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Queen Esther on the Big Screen Yet Again!

12th May 2005

Peter Chattaway has a note on his blog about an upcoming film based on the biblical book of Esther: One Night With the King, starring Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif (due out later this year). Chattaway further notes a few other movies made about the story of Esther.

According to my count there have been a total of nine films based on the book of Esther. Besides the 1916 silent film directed by Maurice Elvey, the French produced three silent films inspired by the biblical character: Gaumont studios produced two films in 1910: Esther and Mordecai directed by Louis Feuillade and The Marriage of Esther, while C.G.P.C. made another movie called Esther directed by Henri Andréani. In addition, the Dutch director-actor Theo Frankel directed Esther: A Biblical Episode in 1911.

Once we are out of the silent era, there are three other films inspired by Esther (all of which Chattaway mentioned): Mario Bava and Raoul Walsh’s Esther and the King (1960); Amos Gitai’s Esther (1986); and Raffaele Mertes’ Esther (1999).

As a biblical scholar I found Esther and the King quite interesting — especially how they modified the king’s reason for getting rid of Queen Vashti. In the film they have Vashti cheating on the king and actually showing up at the banquet and performing a striptease (see picture of Daniela Rocca as Vashti above right), while in the biblical account she is dumped because she refused to come at the king’s command (Esther 1:10-12). What is perhaps ironic, is that some scholars (such as Michael Fox in his excellent book, Character and Ideology in the Book of Esther (Eerdmans, 2001; Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com) suggest that when the king asks her to come before the crowd “wearing the royal crown”, it is implied that she was to come wearing only the crown, i.e., naked. So the striptease in the movie may not be too far off the mark, after all! At any rate, the movie itself isn’t that bad — and it stars Joan Collins as Esther (see picture, above left).

Last and not least, a recent “film” on Esther that I should mention is the VeggieTales production, Esther, The Girl Who Became Queen, that came out in 2000 (and I have watched many times since with my kids!)

For a fairly complete listing of films based on the Hebrew Bible, see my The Old Testament on Film page.

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