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A Cinderella Story ‘Esther (1999)’ Retrospective (Minor Spoilers)

Updated on April 2, 2018

Original film poster

Clockwise from top: Esther, Haman, Mordechai
Clockwise from top: Esther, Haman, Mordechai | Source

Zero to Hero

Since it’s Easter I decided to do an Easter review. I saw this film around a year ago since it’s one of my top bible stories. It’s called Esther, a biblical drama which came out in 1999 and was directed by Raffaele Mertes.

The plot of Esther takes place in the Persian Kingdom of Shushan. After his wife, Queen Vashti refuses to go to a royal feast, King Achashverosh divorces her and strips her of her crown. He then searches the kingdom for a new wife and queen. Meanwhile, a young Jewish lady named Hadassah lives with her cousin Mordechai. The King sends his soldiers out to gather virgin girls from around the kingdom. One of those girls happens to be Hadassah. Before her capture, Mordechai has Hadassah change her name to Esther to help protect her Jewish heritage.

Hadassah, now Esther, is escorted along with several other virgin girls to a place called the first harem, where they are placed under the care of Hagai. There they learn etiquette and train to be presentable to the King. Eventually Esther’s courage gains favor from the King who weds her as his new wife and Queen.

Later, Mordechai foils an assassination attempt on the King with Esther’s help. The accused assassins are quickly executed. As the King morns one of his trusted people, he gives govern rule to his advisor Haman. As the King won’t see anyone, Esther feels isolated since she feels that she’s lost the King’s favor.

Mordechai and Esther early in the film
Mordechai and Esther early in the film | Source

While all of this is happening, Haman wants to have the Jews bow before him as if he were also their king, which the King apparently orders them to do. Mordechai refuses, as he only bows before his god and the King. After which Haman attempts to have the Jews exterminated by convincing the King that they’ll cause trouble for the kingdom.

It’s quite a long plot which makes it difficult explaining the cast without mixing the plot in. The main protagonist Hadassah a.k.a. Esther is played by Louise Lombard. She carries herself with grace and elegance. She steals every scene she’s in. Even before becoming Queen she is liked by pretty much everyone she meets. While training and learning etiquette the maids take a liking to her. While initially thinking she’s a joke, the instructor Hagai, played by Phil Davies, feels for her after she says that she senses more inside of him. This causes him to become one of her top allies.

Mordechai is played by F. Murray Abraham. He’s Esther’s legal guardian, and while he’s actually Esther’s cousin he is seen more as her uncle. Mordechai is a stern strong-willed individual who is a strong believer in his faith. He does become somewhat broken when Haman begins to rise in power and things start to fall apart for him and his people. After wondering if God has abandoned him and his people Mordechai goes to Esther for help, specifically to unravel Haman’s plot.

Esther decides to follow through with Mordechai’s request. Basically Esther has to go before the King and reveal what it is that Haman wants to do. There’s just one catch. This is a time where going before the King unannounced was just as illegal as murder. Anyone who comes before the King unannounced is instantly sentenced to death, that is unless the King holds up his golden scepter to pardon those before him.

King Ahasuerus is played by Thomas Kretschmann. While normally calm and collective in front of his court and subjects, he can be rather flamboyant and energetic when upset. The King being a large ham provides unintentional comedy later in the film. There are moments where he does seem like a man-child, especially in his mourning scene and when he’s being flamboyant. However it is shown that he deeply cares for the wellbeing of his kingdom and running it efficiently. He also doesn’t care too much for those un-loyal to him, those who gain his trust and turn on him.

Haman, played by Jurgen Prochnow, is the main antagonist. While he doesn’t want to overthrow the King, he does want to be high in authority. He parades through town and desires for all to bow before him. He gains much hatred towards Mordechai who refuses to bow before him. This hatred extends so much that Mordechai eventually has a noose constructed for Mordechai.

There’s a really famous part in the story where the King asks Haman what can he do to honor someone who has gained the King’s favor. Haman says that the person should wear royal robes and be paraded on horseback through the streets, since he believes the King was talking about him. However it was actually Mordechai who the King was speaking of. As such Mordechai is dressed in royal robes and paraded through town on horseback escorted by Haman to his dismay.

Esther walks bravely through the King’s court unannounced. Because of this she is spared. She request that the King come to a banquet she prepared, which he does. She wants to ask the King for her main request, but due to the mood and Haman’s presence she decides to wait. During Esther’s second banquet she reveals to the King Haman’s intentions of killing Mordechai and exterminating her people. The King and Haman are shocked by the revelation of Esther and Mordechai being related. As Haman begs for his life at Esther’s feet the King has Haman arrested for touching her and has him executed. The irony is that Haman is executed by hanging from the same noose he prepared for Mordechai.

Esther speaks to the King while Mordechai watching from behind
Esther speaks to the King while Mordechai watching from behind | Source

Mordechai is later brought before the King and is offered Haman’s position in the King’s court, which Mordechai accepts. According to the King, Mordechai was chosen for his kindness and bravery. Eventually Mordechai and Esther are able to change the law and give the Jewish people the right to protect themselves against opposition.

Overall, this is a recommended religious film. The main thing about this film is its accuracy in portraying the story of Esther. There’s a similar film called One Night With the King, which came out in 2006, that also tells the story of Esther. However, that film is much more dramatized and focused more on spectacle. Not to mention that there were a couple of inaccuracies. Esther may not have the same budget, but it is closer to what actually happened in the story. If you’re a fan of biblical history films, this one may appeal to you.

Original trailer

Check out Esther here

© 2018 Staff Oneil


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