Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Now Playing: One Night With the King

We brought home the DVD of One Night With the King, last year's film based on the biblical book of Esther. I was hoping for a thrilling epic, but I was expecting a cheesy flop -- I found the film was neither.

Strong Points: fine acting by John Rhys-Davies, Omar Sharif, John Noble. I particularly liked how the writers tied in the Esther story to the other major story of Xerxes' life -- the war with Greece (and I'm eagerly awating the upcoming film 300, which depicts Xerxes' forces in the battle of Thermopalye against 300 Spartans). Some viewers have seen this as an anti-war parable -- when in actuality, it's an old theme tracing back through hundreds of years of literature: The noble freedom loving Greeks fighting and winning an impossible war against the decadent empire of the Persians. This film ties the Biblical story and the Greek story together quite nicely. We also get a good feel for the polyglot nature of the Persian empire -- Indians, Africans, Middle Easterners, Asians -- they all are represented in Xerxes' court. (It had never occured to me that queen Vashti was Indian -- but the name fits, and it certainly fits within the expanse of the Persian empire)

Weak Points: the writing is at times very contrived -- the direction for the actors is quite sloppy (it feels like the actors were run through their lines and then the director said "that's great" -- there's no nuance, no delving for the subtle character traits that make for rich performances -- I lay that at the feet of the director). The portrayal of the villan, Haman, is heavy handed and over the top. (The film does a nice work of tracing the roots of Haman's hatred of Israel, though) -- he wears all black, he growls like a tiger, he even has a nice swastika logo which flashes every now and again as he gives demagouge speeches before assembled torch-lit mobs. Can anyone say Mein Kampf? There are annoying plot contrivances (a cheesy little pendant that when exposed to light gives off a disco-ball effect of star of Davids, as one for instance).

All told, as a romantic adventure, it's not too bad. As an Epic period piece, well, I've seen a lot better. It certainly wasn't boring the first time through, but I doubt that I'll be using this one to teach the book of Esther.

I guess I'll be sticking with the Veggie Tales version of Esther: The Girl Who Became Queen.

Soli Deo Gloria