David (1997) TV
Director: Robert Markowitz.
Starring: Nathaniel Parker (David), Jonathan Pryce (Saul), Leonard Nimoy (Samuel), Sheryl Lee (Bathsheba), Ben Daniels (Jonathan), Richard Ashcroft (Abner), Gideon Turner (Young David), Maurice Roëves (Joab), Dominic Rowan (Absalom), Edward Hall (Amnon), Clara Bellar (Tamar), Gina Bellman (Michal), Franco Nero (Nathan), John Francis (Phineas), Mohamad Belfikh (Zadok).
Spoiler Warning: below is the summary of the entire movie.
Saul, the King of Israel, and Jonathan die. With a Philistine victory, the crown falls into David's hands. For seven years David and his army has been in Hebron. Now they approach Jerusalem. He appealed to the Jebusite Canaanites to make their city David's capital. But now he has to use force. They capture the well and cut off the Jebusites' water allowing David to enter in Jerusalem in peace.
Flashback. Many years earlier. Saul was a humble farmer from the tribe of Benjamin. He has two sons, Abner and Jonathan by his side. Saul goes to visit the prophet Samuel, who tells Saul that God has spoken to him and that their people need a king. And Saul is the man. Samuel anoints Saul King. God instructs Saul to gather the tribes of Israel and strike back at the Ammonites and win a war.
Ammonites capture an Israeli woman and ride into her camp. The leader is suddenly struck by an arrow and falls from his horse. Saul then cuts the man's throat. Samuel tells Saul to go to Gilgal and wait for him seven day.
Saul's son and nephew are confronted by the huge Philistine warrior, Goliath. They run back to camp and tell Saul that the Philistines are massing. Now Saul decided not to wait for Samuel as instructed. God becomes infuriated at him.
Samuel arrives, is annoyed at Saul, but givens his assignment: to kill and destroy everything in the village of the Amalekites led by Agag, a vicious murderer. Saul destroys much of the village but saves Agag (for possible ransom) and the cattle (to feed his men). Samuel arrives and is very angry at Saul for not carrying out the full details of God's command. He tells Saul that "The Lord will reject you and your kingdom. You cannot bargain with the God of Israel." Samuel then kills Agag. He then tells Saul "You will not see me until the day you die."
God tells Samuel to go to Bethlehem to the house of a man named Jesse for among his sons is a king. Samuel meets with Jesse and his sons, but David is not present. He is out shepherding his sheep. Samuel goes out to meet him and tells him God's message. David is unsure but Samuel tells him not to worry for: "The Lord sees not as man sees." Samuel anoints David.
Abner asks David to use his musical skills with the harp to expel the evil spirits from his father. David accepts the task and does soothe much of Saul's anxieties.
But then there is still the problem of the Philistines and Goliath. Goliath slays two of Saul's best soldiers. But David volunteers to fight him. He is very confidant he will be victorious for he says: "The Lord will protect me." In the confrontation between Goliath and David, David knocks Goliath out with a stone from his sling. David then cuts off the head of the giant Philistine.
Saul is so happy to hear the news of the death of Goliath that he says that David will marry his daughter. But, in order to do this, David must bring Saul the foreskins of 100 dead Philistines. David brings back 200 foreskins. But by now, Saul's praise of David has turned into jealously and paranoia. He plots the death of David. Michal, his betrothed, warns David. David flees. Needless to say, Saul is very mad at his daughter.
David runs into Jonathan who can't believe that his father is trying to kill David. Jonathan visits his father and tells him that David has gone to a feast in Bethlehem. Jonathan is then shocked when Saul launches into a verbal attack of David saying that he is unclean and means the King harm.
David travels to the village of Nob. But there one of Saul's captains sees David and reports it to Saul. Saul comes looking for David. David seeks safety with Nabal, but he is more interested in earning money from the price on David's head. Abigail, wife of Nabal, warns her husband that "Those who oppose David, oppose God." And soon Nabal is dying. (But before he dies, he tells Saul where David is.)
Abigail tell David that Saul has given Michal to another man. Then David asks Abigail to be his wife and she happily agrees. She then warns David to leave the Hills of Engedi for Saul is searching for him there. But David does not leave. Instead, David visits Saul to prove to him that he means Saul no harm. In addition, David swears to Saul that he will not harm the King's sons. Samuel dies.
Amelikites raiders take Abigail and David cries out "Lord, how long will the wicked triumph!" He attacks the Amelikites and rescues his wife.
The Philistines under Achish are massing. Saul gets a witch to contact the deceased Samuel. Samuel is revived but only to tell Saul: "Tomorrow, you and your sons will be with me." In the battle Jonathan is killed and, in despair, Saul kills himself.
David is King! As one of his first acts as king, David wants to be a massive Temple. But God tells him that it will not be he, but one of his children, who will build the Temple. With David no longer needing to work on a Temple, his mind wanders to sex. One day he see Bathsheba at her bath and decides that he wants her. He has the married woman come to dine with him. And David does not meet much resistance from Bathsheba. They have sex and she soon announces: "I carry your child."
David then asks that Lt. Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, be brought to him from the battlefield with a report on the fighting. Uriah arrives and David "befriends" him, probably to allay any suspicions on his part. David sends Uriah back with a message to his commander, Joab. The message tells Joab to place Uriah in the hottest part of the battle where he is most likely to be killed. And soon enough Uriah is killed in battle.
David marries Bathsheba. But then he is confronted by his prophet, Nathan, who says: "God will raise up evil against you out of your own house. Your child with Bathsheba will surely die." And, sure enough, the child dies at birth. David tells Bathsheba that his is God's punishment for sending Uriah out to be killed. She asks, almost in amazement: "God did this to you?" The lady is very understanding for she says to David: "We'll face it together." Later Bathsheba has another child, this one known as Solomon (the future King of Israel).
Seven years later. David now has three wives with him: Michal, Abigail and Bathsheba. He also has quite a few children. One of these children, Amnon, is not of high moral character. He desires his half-sister Tamar and follows up on this desire by raping her. David is very lenient with his punishment for Amnon. This so infuriates another of his sons, Absalom, that he orders the killing of Amnon. He then leaves the house of his father. Aphitophel, an officer in the army, suggests to Absalom that maybe he should be the ruler and not David. The start to plan a coup.
David is worried about reports about a possible coup, but Nathan assures him "God wants you to survive." David does not want to see his city of Jerusalem destroyed and so he abandons it to Absalom. He then heads north and Absalom enters Jerusalem.
Aphitophel tries to get Absalom to attack David. But the young priest Hushai, a David supporter and spy, tells Absalom that Aphitophel is wrong. It is not the time to attack. Absalom takes the advice of Hushai over Aphitophel (who then in despondence hangs himself). Hushai sends a message to David to attack. David agrees, but tells Joab if at all possible not to harm Absalom. Joab leads David's army to meet Absalom's army at the woods of Ephraim. In the battle that follows Absalom's forces are defeated and Absalom flees the battle on horseback. Joabs men chase Absalom, who gets tied up in a tree because his very long hair gets caught in its branches. He hangs there helplessly and Joab and his men stab him multiple times with their swords.
David is very upset over the fate of his son. In sadness he goes back to Jerusalem. There God reassures David of his future. He says that He will assist his son Solomon for he will be a man of peace. "I will give him respite from his enemies."
An o.k. movie. It lacks something. It's to much of a journeyman job. It tells the story well enough, but the story lacks some oomph. Leonard was good as Samuel. He was much better than I thought he would be. The other actors were o.k. Jonathan Pryce was pretty good as the ever nastier and flawed King Saul. Sheryl Lee as Batsheeba struck me as too Donna Reed-like. They should have let her more openly represent temptation and lust. In a lot of these Biblical stories, the best character is God with the other characters in the story not even playing second fiddle in contrast. Maybe it's because these Biblical stories have to have a G or PG rating and don't have much spice in them.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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