David and Goliath
David and Goliath

According to The Hollywood Reporter, film production company Relativity Media are planning to bring the epic battle between David and Goliath to the big screen. The director will be Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Day the Earth Stood Still).

Relativity and the producers plan on taking the script, written by John D. Payne and Patrick McKay, and give it a modern vibe that harkens to the spirit of films such as 300 and The Bourne Identity.

The Hollywood Reporter

The producers are Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen of Temple Hill, who, as Matt Page (Bible Films Blog) notes, previously collaborated on 2006’s The Nativity Story.

Deadline.com summarises the plot of the proposed film:

When the fierce warrior Goliath is sent to track down the foretold king of the Israelites, the young shepherd David gets thrust into an epic chase and adventure fighting for his own life, and his loved ones, in a battle between the young man and the giant.

Deadline.com

There are a few details in this brief synopsis which suggest some creative reworking of the biblical story narrated in 1 Samuel 17. The idea that it was ‘foretold’ that David would be king has some basis in the preceding 1 Samuel 16.1-13. That passage narrates that, while still a young boy, and while Saul still reigned as king, the prophet Samuel anointed David as king under the direction of the Israelite god, Yahweh. However, there is no indication that Goliath knows about this in 1 Samuel 17, nor that he particularly cares about it. In fact, 1 Sam. 17.42 implies that Goliath first knew about David only when David marched out to confront him in their duel. 

Yet will the Hollywood version achieve a better build-up of tension than the original, and heighten David’s climactic decapitation of Goliath? Will the movie have to smooth out the inconsistencies of 1 Sam. 17? After all, viewers might get confused if the scenes alternate between David being an established member of King Saul’s court (e.g. 1 Sam. 16.21-22; 17.32-40) and David as a young, unknown shepherd boy (e.g. 1 Sam. 17.1-31, 55-58). Will the movie, as the synopsis suggests, invent a ‘pre-history’ of opposition between Goliath and David – a sort of Hollywood Midrash?

People often talk about an adaptation being ‘faithful’ to the original biblical story. But if the ‘original’ biblical story is itself merely a moment in a stream of creative invention, would it not be more ‘faithful’ to be as creative as possible with the film? Perhaps the necessary twist today in a retelling of the David and Goliath story should follow Charles Reznikoff’s lead, in his poem, I do not believe that David killed Goliath (1941). That is, Goliath should kill David, quashing the fantasy that the little guy can defeat the seemingly all-powerful system – a fantasy which in fact sustains that very system. However, enough fantasizing… this is a Hollywood production after all.

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