Reviewer: Charity Bishop
One of my favorite stories as a child was
that of Esther, the courageous Jewish woman who lived every
woman's secret dream... to be taken from obscurity and made
a queen of the realm. It was no simple story, for God had
intended for her to be put in place for a particular reason.
I have often wished that someone would transform this
miraculous story into a feature film worthy of praise. Well,
someone finally has.
The kingdom of Persia lies beneath the threat of impending war, but unaffected by the decisions of monarchs and princes are the lower class. Hadassah (Tiffany Dupont) is a witty, carefree young woman whose sole desire is to travel to Jerusalem, the land of her fathers. This long is taken every year with the caravans that pass through the magnificent city for trade, and her uncle Mordecai (John Rhys-Davies) has promised that one day she may go. Reluctant to let her go on her own, and unwilling to relinquish his position as a scribe in the king's court, Mordecai can no longer turn down her pleas and agrees that she might go, along with her friend Jesse (Jonah Lotan). Little does he realize that the court of King Xerxes (Luke Goss) is torn with strife and turmoil. Despite knowing that his wife is against the impending battle, the king demands her presence at his banquet.
When Queen Vashti refuses, the king's council Prince Admantha (John Noble) seeks to use her disobedience to his own advantage. Encouraging the king to disown his wife and choose another more worthy woman, he hopes to influence the outcome and hold power in the monarchy. The youngest, most beautiful single women of the realm are removed from their homes and families and taken to the palace, Hadassah among them. Concerned her heritage might place her life in peril, Mordecai encourages Hadassah to embrace the customs of her newfound life. "Esther" humbly asks for the guidance of the head eunuch (Tommy Lister) in how best to impress the king, never fathoming that her childish yearnings for greatness are about to come true... There is such a wealth of rich storytelling potential in this scripture passage that I am surprised it has never been explored before, but other recent attempts through television miniseries and specials have nothing in comparison to this exquisitely lavish production.
Christian films have been until now poorly written, badly acted, and cheap-looking, but One Night With the King dispels all of earlier notions and can compete with the best in secular Hollywood. The costumes are breathtaking. The computer-generated images of Persia are completely realistic. The acting is fabulous, and while the appearances of certain characters do take a little getting used to, the fact remains that it all stands on a very strong script. The best of the novel has been translated to the big screen, with as much drama, potential scandal, and romance as is possible in a two hour film. They did skimp on certain details but overall the story is rich in flavor and true to history. My single complaint would be that at times it is difficult to follow the labyrinth of subplots, particularly those revolving around Prince Admantha. I felt lost on several occasions.
One of my favorites comes near the end of the film, and consists of a woman running through the rain. It's a wonderful film, and should be seen not just in support of what it stands for, but for the worth of itself.
The most beautiful women in Persia are sent into the king, but he is never shown becoming intimate with any of them. Hadassah's own visit with him consists of nothing more than heart-felt conversation. There is one passing remark about the loss of manhood, and a mild undercurrent of disappointment in Jesse, who has been kidnapped and forced to become a eunuch, that he can never love a woman again, or have with Hadassah what he hoped.
Implied but not graphic.