Thursday, May 12, 2005

"Kingdom of Heaven"

Went to see Kingdom of Heaven last night, and enjoyed it rather a lot. Orlando Bloom was nice to look at, which always helps, and the premise of the film is that all war is stupid, especially if you're fighting about stuff you should obviously be sharing. The critics panned it for being overly didactic, but they've obviously never heard of a Verfremdungseffekt. It also seemed reasonably historically accurate, though I was a bit surprised that they did not have a label saying "Horns of Hattin" for the battle where the crusaders got comprehensively stuffed, as from what I can remember from the Terry Jones TV series, that was the battle of the Horns of Hattin - the landscape looked right. And all the other locations were labelled.

The plot was a bit too obviously based on Joseph Campbell's hero journey, even down to the initial refusal of the call to adventure - but then most films use this structure so I guess it's fair enough. There were a few loose ends of plot at the end though - like where are they going?

The scenery and sets were fantastic, and I also thought it was good that the battle bits were really close up and made you realise how horrible it would be to be in the middle of a battle. It could be interpreted as a mere splatterfest if you weren't thinking about the issues, but you'd have to be pretty insensitive not to pick up that Ridley Scott just wants people to be nice to each other for a change.

The guy who played Salahuddin was really good, apparently he is the world expert scholar on Salahuddin. And the Muslim guy who made friends with Balian was really good too. And the leper king of Jerusalem - nice mask. Pretty good acting to be able to act with just your voice and your eyes, too. Jeremy Irons was excellent as usual, and David Thewlis was cool, ditto Liam Neeson. The female lead, Eva Green, was excellent too.

I think the topic of the film could not be more timely, as it reminds us that the Muslims held Israel in peace before the crusaders turned up, and that actually they were advanced, civilised and cultivated before getting savagely attacked by barbarian crusaders. Check out <> if you don't believe me, especially Jerusalem before the Crusades.

The following historical summary pretty much describes the historical background plot of the film, which shows that Ridley Scott et al did their homework:

There was a truce between the Sultan and the Franks in Palestine but, according to the French historian Michaud, 'the Mussulmans respected their pledged faith, whilst the Christians gave the signal of a new war'. Contrary to the terms of the truce, the Christian ruler Renaud or Reginald of Chatillon attacked a Muslim caravan passing by his castle, massacred a large number of people and looted their property. The Sultan was now free to act. By a skilful manoeuvre, Salahuddin entrapped the powerful enemy forces near the hill of Hattin in 1187 and routed them with heavy loses. The Sultan did allow the Christians to recover and rapidly followed up his victory of Hattin. In a remarkably short time, he reoccupied a large number of cities which were in possession of the Christians including Nablus, Jericko, Ramlah, Caesarea, Arsuf, Jaffa and Beirut. Ascalon, too, submitted after a short siege and was granted generous terms by the kind-hearted Sultan.
The Sultan now turned his attention to Jerusalem which contained more than sixty thousand Crusaders. The Christians, could not withstand the onslaught of the Sultan's forces and capitulated in 1187. The humanity of the Sultan towards the defeated Christians of Jerusalem procures an unpleasant contrast to the massacre of the Muslims in Jerusalem when conquered by the Christians about ninety years before.

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