Saturday, October 14, 2006

Bad Art

OK, I want to rattle this off before I go to bed, because I'm so annoyed and I want to get this down.

I wasted $8.75 on "One Night With the King" on Friday. Do NOT go see this film. What makes me so mad about this movie is the fact that, unlike other poorly-made, flimsy, weak films that evaporate one hour after you're finished, never to be thought on again, this film lingers in my mind. But not in a good way; no, one after another, its flaws come through my mind and make me angry all over again.

1. I love the story of Esther and King Ahasuerus. I know it by heart, and have read multiple novels about her and the historical events of the time. It is a cracking good tale. So with an adaptation of an existing story, why oh why do filmmakers feel the need to re-write the original story? Embellishment, elaboration on a theme is fine, but why change the essential points, especially if it is to a point that's NOT WORTH MAKING?

This is a tendency that I call "Lack of Faith in the Source Material," which begs the questions, "why even bother using the original story in the first place, then?" And SOOOOOO many filmmakers are guilty of it. They don't trust that the original events are entertaining enough, despite the fact that the book/story/event has been so popular or compelling that there's a pre-existing demand for a film about it! Just look at the first Narnia movie; why did they need to send the children down a frozen river in a scene they invented? And yet they cut other scenes from the book! (I know not EVERYTHING translates well to film, and I can accept those sorts of changes...)

2. Inaccurate intepretation of history really pisses me off. I did an honors thesis in college on films about the French Revolution during the 1930s, as well as a huge paper on Propaganda in Film during WWII. So I know what I'm talking about here; namely, the tendency we have to re-interpret historical events in the light of current events, political hot-button issues, and contemporary ideology.

For example, the film chose to make the Greeks into proponents of Democracy, which the villain denounced as horrible. First off - the Greeks could have cared less if democracy took hold in other nations, and I've never heard that any other nation feared its spread; if anything, they feared the armies of Greece marching in to take over! Democracy of the 5th C. BC wasn't anything like what it is in 2006. Secondly - it was just so BADLY DONE. It made no sense, and even now I'm trying to figure out what on earth they were trying to do. If there was a point or ideology they wanted to make beyond Democracy=Good, then it was so ridiculously and pointlessly convoluted that no-one in that theater would have picked up on it.

3. If you're going to make a propaganda film, then please, make it good! The only decent thing in that film was the costuming (by the inspired Bollywood designer of "Devdas," I might add). The fact that they managed to make one of my favorite Bible stories insipid, boring, and confusing just infuriates me. They can propagandize to me all they want, but by golly, they'd better make it entertaining, like "Mrs. Miniver." Now that's a delicious piece of propaganda (and I adore it and highly recommend everyone watch it. Deeply moving.)

And the love story? Utterly confusing. If you insist on inventing a love story (and there was never any mention in the Bible that Esther and Ahasuerus loved each other at all, really) then, PLEASE, make it truly romantic! Since you're inventing it from scratch anyway, then you must be very, very bad filmmakers if you can't make it compelling. And if you're going to cast 2 unknowns in the leads, then you have absolutely NO EXCUSE in casting 2 actors without an ounce of chemistry between them. There are too many gifted actors out there who can't find work. You'd find better, more charismatic pairings in high-school productions of "Oklahoma."

Oh, and Omar Sharif was really good in a cameo role, as was John Rhys Davies, and Peter O'Toole (in a "blink-and-you'll-miss-him" role). But their quality performances only stood to make the utter lack of ability in the rest of the cast (excepting the charmismatic James Callis as Haman) stand out in sharp, painful relief.

4. *whimper* It was just so BAD. And all these confusing and insulting and stupid and ridiculous aspects of the film keep zipping through my head. And that's my final point - it was Bad Art, and even worse, Bad Christian Art. If you're going to spend money on a film about a story from the Bible, or popular Christian fiction, then please - stop before you start shooting if the script sucks! I'd rather the airwaves be flooded with well-written yet smutty crap than see another bad Christian film. I find myself clinging mentally to "Shadowlands"; it's truly good and well-made. But if Christian filmmakers are going to make only lame religious films? Then I'd rather they make none at all.


Mike Howell said...

Sounds dreadful. So, if Esther and Xerxes/Ahasuesus were portrayed as being in love, what was the big deal about approaching him with Haman's genocidal intentions?

"Dear, someone is going to kill my people. Do sum'in 'bout it, 'kay?"
"No prob, hon."

Susania said...

Bwah! Yes, we keep trying to re-write history so it makes sense with our modern ideas of what marriage is.