consider these movies in a shallow way as pure entertainment which does not carry any thought provoking messages. Yet, "David," as a biblical film, is meant for something more...
It occurs crucial to state that biblical films should neither be entertaining epics only nor psychological movies. They, similarly to the Bible, should resemble the psychology of man in relation with God. In this respect, Markowitz's film is a wonderful insight into David's psyche within his profound relation with God. "Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me" ... the words Davis says in the famous prayer give us a picture of a powerful king who is also aware of his weaknesses, who, unlike all other kings of his time, does not treat himself as "divinity" but accepts a power beyond himself, the almighty power of God. I particularly liked the way the director showed the penance of David. This is a beautiful and a very accurate analysis of sin: first admitting the guilt but second repenting and turning anew towards God. Unlike king Saul who turns into despair which leads him to death, David has the courage to admit the guilt and turn into spiritual renewal which leads him to more stable life. He is a person who copes with all sorts of feelings from fear, disappointment to forgiveness and peace of mind. Only considering this psychology of God within man, we understand this movie and many other biblical films properly. Moreover, we can identify with the characters though they lived so long ago. But let me now skip the psychological aspect of the film and concentrate solely on the movie.
THE MOVIE: As king David was a poet, the film does a lot as far as the artistic side is concerned. First, it has wonderful score that supplies us with a specific melody. The tunes combine weakness with power and gentleness with triumph. Any time I hear it, it leads me to a very specific world of imagination. Second, some scenes are beautifully shot, particularly symbolic depiction of David-Goliath fight, Saul's dance of joy resulting from the Holy Spirit, David's anointment, and David's dance at the Arc. Third, the performances are truly good. Nathaniel Parker very well fits to the role of older David portraying a calm and powerful character alike. Jonathan Pryce is memorable as Saul filled with hesitation and loneliness. Sheryl Lee is really beautiful and subtle as Bathsheba and Franco Nero is marvelously cold as prophet Nathan. Finally, some parts in the script occurred to me as very meaningful and the situations as truly vivid.
"David," in sum, is a valuable biblical production. It is a captivating story of a soldier, a poet, a king but foremost of the God's man, something we are in need nowadays. It invites us to go deeper into what greatness really means. Is it a prosperous life, power, respect, or perhaps wealth that make us great? No, it is rather a humble quest for the right spirit, for the clean heart, for renewing oneself like David did. Only then we can lift up a pure child like lifting up a childlike heart in the joy of reconciliation.