Saturday, May 14, 2005

Not to forget...

And did I mention just how heavily the theatrical version of KOH is edited?? Its so obvious that some of the scenes that were shown on trailers, weren't even there!! And there is the worst part of it all, they don't show the unfolding of the Battle of the Two Horns of Hattin which was the main turning point at that time - nearly all of the crusader army annihilated! Scott stresses that the DVD version of the movie (220+ minutes) will be much more sufficing than the threatrical one (145 minutes). I, for one, hope that the Battle of the Two Horns of Hattin is included so that Ridley would finally be able to deliver a good follow-up to the Gladiator!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Read a book!

A small matter of Crusade history

Who has greater claim to Jerusalem and its holy places, asks Orlando Bloom as he exhorts his Crusader followers to defend the walls of the city against the advancing Muslim army of Saladin.

It is a question that still resonates today and it is one of the reasons why Ridley Scott's new film, Kingdom of Heaven, is attracting such interest.

In a post-9/11 world where some academics and commentators are talking about a new clash of civilisations between Islam and the West, it is bound to be controversial to revisit that great earlier clash that saw western Christendom's repeated efforts to seize and hold Jerusalem.

History matters. And cinema's portrayal of history matters too. Kingdom of Heaven may be a medieval epic set in 1187, just before a Crusader army was wiped out at the battle of Hattin. But it has already been criticised for being a very 21st century, politically correct, view of the Crusaders' world.

Professor Jonathan Riley Smith of Cambridge University is probably Britain's leading historian of the Crusades. This film has made him angry, for the Crusades are, at the moment, a rather hot subject.

Rewriting history?

"In the Islamic world," he told me, "crusading is believed by many Muslims to be still in train.

"What has been believed now for a century in the Middle East is that the West, having lost the first round of the crusades in the Middle Ages, re-embarked on crusading in the late 19th century, using the techniques of commerce, banking, politics, diplomacy, backed of course by power.

"In those circumstances," he said, "the Crusades have to be treated very, very carefully."
So what is wrong with the history as portrayed in the film?

The story opens during a period of apparent truce between the Christian ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, King Baldwin - a man hidden behind a silver mask - and the great Muslim commander, Saladin. Balian, played by Orlando Bloom, is the film's hero; the knight who takes command of Jerusalem's defences.

But Professor Riley-Smith says that the film has taken real people and simply re-manufactured them. There was no silver mask and the real Balian was known to be harsh to his Muslim tenants.

The Crusading Order of the Knights Templar - who are the film's villains - were no better or worse than any other Crusaders, he believes.

Not all historians have been quite so dismissive. Carol Hilenbrand, professor of Islamic history at the University of Edinburgh, said she believed the film did represent an attempt to grapple with serious issues.

She didn't think that the sort of contacts and mutual respect portrayed in the film between Baldwin and Saladin were out of keeping.

Kingdom of Heaven treads a road paved with good intentions. Its Muslim characters are real people. And there is good and bad on both sides.

The battle scenes are orchestrated in a way that only Ridley Scott can. As a film, I enjoyed it. But some historians remain fearful that epic cinema risks creating epic misunderstandings about the past.

If you really want to know about the Crusades, the historians say, by all means go and see the film, but then go out and buy a good book.

Agreed whole-heartedly! If you just watch this movie and come out n say "I know all about crusades", you're just plain wrong! You have to read a good book about them and you'll definitely understand what Prof. Riley means by saying, the movie took real people and re-manufactured them. Like I said in my earlier post, the crusaders are shown a bit too good than any of them actually were.


Well, its been a week now since Kingdom of Heaven came out and even though I watched it the same day, have been feeling quite lazy to come on in here and write even if just a few lines. The movie was 'alright' as far as I can tell. It, however, didn't quite make the Ridley Scott movie impact on me personally (don't know about others) as I had thought it would. Lets say when Gladiator and Black Hawk Down came out, my expectations were fully met and I gave them 9.5 on a scale of 10. For KOH, being generous, I'd give it a 7!

Somehow the movie didn't quite have the cohesiveness that one looks for in an epic like this. Its like during the movie you get this really awkward feeling of being cut from one scene and take a leap on to another one and then cut from that and back to another scene without them being interlinked well. As far as accuracy with history goes, hmm... lets just say its a movie so there's quite a bit of fiction involved (apparently its not a documentary) and in balancing the movie to avoid harsh criticism, Ridley seems to have shown the Crusaders as a bit too good than any of them actually were!

Balian wasn't quite the Saladin of the Christians as he is portrayed (to offset the real (Muslim) Saladin), being all so chivalric and moderate. Nearly all who came with the crusades to the Muslim lands were blood thirsty scavengers who'd do anything to spill Muslim blood (awaiting the slightest excuse if the two sides weren't involved in direct hostilities - like the time period the movie is set in). Anywayz, the 7 I gave is certainly a bit more than the movie actually deserves so it should suffice even the die-hard Ridley fan!