I Am David (2003)
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When I heard there was a film made of this story, I was suspicious that it could not hope to reach the depths of the novel, particularly as one of the fundamental points of the novel had been changed and primarily because much of the 'action' in the novel occurs inside David's mind.
The film is significantly different to the novel in a few key details and yet it has managed to capture the essential soul of the novel, something I applaud and profoundly appreciate. Whilst the means of achieving the result is different, I was still left, as I always am when I read the story, with a deep sense of truth and love winning out over darkness and hatred. I was moved to tears once again and for all the same reasons and for that I would just like to say thank you to those involved.
I could not recommend this novel or film more deeply, particularly to those who's lives have been controlled by others who don't have their best interests at heart and who feel unable to regain control themselves. This above all things is a tribute to the ability of one who has no control and no idea how to gain control of their own lives succeeding in just that, without use of force, without manipulation or dishonesty, but simply with conviction that the goal must be achieved for whatever reason, because to not achieve it is to invite death and darkness upon yourself and upon all you touch in your life.
If you know someone who is crying out to be heard and understood, someone desperately seeking a safe person to reach out to but doesn't know how to take that first step.....encourage them to go on a journey with this young boy through a harrowing physical and emotional journey of his life.
This movie touched me in a way that very few have. In fact, it moved me so much I had to tell many friends and family members and they too agreed...it is a beautiful story to watch and celebrate. Some have emailed me the day after and said...."We were up late at night with our son...clapping and crying during the final scenes." To the cast and crew of this film....thanks for using your talents to warm our hearts and help us believe again in the good hearts of those around us.
This movie is a breath of fresh air from the Hollywood machine that churns out lifeless epics, tasteless comedies, and meaningless dramas in the name of money. "I Am David" aims not to collect big at the box office, but to convey passion and art through cinema.
It follows the escape of a young boy named David from a concentration camp during the Bulgarian War. Carrying only a small satchel with a mysterious envelope and a few other items, David sets across the countryside to reach Denmark. He doesn't know (and neither do we until the end) why he's going to Denmark or what's in the envelope; he's just doing as instructed by a mentor at the concentration camp.
The characters in the film are phenomenal. Jim Caviezel's character is surprisingly absent for most of the film; but nevertheless is an integral part of the story. (I have yet to see him in a role that I didn't like.) I don't think you could draw up a more perfect child actor for the role of David than Ben Tibber. His performance in this movie is Oscar-worthy to me. And Joan Plowright (you'll recognize her from "Dennis the Menace") is verrrrry convincing in her role. Director Paul Feig has a cameo in the movie.
The soundtrack and colors work wonders; taking your breath away with each shot. The Damien Rice piece at the end is very heartfelt and true to the movie as well. The limited dialogue makes the characters seem simple, yet true to life.
Without giving too much away, I highly recommend this movie to EVERYONE. It's charming, funny, sad, and inspirational. Most movies these days have no redeeming value whatsoever, but with "David" this is not the case. It saddens me that Americans would prefer the rehashed, regurgitated crap of Hollywood over this brilliant work of art. I'm not familiar with Feig's work, but following this movie, I'm going to be sure to check out other works by him.
Please watch this one. It's a real winner.
As I did not know anything about this movie when I watched it, it seemed slow and at times frustrating. However, I am extremely glad I watched the entire film, as the message of this film is outstanding.
It is unfortunate that many have forgotten that films can be educational as well as entertaining, and uplifting as well as meaningful. Children and adults alike can learn history through films such as I Am David, as they experience stories they may have forever been ignorant of if not for the makers of this film.
"I Am David" is a magnificent journey to the goodness of people. The expressive Ben Tibber has a stunning performance in the role of the boy David, who was raised confined in a concentration camp and surrounded by cruelties, that begins to smile and trust people along his travel through Europe. It is amazing how this young actor is able to transmit these sensations and emotions through his face and eyes. Joan Plowright performs a wise old woman that teaches David that most of the people are good and opens his heart. The direction, performances, cinematography, locations, pace, message etc., everything works perfectly in this great movie. Last but not the least, the conclusion is heartbreaking. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): Not Available
Joan Plowright is one of my favorite actresses, and as always, she was a joy to watch in this story.
It really is too bad that more movies of this caliber are not made more often. I am not really a person who can sit still for most movies. It took my daughter five days to rope me into watching this one, but in the end, I was really glad she did. Since we were watching the DVD, we were able to see the deleted scenes - they were as good as the movie itself and I couldn't understand why they were taken out. I wouldn't mind owning it this flick.
I also would love to own the soundtrack.
My gifted fifth grade students and I read the book this year and then we watched the movie together. (I have used this book with classes ever since it was published in the 60's and it's one of my all time favorites.) I knew my kids would be shocked with the movie's deviation from the book and they were! Their biggest criticisms of the movie: too abrupt an ending (putting David on an airplane to Denmark--where did THAT come from???), no scenes with King, the dog, and an actor playing Maria who was the antithesis of Maria in the book. (They didn't like the David character too much either!) Well, we DID have a marvelous discussion after the movie ended.
The movie pales in comparison to Anne Holm's touching and emotion-packed novel. I really don't know how the movie could have been done to include all the thoughts and feelings David experiences as he makes his way out of the camp and North to Freedom (an earlier of the book's titles). I do know that this movie doesn't do it! Read the book if you want a truly great experience.
Somehow he speaks fluent Italian, German, and English just from having exposure to other speakers in his labor camp that spoke those languages. Nevermind he's seven. Somehow, no one cares that he's traveling by himself to foreign countries but ask, "would your parents mind if I take you to lunch only a few hundred miles away in another country?" "My parents are not with me," he wryly replies. "Oh, great, that's no problem at all then." Not, "what do you mean your parents are not here and your a homeless seven year old." He probably gets away with it, because not only does he speak 4 other languages fluently but without so much as an accent.
The supporting actors come and go despite having, what seems to be an important influence on the kid. Music is inappropriate....IT'S JUST BAD! AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS!
Few movies make me so angry that I would actually write a review warning other not to see it. I can't believe this got so many 10s. UGH!
Poor Jim Cav.
In addition it was wonderful seeing the amazing Hristo Shopov in this wonderful role as The Man, plus the additional treat of Jim Caviezel and Joan Plowright.
For some unknown reason, one of the psychotics running the camp decides to help a boy (David, Ben Tibber) to escape, giving him his ID papers in an envelope and telling him to take the envelope to Denmark, without telling him why or what it contains. This preposterous premise should signal that we are in a silly scenario that cannot be taken seriously.
This is further reinforced when David, who is presumably Danish, has no difficulty communicating with the multiple language-speakers he encounters on his trip. These days, such nonsense could only come from an American, and Paul Feig acts in his own film in the most absurd scene of all, when, playing an English-speaker, he gropes for Italian to talk to David, who has been talking English throughout. Real Europeans now use sub-titles and genuine languages.
David's expressionless journey through a non-specific rural Italy into the arms of a non-specific Swiss resident is strictly for the hankie-clutchers who have no disbelief to suspend. I'm afraid mine reared up in outrage when the film showed a uniformed policeman with his cap on in church, something unthinkable that Paul Feig doesn't know, although he was willing to lard the scene with a bellowing church choir, and drape the Swiss village with happy well-adjusted cousins of the Von Trapp family.
When David finds a book with his mother's picture on the back and makes a gee-whizz expression we know the resolution is nigh, and with the help of the Swiss national air-line, he is reunited with the bitch who wbo abandoned him in the torture camp, sorry, his ever-loving and faithful mother. Feig is true to style when he shows a seated airplane passenger wearing a fedora. For hankie-clutchers only: normal viewers avoid with care.
P.S. Sorry for the bad English.
It reminded me of childhood and some great movies that were so positive and full of light. I only lamented that movies that contain this much innocence and that have such a positive message are that way because they had children in mind. It led me to ask what it is that happens to people when they leave childhood. Why can't we have stories like this as adults? Realistic? I read comments about being realistic on other sites - man oh man - life really can turn out that wonderfully. I just wonder where so much cynicism has crept into our world. I am so sad for those who cannot believe what the movie I Am David is trying to say, or trying to portray.
Also, the quality of the filming ought not to stand out as the most important criteria. I can't even notice if there are flaws or if there are areas that are low budget , etc. unless they are really bad, because the thrust of the film, the place it issues from in the heart of the director is so pure, so sweet.
I also now notice Jim Caviezel and knowing he is a Christian, we should rejoice in seeing a man who works that hard to remain true to his values while being a Hollywood actor, by choosing films that embraces those values. The only mistake that I noticed was putting Jim's face foremost in the picture on the DVD, as if he is the star we'll notice, but making it seem he plays the main part.
The fault of this movie goes to the screenplay, which was also written by director Paul Freig. When it comes to tearjerkers, which is what this film was meant to be, an intelligent screenplay is absolutely imperative. It's a given. You need a strong story and good characters otherwise you are left with nothing to hold your interest. And "I Am David" has none of that. The story is absolutely flimsy with twelve-year-old David wandering about the countryside, meeting far too many people, staring at things which do not hold our interest as well as his', and mingles with these rather dull flashbacks that are intended to show the real horror of the evil of that days of Stalin's rule. David encounters a great many people and these just prove to be scenes that go into and out of nowhere. I counted at least three long parts to this film that could have either been reworked or excised.
But what's worse of all is that little David is almost entirely on the screen and we never, not even once, sympathize or identify with him. David is well-played by Tibber, so the young actor is not to blame. It's the screenplay that is owed the blame. We never come to understand this tragic kid, he's less confused than we are, we don't relate to him, we don't even come to like him because he's such a flat, dull character. When you've got a film that focuses entirely upon one single character, you need to have a strong figure of a human being to begin with. Take for example, James Stewart's character in "Vertigo" (1958), where the film follows his struggles and experiences almost entirely throughout the course of the film, and we come to understand him, sympathize with him, pity him, and relate to him because he's such a well-realized three-dimensional character that we forget we're looking at Jimmy Stewart and not an actual living person with actual problems. Now David in "I Am David" most certainly has problems, but we still don't come to terms with him. And as for the supporting cast, which comes and goes regularly, never leaves any impact during or after their stay.
Ultimately, as good as the intentions of Paul Freig were, "I Am David" does not strike with the impact that it was undoubtedly intended to. I appreciated the ambition of this movie very much, for it is tackling a serious subject, but it just does not work because of a rather flimsy story. And again, with such a serious subject as the reign of Stalin and the people who suffered, without a strong story, there is no hope.
There's determination, and there's resolution, and somehow we superimpose admiration on the participants.
The really fascinating thing about this is that it really is two films: a long first part, followed by a quite different second part.
The first part follows a boy's escape. There actually is little to say other than this small bit, he escapes, and continues escaping.
The second part finds him with Joan Plowright and takes us to the resolution.
These two parts are from completely different cinematic worlds. It is true that many movies are remembered only for their ending and viewers will forgive all sorts of clunks in the journey if they recall the end fondly. But this first part clunks like old ball bearings in soup. There's one unnecessarily improbable escape after another. Each one adds nothing, except to underscore the difficulty of what our hero is doing. But that difficulty gets undermined at every turn. He never seems hungry, in pain, in the least uncomfortable. He always "gets away." None of the characters or places touch him in any way.
It seems as if the writer is putting us through this long process for only one reason, so that we can get a large number of flashbacks, each one revealing a little more of what becomes the real story. I'm prepared for indirect narrative; its an amazingly effective tool that I study. Here, we sort out the sense of the thing as he does.
But the container of this first part is so sickly sweet almost every viewer will give up, unless you live in a world of Sunday School cartoons.
The second part is as competent as the first is incompetent. Here, we harvest all the information we have been given in the flashbacks. Plus we have a real actor involved instead of folks who believe beatified shining is acting.
Here;s where we get three twists in the narrative, one large. And there's the hint that our boy is an illicit child, and the complications that brings. Its almost enough to make this watchable. But that first part puts us in a prison we cannot escape.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
That is all I have to say, but they make you write a minimum of ten lines. So I'll go into slightly more detail...
The kid, "David", escapes very easily from a concentration camp, he runs through the woods with a bag he finds and within minutes crosses the border to Bulgaria. He soon climbs up a robe into a boat, gets to Italy, and walks through it with ease. He enters Switzerland in an old ladies car and is flown into Denmark.
The journey was supposed to be dangerous. Nothing stops him, or even gets close. It's amazing how a tiny kid can outrun two soldiers within seconds!
Do not watch this film. This is the worst film of all time. Full stop.
He was wandering and running, never got hungry and kept going. Soundtrack told the story.
For me it was never grounded until Joan Plowright arrived...by paying attention to detail and this boy discovering a world he'd never known it would have made it more powerful. it's not a bad movie, but plays like a CBS movie of the week.
The characters were, in the main, one dimensional, and could have been developed easily with more care.
It's always problematic to have a young boy carry a film. As David, Ben Tibber is not completely up to the difficult task assigned to him of transitioning from traumatized prisoner to civilized young man. It seems the best he could do was to adopt an easier gait toward the end. Joan Plowright is well cast as a kindly and empathetic elderly English woman, although she is supposed to be Swiss. James Caviezel is suitably solemn as David's older friend in the labor camp.
As David makes his way to Denmark, his ultimate goal, we are treated to some beautiful landscapes. In general the production values are high, but all the talent is voided by the unconvincing screenplay.
All movies set out to manipulate us in some way, but when the maneuvering is so blatant and obvious as it is here I could never get engaged.
The labor camp, where one could be shot for stealing a bar of soap, is made out to be as bad or worse than the Nazi concentration camps. That would provide an interesting insight, but how much credence can be given to the portrayal of the camp since the overall story is so unbelievable?
Also, brutal realism and sappy fantasy do not mix well.