(Warning: sometimes I write well, intelligently and interestingly. Other times I seem to be more driven by a desire to record everything, even if it's dull and meandering so at least I know where to find it if I ever need to. Sadly for all concerned this is one of those latter occasions.)
I'm doing some writing on film portrayals of King David
at the moment so I thought it was about time I wrote up my notes on Pathé's David et Goliath
from 1910. There was a rush of short films about David at the time with six films about David being released in as many years (the others being David and Goliath
in 1908, Saul and David
in 1909, David and Saul
in 1911, David, King of Israel
in 1912, and La Mort de Saül
David et Goliath
is the only one I have seen however, although the fact that Solomon1
(p.166) discusses the Italian made David, King of Israel
(p.66-68) discusses Blackton's Saul and David
means that prints of those two films are still in existence. As far as I can tell however David et Goliath
does appear to be the only one which you can view online (parts 1
). The online version comes with French intertitles whereas the version in the BFI archives has German intertitles. As it was there I first encountered it - and diligently wrote down all the intertitles it is those I'll refer to, though I'm not convinced that the intertitles all say the same things.
It's also worth noting that the German version has been produced using some kind of early colour process (hence the image above) whereas the French version is in black and white. The appearance is similar to that of early two-strip Technicolor, but as that wasn't yet in existence then it looks like it was made using either Lee-Turner Colour
or the Keller-Dorian
process. (The Kinemacolor Wikipedia entry
lists 262 films made using the process but this isn't one of them.)
Unusually the film starts with a close up of some of the leading actors, the French version shows the actors playing David, Goliath and Saul, whereas the German version only includes Goliath and Saul. As was typical at the time the rest of the film only comprises mid-shots so these are the only close ups in the picture. The close ups are proceeded by each actor's billing (though the German print only starts after Goliath's introduction.
VON DER COMÉDIE FRANÇAIS
ALS KÖNIG SAUL
MR ALEXANDRE OF THE "COMÉDIE FRANÇAIS" AS KING SAUL
Following the introductory shot of Saul we get the first intertitle proper.
Die Philister haben
Den Israeliten den Krieg
Erklärt, und die drei
Brüder Davids ergreifen
The Philistines declare war on the Israelites and David's three brothers take weapons.
This preceeds a scene of David and his brothers are sitting around which is absent from the French version. David plays the harp, Jesse wears an alarmingly short robe and Samuel arrives giving the early 20th century gestures for "quit playing that harp I have a message from God". More messengers arrive and read from a scroll resulting in a two columned intertitle designed like a scroll.
|Sohn Israels! |
Die Philister sine
in dein Land eingedrugen
mendet sich an dich
|damit durch deinen |
Hut die Ehre deines
Gottes gerellel werde
There seem to be quite a few errors between what I noted down and correct German, some of which is probably my poor quality transcription, but there are translation errors in some of these intertitles as well, so here is what it seems the intertitle should be trying to say and an English translation
[Sohn Israels! Die Philister sein in dein Land eingedrungen Der König wendet sich an dich damit durch deinen mut die Ehre deines Gottes gerettet werde Saul]
Son of Israel! The Philistines have invaded your land. The King turns to you so that by your courage the glory of your God will be saved. Saul
The older sons are sent off to war and David tries to go too, but Jesse stops him, putting his arm around his shoulders. A heartbroken David sits down and pleads to go but Samuel also intervenes.
The next intertitle introduces the next scene of David looking after the sheep
Seine herde gegen
[David Verteidigt Seine herde gegen die raubtiere]
David defends his herd against predators
The "predator" in question turns out to to be a wolf, bear or lion, but an eagle. It's a surprising divergence (do eagles poach sheep frequently enough for this scene to be credible. Perhaps it was just that the fake eagle seemed more credible than a fake lion / bear / wolf. Perhaps composition required an aerial threat rather than another woolly mammal trying to stand out amongst all those sheep. Either way David brings it down with his sling and Jesse is so pleased he allows him to head to the front with a basket of bread for his brothers.
seines vaters bringt
David seinen brüdern,
David on behalf of his father brings his brothers, Saul's soldiers, food.
There's an oddly comedic scene here (also absent from the French version) where some boys hide and steal David bread. Fortunately David whips out his sling, fells one of them and gets his brad back.
David then arrives at the camp waving into the distance. Meanwhile some of the soldiers grab weapons and line up.
Goliath beats Saul before single combat
I'm not entirely sure what the meaning of this sentence is so I've left it rather literally. Essentially though it's followed by Goliath strolling into camp and shouting (in tablet form):
Erwählet einen unter
euch, der mit mir
Kämpfe, Vermag er
wider mich zu streilen
und schlägt er
|mich, so wallen wir |
eure Knechte sein,
schlage ich aber ihn, so sollt
ihr unsere Knechte sein.
In zwei Studen erwarte
ich meinen Gegner
[König Saul! Erwählet einen unter euch, der mit mir Kämpfe, Vermag er wider mich zu streiken und schlägt er mich, so wollen wir eure Knechte sein, schlage ich aber ihn, so sollt ihr unsere Knechte sein. In zwei stunde erwarte ich meinen Gegner]
King Saul! Chose one of you, with me fighting, he is able to strike against me, and he beats me, then will we be your servants: but I kill him, then shall ye be our servants. In two hour I expect my opponent
Seeing Goliath leave, David is ashamed. Saul begins his hunt for a champion, but only David is willing:
Es entfalle keine,
menschen das herz um
deswillen dein knecht
will hingehen und
mit de Philister straiten
Let no man's heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with the Philistine
There are quite a lot of extra subtitles in the French version than in the German, which disrupts the story for anyone that knows it. David offers himself and points to the sky and then in the next scene comes face to face with Goiath.
David sprach zu Goliath:
Du kommst zu mir mit
Schwert, Spieß und Schild;
Ich aber komme zu dir im
namen des hernn zebaoth
des Gottes ISraels den
du Gehöhnet hast
[David sprach zu Goliath: Du kommst zu mir mit Schwert, Spieß und Schild; Ich aber komme zu dir im namen des herr zebaoth des Gottes Israels den du Gehöhnet hast]
David said to Goliath:
"You come to me with sword, spear and shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel whom you have defied"
Thus David reveals that he is the challenger. Goliath mocks him of course, raising his arms whilst David prays desperately to God. The two circle each other for a while using the depth of field in a way that was not that well established at the time so that by the time David fires the vital shot, Goliath is closest to the camera. Goliath falls, writhes and dies.
The final scene shows David processing through the town on a horse. He wears a crown on his head whilst a minion follows at a respectable distance with Goliath's head on a stick. Again there are more subtitles in the French version, the last of which ends by citing Samuel 1 - 2 Ch 32.
Campbell and Pitts describe it as follows:
DAVID AND GOLIATH
1000 feet B/W
CAST Berthe Bovy, René Alexander, L.Ravet.
Another in the series of French Pathé films adapted from Old Testament stories. This version of David's slaying of the giant Goliath, at 1,000 feet, was a bit longer than most of the series entries.
The BFI archive
has a synopsis for this film rolling two descriptions into one very long one so I'll just provide the link
on this occasion.
1 - Solomon, Jon. "The Ancient World in the Cinema", (Revised and expanded edition). Yale University Press, 2001 p.166
2 - Shepherd, David J., "The Bible on Silent Film: Spectacle, Story and Scripture in the Early Cinema", Cambridge University Press, 2013. pp 66-68.
Labels: David, Silent Bible Films