Ridley Scott`s new Crusades film `panders to Osama

advertisement
When worlds collide
Ridley Scott explains how 9/11, David Lean and cheating at conkers led him to make his
epic film of the crusades, Kingdom of Heaven
Friday April
The Guardian
29, 2005
QuickT ime™ and a
T IFF (Uncompressed) decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
Ridley Scott: 'We are now living in the post-9/11 world'
People who come to see Kingdom of Heaven will discover a moment in history
that isn't well known. When one thinks of the crusades, one generally imagines
pitched battles between knights and Saracens, or endless sieges of forgotten
fortresses. There will certainly be plenty of fighting on the screen - we've created
some impressive images of massive fields of battle with thousands of people (not
all of them real) and huge medieval war machines that are completely real and
built from scratch. There are siege towers and catapults that were carefully
researched and constructed to fit with the era.
I'm known for creating worlds on film, and I like to get into the research and the
fine details. How do you re-create a particular situation in a certain century?
That's part of the fascination of the job. And I admit I'm especially taken with
those great contraptions that hurl heavy objects long distances. (It probably goes
back to playing conkers as a child. I'm afraid I was quite competitive and used to
cheat by baking my chestnut in the oven until it was very hard, then polishing it
with bootblack so it looked shiny and new. Then I'd have this lethal missile, like
granite on a string.) The trebuchets we built for the film were a bit like giant
conkers, with an arm that pivots 56ft and can sling 100lb of rock about 400 yards.
But warfare is fairly predictable in a crusades movie. What's unusual about this
one is that our story offered the chance to show not just war but an attempt at
peace. I always try to do something surprising - that, after all, is the target of
drama, isn't it? So where people might assume war and bloodbath, we approach
from a different angle.
The period we focused on is a brief era of truce that occurred between the
second and third crusades. I'd always wanted to make a movie about knights and
medieval times, the crusades especially. It was our scriptwriter, Bill Monahan,
who came up with this period when the two cultures - Christian and Muslim stood at peace. However uneasy and brief, the truce was maintained by two
remarkable leaders: King Baldwin IV, who ruled the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem,
and the great Saracen general Saladin. Reading the exchanges that took place
between these two, one is struck that they obviously held great respect for each
other. There is no escaping the parallels with our time, when leaders who try to
make peace are admired, but their efforts are subverted by more radical factions.
We set out to tell a terrific story from a dramatic age - not to make a documentary
or a piece that aims to moralise or propagandise. But since our subject is the
clash of these two civilisations, and we are now living in the post-9/11 world,
Kingdom of Heaven will be looked at from that perspective. We did make some
choices about the values expressed through the story, beginning with the central
situation of two leaders trying to serve their own people and their sense of
mission, while exercising a degree of tolerance of the "other".
Beyond that, certain values are embodied in the central character of Balian, an
innately good man and a seeker. Though he becomes a knight in the film, he was
already the kind of person a knight was supposed to be: valorous in battle and
honourable in personal conduct. He goes through a hard journey and various
temptations, as heroes tend to do, but at the end of the day we want our heroes
to emerge relatively pure, as someone who is fair and good and does the right
thing. This may make me sound like a boy scout, but a little bit of boy scout
would be very useful today. Chivalry is just good behaviour; it's quite simple,
really, yet we don't seem to be able to apply it.
But making a successful drama can't be all about high ideals. Working on a large
canvas as we are, I've tried to make sure there is a strong personal story within
the big frame. Pulling this off is partly a matter of experience; also of having good
collaborators. My model is David Lean, whose characters never got lost in the
proscenium.
But mainly it's in the story: what happens to the characters and how they
respond. It's been said that the medieval mind was very different from ours, to
the point where we cannot hope to identify with the people of that time or
understand their motivations. I don't agree with that. They may have faced
different challenges and lived with a level of violence we can hardly imagine. But
even though it's based in history, a lot of the film's emotional territory will be
familiar ground for us. It comes right from the heart in terms of who the
characters are, the central personalities that run through the story and make its
world evolve and dissolve.
It begins with Balian, a man who has lost everything worth living for. His child
dies, his wife becomes so depressed that she commits suicide, and because the
church hadn't outgrown this barbarous custom, she is considered damned and
denied burial in holy ground. So he's a man in complete bewilderment about his
religious roots and what to do with his life. One motive for joining the crusaders
and going to Jerusalem is to redeem her soul, but the journey is also a kind of
redemption for him - he is seeking forgiveness for sins of his own. So it's a
spiritual journey, but also one that serves to demonstrate his inner nobility by
showing how he responds to life-threatening and soul-threatening challenges.
The knight Godfrey is a good man but more worldly than religious. He talks about
the opportunities the Holy Land presents, and about an ideology that's based on
the right actions and common sense. Both of which we could use a lot more of
these days.
Then there is the princess Sibylla: her story is specific to the period but its human
tragedy can speak to anyone. She is very close to her brother, the king, but since
he has been destroyed by leprosy, she can't bear to touch him. She is attracted
to Balian, but for the sake of the kingdom she must remain married to a man she
loathes.
Jeremy Irons is the king's chief adviser, Tiberias, a man who has served his
government faithfully but finds himself worn down by the effort of peacekeeping;
he has a diminishing passion for his job and for being in the Holy Land at all.
I wanted people to see events from the Muslims' point of view as well, and the
way to do that was to develop strong, multidimensional characters on that side.
Especially Saladin, as played by Ghassan Massoud, a wonderful Syrian actor. I
felt it was important to use Muslim actors to play Muslim characters. You see
Saladin in private moments; you see his leadership, how he tries to keep the
peace. He was under pressure from his people, and on the other side there was
the radical faction of the Templars and other knights - what we might call the right
wing or Christian fundamentalists of their day. He is a man with a strong sense of
his destiny.
You might do a magnificent job of creating an unfamiliar world - a far place, a faroff time, or both - with the most skilled film-makers and the best technology
available. But at you have to make sure that world is inhabited by people whose
lives and fates we care about and whose story has something to say to us. The
Crusades were a glorious but tragic series of events that are still having an
impact on the world today. I hope that in opening a cinematic window on that
time, we're doing the job that good drama is meant to do: to excite our emotions,
stir our souls, and make us think, all at once.
·Kingdom of Heaven is out next Friday. This is an edited extract from Kingdom of
Heaven: The Ridley Scott Film (Newmarket, £16.99).
http://film.guardian.co.uk/features/featurepages/0,4120,1472495,00.html
Ridley Scott's new Crusades film 'panders to Osama bin Laden'
By Charlotte Edwardes
(Filed: 18/01/2004)
Sir Ridley Scott, the Oscar-nominated director, was savaged by senior British academics
last night over his forthcoming film which they say "distorts" the history of the Crusades
to portray Arabs in a favourable light.
The £75 million film, which stars Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson, is
described by the makers as being "historically accurate" and designed to be "a fascinating
history lesson".
Sir Ridley Scott
Academics, however - including Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith, Britain's leading
authority on the Crusades - attacked the plot of Kingdom of Heaven, describing it as
"rubbish", "ridiculous", "complete fiction" and "dangerous to Arab relations".
The film, which began shooting last week in Spain, is set in the time of King Baldwin IV
(1161-1185), leading up to the Battle of Hattin in 1187 when Saladin conquered
Jerusalem for the Muslims.
The script depicts Baldwin's brother-in-law, Guy de Lusignan, who succeeds him as King
of Jerusalem, as "the arch-villain". A further group, "the Brotherhood of Muslims, Jews
and Christians", is introduced, promoting an image of cross-faith kinship.
"They were working together," the film's spokesman said. "It was a strong bond until the
Knights Templar cause friction between them."
The Knights Templar, the warrior monks, are portrayed as "the baddies" while Saladin,
the Muslim leader, is a "a hero of the piece", Sir Ridley's spokesman said. "At the end of
our picture, our heroes defend the Muslims, which was historically correct."
Prof Riley-Smith, who is Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge
University, said the plot was "complete and utter nonsense". He said that it relied on the
romanticised view of the Crusades propagated by Sir Walter Scott in his book The
Talisman, published in 1825 and now discredited by academics.
"It sounds absolute balls. It's rubbish. It's not historically accurate at all. They refer to The
Talisman, which depicts the Muslims as sophisticated and civilised, and the Crusaders are
all brutes and barbarians. It has nothing to do with reality."
Prof Riley-Smith added: "Guy of Lusignan lost the Battle of Hattin against Saladin, yes,
but he wasn't any badder or better than anyone else. There was never a confraternity of
Muslims, Jews and Christians. That is utter nonsense."
Dr Jonathan Philips, a lecturer in history at London University and author of The Fourth
Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople, agreed that the film relied on an outdated
portrayal of the Crusades and could not be described as "a history lesson".
He said: "The Templars as 'baddies' is only sustainable from the Muslim perspective, and
'baddies' is the wrong way to show it anyway. They are the biggest threat to the Muslims
and many end up being killed because their sworn vocation is to defend the Holy Land."
Dr Philips said that by venerating Saladin, who was largely ignored by Arab history until
he was reinvented by romantic historians in the 19th century, Sir Ridley was following
both Saddam Hussein and Hafez Assad, the former Syrian dictator. Both leaders
commissioned huge portraits and statues of Saladin, who was actually a Kurd, to bolster
Arab Muslim pride.
Prof Riley-Smith added that Sir Ridley's efforts were misguided and pandered to Islamic
fundamentalism. "It's Osama bin Laden's version of history. It will fuel the Islamic
fundamentalists."
Amin Maalouf, the French historian and author of The Crusades Through Arab Eyes,
said: "It does not do any good to distort history, even if you believe you are distorting it
in a good way. Cruelty was not on one side but on all."
Sir Ridley's spokesman said that the film portrays the Arabs in a positive light. "It's trying
to be fair and we hope that the Muslim world sees the rectification of history."
The production team is using Loarre Castle in northern Spain and have built a replica of
Jerusalem in Ouarzazate, in the Moroccan desert. Sir Ridley, 65, who was knighted in
July last year, grew up in South Shields and rose to fame as director of Alien, starring
Sigourney Weaver.
He followed with classics such as Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, which won him an
Oscar nomination in 1992, and in 2002 Black Hawk Down, told the story of the US
military's disastrous raid on Mogadishu. In 2001 his film Gladiator won five Oscars, but
Sir Ridley lost out to Steven Soderbergh for Best Director.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/01/18/wcrus18.xml&sShe
et=/news/2004/01/18/ixworld.html
Hollywood Crusades film labelled anti-Muslim
Date: August 14 2004
Los Angeles
With bloody images of Muslims and Westerners battling on the nightly news, it may
seem like odd timing to unveil a Hollywood epic depicting the ferocious fight between
Christians and Muslims over Jerusalem in the Third Crusade, late in the 12th century.
But 20th Century Fox is planning a release next year for Kingdom of Heaven , a $US130
million ($A184 million) production by Oscar-nominated director Ridley Scott, shot in
Morocco with hundreds of extras, horses and elaborate costumes.
William Monahan's script is based on real characters, including Balian of Ibelin, a
Crusader knight who led the defence of Jerusalem in 1187, and the Muslim leader
Saladin, who defeated him. Balian is to be played by British actor Orlando Bloom.
While the studio has tried to emphasise the romance and thrilling action, some religious
scholars and interfaith activists who were provided a copy of the script by The New York
Times questioned the wisdom of producing a movie about an ancient religious conflict
when many people believe those conflicts have been reignited in a modern context.
"My real concern would be just the concept of a movie about the Crusades , and what
that means in the American discourse today," said Laila al-Qatami, a spokeswoman for
the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington. "I feel like there's a
lot of rhetoric, a lot of words flying around, with prominent figures talking about Islam
being incompatible with Christianity and American values."
But George Dennis, a Jesuit priest and a history professor at Loyola Marymount
University in Los Angeles, said he was impressed by its nuance and accuracy of the
script. "Historically I found it pretty accurate," he said. "I can't think of any objections
from the Christian side. And I don't think Muslims should have any objections."
Khaled Abu el-Fadl, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies
Islamic law, vehemently disagreed, calling the screenplay offensive and a replay of
historic Hollywood stereotypes. "I believe this movie teaches people to hate Muslims," he
said. "In this climate, how are people going to react to these images of Muslims attacking
churches and tearing down the cross and mocking it?" he asked.
Scott said he was not concerned about disturbing the sensitivities of any religious group.
The film "talks about using your heart and your head, being ethical. How can you argue
with that?" he said. "There's no stomping on the Koran, none of that."
-
New York Times August 14 2004
Ridley Scott film row talks start
Sir Ridley is currently filming in northern Spain
Talks are under way to try to resolve a row over filming in a historic Spanish
cathedral for UK director Sir Ridley Scott's new movie about the Crusades.
Spain's Catholic Church has refused to allow Sir Ridley and his crew to film inside the
Mezquita in Cordoba, saying it would be too disruptive.
The Gladiator director had wanted to shoot scenes for his £54m epic Kingdom of Heaven
at the former Grand Mosque.
A spokesman for the producers said they were hopeful of negotiating a solution.
Neeson co-stars in the epic set during the 12th Century
"It's hopefully being rectified and we hope to get permission tomorrow (Thursday)," said
Quinn Donoghue, the film's publicist.
Speaking to BBC News Online from Huesca, northern Spain, Mr Donoghue confirmed
that the Spanish Church had blocked filming inside the Mezquita.
"The archbishop refused because we would close the cathedral down for preparations we would have to do some 'dressing', and tourism would be stopped."
He said the Church was also unhappy that the Mezquita - for centuries a site of
sensitivity among Muslims and Christians - would become a "fictional" place of worship
in the movie, rather than "playing itself".
A huge company like ours brings so much to any place in terms of hotels,
restaurants and hiring people
Quinn Donoghue, film publicist
"All of that's being negotiated," said Mr Donoghue.
The film, due for release in 2005, will star Orlando Bloom and Liam Neeson in the tale of
a young blacksmith leading the people of Jerusalem in defence against the 12th Century
Crusaders.
Filming is taking place in France, Spain and Morocco.
Shooting inside the Mezquita would require up to 200 crew and involve the use of false
doors, walls and furniture. "There's not a lot that we can do (to compromise)," said Mr
Donoghue.
He added: "A huge company like ours brings so much to any place in terms of hotels,
restaurants and hiring people. It's a major financial benefit to the community."
He said Sir Ridley was a "realistic and pragmatic" director who would allow his team to
negotiate possible use of the cathedral. If agreement could not be reached, "there's always
a second choice".
Hollywood's "accurate"
I find interesting this new slew of "historical" films that claim to be historically accurate.
King Arthur was an interesting movie but completely incongruous with the myth itself
(Guinivere as a pagan is just wrong), and now this Crusades film by Ridley Scott which
claims to be a "history lesson," of which Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith, Britain's
leading authority on the Crusades "attacked the plot of Kingdom of Heaven , describing it
as "rubbish", "ridiculous", "complete fiction" and "dangerous to Arab relations"." These
films are more suitably aligned with the erroneous Troy which not only went out of its
way to make action sequences boring, but had nothing to do with the book except in
names. What is the worst thing is that since these films are all so similar, the "historically
accurate" label is easily misunderstood to include the whole field. A modern Hollywood
film can never be historically accurate with many personalities/egoes and corporations at
work, all of whom seem uninspired by the actual brilliance of the stories (King Arthur as
the story of England's transition from paganism to Christianity? How boooooooring).
Prof Riley-Smith, who is Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge
University, said the plot [of the Ridley Scott film] was "complete and utter nonsense". He
said that it relied on the romanticised view of the Crusades propagated by Sir Walter
Scott in his book The Talisman , published in 1825 and now discredited by academics. "It
sounds absolute balls. It's rubbish. It's not historically accurate at all. They refer to The
Talisman, which depicts the Muslims as sophisticated and civilised, and the Crusaders are
all brutes and barbarians. It has nothing to do with reality."
...Dr Jonathan Philips, a lecturer in history at London University and author of The
Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople , agreed that the film relied on an
outdated portrayal of the Crusades and could not be described as "a history lesson". ...Dr
Philips said that by venerating Saladin, who was largely ignored by Arab history until he
was reinvented by romantic historians in the 19th century, Sir Ridley was following both
Saddam Hussein and Hafez Assad, the former Syrian dictator. Both leaders
commissioned huge portraits and statues of Saladin, who was actually a Kurd, to bolster
Arab Muslim pride. Prof Riley-Smith added that Sir Ridley's efforts were misguided and
pandered to Islamic fundamentalism. "It's Osama bin Laden's version of history. It will
fuel the Islamic fundamentalists."
Amin Maalouf, the French historian and author of The Crusades Through Arab Eyes,
said: "It does not do any good to distort history, even if you believe you are distorting it
in a good way. Cruelty was not on one side but on all.""
HISTORY: Film about Crusades stirs debate
Winston-Salem Journal
Saturday, August 21, 2004
Next year, 20th Century Fox will release a $130 million epic film about Christians
battling Muslims in the Middle East. Sound contemporary? Is the movie based on the
current armed struggle in Iraq? Is it a documentary?
Stop guessing.
Kingdom of Heaven is about the 300-year-long Crusades of the Middle Ages. It will
focus on the climactic battle in 1187 in Jerusalem when Saladin and his Muslim forces
defeated the Christian Crusaders led by Balian, a French knight.
Already the 21st-century battle lines are drawn, not in the sand, but in the ricocheting
press statements of Christian and Islamic leaders. The New York Times provided the
film's script to five scholars, including Jesuit priest George Dennis, a history professor at
Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and Khaled Abu el-Fadl, a professor of
Islamic law at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Dennis has reassured moviegoers. "Historically, I found it pretty accurate. ... I don't think
Muslims should have any objections. There's nothing offensive to anyone in there."
El-Fadl disagreed. "I believe this movie teaches people to hate Muslims. There is a
stereotype of the Muslim as ... stupid, retarded, backward, unable to think in complex
forms ... (the film) really misrepresents history on many levels."
Another target
As a scarred veteran of the recent battle over Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the
Christ, I take a keen interest in the Dennis-el-Fadl war of words. It all sounds so familiar,
or to quote the American philosopher Lawrence (Yogi) Berra: "It's deja vu all over
again."
However, The Kingdom of Heaven debate is already way ahead of The Passion
controversy. The latter intensified only after Christian and Jewish critics screened a rough
cut of Gibson's film. Based on my cinematic combat experience, I am certain that Fox's
Crusader movie will spark more charges and counter-charges the closer we get to
previews and a release date.
The word "crusade" always triggers harsh negative reactions from both Muslims and
Jews. The term stems from the Latin for "cross" and is linked to the European Christian
soldiers who left their homes beginning in 1096 to capture Jerusalem, especially the Holy
Sepulcher, from the "infidels," a k a Muslims.
Along the way, particularly in the Rhine valley, the Crusaders, a motley crew of religious
idealists, sadistic thugs, professional soldiers, sordid criminals and raunchy adventurers,
stopped long enough en route to Jerusalem to murder thousands of other "infidels," a k a
Jews.
It is estimated that between April and June of 1096, Crusaders, marching with crosses on
their shields, killed more than 4,000 Jews in Mainz, Cologne, Worms and other cities.
When they finally reached Jerusalem in 1099, they gathered the city's Jewish residents
into a synagogue and on July 15 of that year set it afire, killing those inside.
A mystic protests
To his credit, the Christian mystic of the period, Bernard of Clairvaux, vigorously
protested the anti-Jewish killings, and in some places in Europe his words had a positive
effect.
In 1189, another Crusader leader, British King Richard I, presided over Jewish massacres
in Lynn and Stamford. A year later, 150 Jews in York committed suicide rather than
convert to Christianity.
The murderous Crusades represent a pivotal tragic event in Christian-Jewish relations,
and set in motion much of the anti-Jewish feeling that still remains alive.
Unlike today, Jews had no army to defend them, but the Muslims did. The Islamic forces
were ultimately victorious against the Crusaders. It is no accident that Muslim enemies of
the United States refer to the American military as "Crusaders."
President Bush fed that anger immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when he
first called our nation's war on terror a "crusade." He was criticized for employing such a
charged term, and it was quickly removed from the presidential vocabulary. But the
damage was done.
For Jews there is one significant change from the Crusades and today's American-led war
on terrorism. In the Middle Ages, Crusaders branded both Jews and Muslims "enemies of
Christ" and "infidels," and they killed members of both faith communities. Jews and
Muslims shared victimhood status at the hands of the Christian warriors.
Today, Osama bin Laden and many other Muslim extremists lump Christians and Jews
together as satanic "infidels." The United States is the "Big Satan" and Israel the "Little
Satan."
In an eerie way, Jews are the "swing vote" in the continuing struggle between Christians
and Muslims, a struggle we will see portrayed on the silver screen when Kingdom of
Heaven opens next year at "a theater near you."
• Rabbi Rudin, the American Jewish Committee's senior interreligious adviser, is
Distinguished Visiting Professor at Saint Leo University.
http://www.journalnow.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=WSJ%2FMGArticle%2FWSJ_
BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031777438974
Film on Crusades Could Become Hollywood's Next Battleground by Sharon
Waxman
Article from New York Times
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 11 - With bloody images of Muslims and Westerners battling in
Iraq and elsewhere on the nightly news, it may seem like odd timing to unveil a bigbudget Hollywood epic depicting the ferocious fight between Christians and Muslims
over Jerusalem in the Crusade of the 12th century.
But 20th Century Fox is planning a release next year for "Kingdom of Heaven," a $130
million production by the Oscar-nominated director Ridley Scott, shot in Morocco with
hundreds of extras, horses and elaborate costumes. The script, by William Monahan, is
based on real characters of the three-century Crusades, including Balian of Ibelin, a
Crusader knight who led the defense of Jerusalem in 1187, and the Muslim leader
Saladin, who defeated him.
While the studio has tried to emphasize the romance and thrilling action, some religious
scholars and interfaith activists who were provided a copy of the script by The New York
Times questioned the wisdom of a big Hollywood movie about an ancient religious
conflict when many people believe those conflicts have been reignited in a modern
context.
"My real concern would be just the concept of a movie about the Crusades, and what that
means in the American discourse today," said Laila al-Qatami, a spokeswoman for the
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington.
She added: "I feel like there's a lot of rhetoric, a lot of words flying around, with
prominent figures talking about Islam being incompatible with Christianity and American
values. This kind of movie might reinforce that theme in the discourse." Not all of the
people contacted by The Times were worried about the film's effect.
The Rev. George Dennis, a Jesuit priest and a history professor at Loyola Marymount
University in Los Angeles, who was one of five experts provided with the script for
"Kingdom of Heaven," said he was impressed by its nuance and accuracy. "Historically I
found it pretty accurate," he said. "I can't think of any objections from the Christian side.
And I don't think Muslims should have any objections. There's nothing offensive to
anyone in there, I don't think."
But Khaled Abu el-Fadl, a professor at the University of California,LosAngeles, who
studies Islamic law, vehemently disagreed, calling the screenplay offensive and a replay
of historic Hollywood stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims.
"I believe this movie teaches people to hate Muslims," he said. "There is a stereotype of
the Muslim as constantly stupid, retarded, backward, unable to think in complex forms.
It's really annoying at an intellectual level, and it really misrepresents history on many
levels."
Mr. Fadl argued that the movie would reinforce negative attitudes toward Muslims in
America. "In this climate how are people going to react to these images of Muslims
attacking churches and tearing down the cross and mocking it?" he asked.
Aside from the movie's specifics, the subject is a fraught one. Even the word "crusade"
remains loaded. When President Bush initially called the war on terror a "crusade" after
the 9/11 attacks, he was criticized by some for using a term that has long had anti-Muslim
overtones. Meanwhile some Islamic experts who analyzed Osama bin Laden's motives
after 9/11 suggested that he was trying to cast himself as a modern-day Saladin. And
Saladin's name was invoked by Saddam Hussein's government to rally Muslims against
the American-led invasion of Iraq.
Mr. Scott said he was not concerned about disturbing the sensitivities of any religious
group. The film "sounds like a Boy Scout ethic," he said in an interview last week,
adding: "It talks about using your heart and your head, being ethical. How can you argue
with that? There's no stomping on the Koran, none of that."
For a movie about holy war, "Kingdom of Heaven" has surprisingly little religious
oratory, or even religious content. The only overtly religious figures are extremists:
marauding Knights Templar on the Christian side and murderous Saracen knights on the
Muslim side.
Balian, the hero of the film, played by the British actor Orlando Bloom, is a French
blacksmith drafted reluctantly into the Crusade in the wake of his wife's suicide. Once in
Jerusalem, where the world's three monotheistic religions are depicted as coexisting, he
falls in love with the king's sister.
After a massacre of Muslims by the Knights Templar, Saladin, played by Ghassan
Massoud, goes to war. This leader is depicted as balanced and chivalrous, at least until he
orders that no quarter be given in the ransacking of Jerusalem.
Jim Gianopulos, co-chairman of the Fox studio, said he did not think the film would be a
source of controversy. "We're thrilled to have Ridley making this movie,'' he said. "After
all, he is the master of the modern epic, and this is a story rich in scale, adventure,
romance and action with a superb cast led by Orlando Bloom. From what we've seen, it
will be one of the most exciting movie events of 2005."
QuickTime™ and a
TIFF (Uncompressed) decompressor
are needed to see this picture.
Executives at Warner Brothers read the script and declined to share the financing of the
movie with Fox, but Alan Horn, president of Warner Brothers, said the refusal had
nothing to do with the topic. He said the studio had other period epics on its slate.
"I thought it was balanced, with different political views," Mr. Horn said. "It wasn't black
and white, good and bad."
Nonetheless the battle scenes in the script are vast and violent. One of Hollywood's most
acclaimed directors, Mr. Scott has created indelible tableaus of battle in movies like
"Gladiator" and "Black Hawk Down."
In its many scenes of devastation, the script shows intransigence on both sides. "Will you
yield the city?" the victorious Saladin asks Balian. He replies: "Before I lose it, I will
burn it to the ground. Your holy places. Ours. Every last thing in Jerusalem that drives
men mad."
Near the end of the film the script describes the Muslim army as advancing on Jerusalem.
Saladin says: "Not one alive. Not one," as the advancing soldiers cry, "Allah!"
The script reads: "As the Muslim army of thousands advances at a run, ready to kill the
Christians at a single rush, Balian looks to his left in the shield wall. The Saracen knights
fire a sky-blackening volley of arrows and charge, screaming 'Allah.' This is their chance;
they will take Jerusalem at this rush and are not afraid of martyrdom."
The Muslim army is hacked to pieces, and a crane shot reveals "Saracens tangled with
Europeans inside the breech in the wall," the script says. "Hundreds of dead; thousands
perhaps.''
The two university scholars who read the script did not agree on its historical accuracy.
Father George said that the 12th-century Crusader state was, as shown in the film,
relatively tolerant, and that Saladin did in fact order his troops to give no quarter in the
fighting in Jerusalem, an order he later rescinded.
But Mr. Fadl said the Crusader state was by its nature discriminatory and oppressive of
other religions. He said that the Muslim knights took the idea of granting quarter very
seriously, and that the notion that Saladin would thank Balian for teaching him chivalry,
as the script had it, was laughable.
"Pick up any book on chivalry, it's exactly the opposite," he said. "The whole idea of
knighthood and chivalry came from Muslims and was exported to Europe." He noted, as
did Father George, that at the time of this Crusade, science and scholarship were far more
advanced in the Islamic world than in Europe.
Of course for Hollywood, controversy isn't necessarily bad. Mel Gibson's film "The
Passion of the Christ" found itself at the center of a firestorm when Jewish groups,
angered by his violent depiction of the Crucifixion, complained the movie was antiSemitic. It nonetheless earned $609 million worldwide..
Various Crusade-era scripts have sparked interest on Hollywood back lots for decades,
notably one that was being developed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1990's. Mr. Scott
said he was asked to do that script and declined. "I wanted to do my own knight subject,"
he said, adding that he was studying the religious conflict when he and Mr. Monahan
came up with the film's concept in 2002.
"I try to make movies," Mr. Scott said. "I'm not a documentarian. When you've got 300
years to choose from, this was the most interesting conflict, which was a balanced one as
well."
Whether moviegoers agree remains to be seen. "I think its going to cause a firestorm of
criticism and free publicity in the op-ed pages," said Christy Lohr, the coordinator of the
Multifaith Ministry Education Consortium in New York, an association of 12 theological
schools.
"I imagine that's part of the appeal for Hollywood," said Ms. Lohr, who read the script.
"It is cynical, but I think they enjoy stirring up a hornets' nest."
A small matter of Crusade history
Jonathan Marcus
BBC World Service correspondent
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.
The Kingdom of Heaven has faced accusations of political correctness
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.
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/4544173.stm
Crusades and Jihads in Postcolonial Times
By Dr S Sayyid
The relationship between the Islamic world and the west is
often understood as a clash between two very different
civilisations. Dr S Sayyid considers an alternative way of
representing world politics, arguing that there can be no single
authorised version of history.
A protest in Pakistan ©
'The events of September 11 seemed to have jolted the clock of
history out of snooze mode.'
Page 1 of 7
1. Civilisation as we know it
2. After the Ottoman Empire
3. Democratic tyranny?
4. The 'Islamic threat'
5. 'Westernese'
6. Telling tales
7. Find out more
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/sept_11/west_01.shtml
Print entire article
Civilisation as we know it
'The events of September 11 seemed to have jolted the clock of
history out of snooze mode.'
There is often a scene in action films where the ticking of the clock on the
bomb that will destroy 'civilisation as we know it' is suspended and the
audience is relieved to discover that Armageddon has been deferred once
more.
This relief, however, is short-lived as either the villain or, more often than
not, the hero's sidekick inadvertently jolts the clock out of suspension, and
the doomsday machine begins its countdown. The events of September 11
seemed to have jolted the clock of history out of snooze mode.
The American-led war on terrorism is often seen as a clash between western
and Islamic civilisations: the geopolitical analogue to the geological
movement of plate tectonics. This is despite the attempt by some western
leaders and leaders of Muslim countries to argue that the 'war on terror' is
not directed against Muslims or Islam - but only against extremists.
There are other voices who see a chain of equivalences so that Al-Qaeda =
Taliban = Islamism = Islam. Among the ultra-conservative constituency that
considers President Bush to be one of their own, you can hear calls for the
'nuking of Mecca', the occupation of Middle East oil fields, the
transformation of the Muslim world on the pattern of post-1945 Germany
and Japan.
Among the disenfranchised and disaffected of the Islamicate world, the 'war
on terror' is also read as war against Islam and resistance to repression by
Muslims is recoded as terrorism, while the repression that they face is
ignored. Beyond this representation of cosmic conflict between the west and
Islam there are two processes at play. The first concerns the geopolitics of
the Middle East, and the second concerns what can be called the postcolonial
condition.
Highly charged
Kingdom of Heaven, the new Orlando Bloom epic set during the Crusades, looks set
to open on Friday amid a blaze of controversy. But what were the Crusades, and
what do they mean to us now?
The term applies to the often bloody struggle between Christian and
Islamic faiths for primacy over the spiritual treasures of Jerusalem and
the Holy Land, which dates back to the 11th Century.
THE HISTORY
The Crusades began in 1095 after Seljuk Turks took control of
Jerusalem and began restricting access to Christian pilgrims. Pope
Urban II called for a Christian army to retake the city from its Muslim
rulers - sparking a 200-year period in which parts of the Holy Land
repeatedly changed hands, until the last crusade ended in defeat for
the Christians in 1291.
Urban II saw the Crusades not only as a way of freeing the Holy Land,
but also of extending the influence of the Roman Church into the
Byzantine Empire - today's Balkans and much of Turkey - through
which the army would have to pass before reaching Jerusalem.
Glory and redemption
The first Crusaders, who set off in 1096, were a motley, and ultimately
unsuccessful, bunch - peasants, from France and Germany, spurred on
by the prospect of more freedom. Having pillaged and killed their way
across Europe, they were vanquished by the Turks.
Six months later a more professional army, comprising French and
Norman knights, set off. They successfully stormed Jerusalem in July
1099, making it one of four "Crusader states" in Syria and Palestine.
Serious trouble flared again in the early 12th Century when the
Muslims took one of the other Crusader states in 1144, prompting the
Second Crusade. However, its armies were almost wiped out in Asia
Minor.
Things stepped up apace when the Turkish armies came under the
command of Saladin, a Kurd, considered the greatest Muslim leader of
the time. He reconquered Jerusalem prompting the Third Crusade,
jointly led by Britain's best-known Crusader, Richard I or Richard the
Lionheart.
Although Richard and co failed in their prime goal - to snatch back
Jerusalem - they defeated the Muslim forces at nearby Acre and
reached a peace with Saladin over Christian access to the Holy City.
The Fourth Crusade, which started around the turn of the 13 Century,
was a bit of a bungled affair, which ended with the warriors being
excommunicated by Rome after they decimated the Catholic port of
Zara on the Adriatic and fought Christians in Constantinople in 1204,
destroying valuable treasures.
Things reached another low with the Children's Crusade of 1212, led
by 12-year-old French peasant boy, Stephen of Cloyes, and a 10-yearold German boy, Nicholas. They mobilised an estimated 50,000
children between them but both child armies were betrayed and taken
into brothels before leaving Europe or sold as slaves at Alexandria.
Another failed Crusade - the Fifth - followed, before Christians decided
to switch tactics and try negotiation rather than brute force. Success!
The peaceful Sixth Crusade in 1228 restored Jerusalem to the Latin
world and a 10-year truce was signed. But things fell apart when
Muslims later reoccupied the city, prompting yet another Crusade in
1248. It collapsed when its leader, Louis IX of France, was captured.
Two later Crusades both failed and the Turks took the last Christian
stronghold in the region, Acre, in 1291.
So how are these turbulent events viewed today, with the hindsight of
several centuries?
MUSLIM PERSPECTIVE
Muslims do not single out the Crusades as a defining event in their
history, according to historians. The wars have always been more of a
western European obsession, with figures such as Richard the
Lionheart held up as icons.
"For most Muslims the Crusades were something they won but just
another invasion among many in their history," says Dr Jonathan
Phillips, author of The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople.
It wasn't until recently that the Muslim world started to take a
renewed interest in the Crusades.
Muslim scholars have been returning to historical texts and important
documents are being published in English, including the diary of
Saladin's secretary. Saladin has also been revived as an iconic figure.
The Muslim leader has been cited by Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda as
an inspiration.
"There is a straight line for propagandists to draw," says Dr Phillips.
"Saladin drove out invading westerners and there are parallels with the
current situation in places like Iraq that resonate with the average
Muslim, especially after George Bush's ill-advised use of the word
'crusade' when launching his War on Terror in the wake of 9/11."
JEWISH PERSPECTIVE
In northern Europe, the crusades crashed waves of violence upon the
Jewish communities. Jewish people felt the brunt of the religious
fervour that sent the Crusaders into the Holy Land, says Prof Anna
Sapir Abulafia of the University of Cambridge.
Not only were they the most visible non-Christian community, says
Prof Abulafia, but they also suffered because they generally weren't
riding off on crusade themselves and weren't "part of all this nonChristian propaganda and hype".
In places like York, there was a massacre of the Jewish community in
1190.
"If you start preaching a Crusade and have accepted violence against
non-Christians... that then evokes all kinds of violence against Jews."
The New Jewish Encyclopaedia calls the crusades a "prolonged and
bitter ordeal" for the Jewish community, saying "thousands of Jews
perished, and entire Jewish communities were wiped out. To this day,
the Jewish liturgy contains prayers commemorating the martyrs of
that dreadful period".
CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
The crusades made the news in 2000 for a simple reason: Pope John
Paul II apologised for them. Sort of.
The pontiff made a plea for forgiveness of the past sins of the Church,
saying,"We are asking pardon for the divisions among Christians, for
the use of violence that some have committed in the service of truth,
and for attitudes of mistrust and hostility assumed toward followers of
other religions."
It's a commonly held view amongst moderate Christians that the
Crusades are a shameful part of the religion's history, experts say.
However, some more conservative Christians side with the belief that
The Crusades were a series of defensive wars against Islamic
aggression.
Former presidential candidate in the US Pat Buchanan has said: "Now,
we must also be ashamed of Crusades launched to recapture, in the
name of our Lord, the Holy Land seized from Christendom by the
armies of Islam."
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4508401.stm
Author Accuses Fox of ‘Crusade’ Theft
Barbara Ferguson, Arab News
—
http://www.arabnews.com/?page=9&section=0&article=61069&d=26&m=3&y=2005&
pix=community.jpg&category=Features%22
Saturday, 26, March, 2005 (15, Safar, 1426)
WASHINGTON, 26 March 2005 — Of late, there has been a trend of
plagiarism among high-visibility authors and publishers. The best-known
examples involves Stephen Ambrose, author of the definitive biography of
US General Dwight Eisenhower and several histories of World War II, and
Doris Kearns Goodwin, a presidential scholar who authored many books
about US presidents. Both were found to have stolen texts from other
published works.
Now, the entertainment industry is embarrassed by allegations that the
screenplay for 20th Century Fox feature film, “Kingdom of Heaven,”
starring Orlando Bloom, Liam Nelson and Jeremy Irons, was plagiarized
from the book, “Warriors of God,” by James Reston.
Reston’s book and the Fox movie deal with the Third Crusade, 1187 to 1192
AD, which is considered by many scholars to be the most intriguing of all
the crusades. The book and film both focus on the huge military effort that
brought together Salah Al-Din, the Sultan of Egypt, Syria, Arabia, and
Mesopotamia; and Richard the Lionhearted, King of Great Britain.
According to Reston, the collision between these giants in a grand holy
tournament still reverberates in the today’s Middle East, and in ongoing
conflicts between Christians and Muslims throughout the world.
The author of 13 books, including, Galileo: A Life, The Last Apocalypse,
and Warriors of God, have been translated into ten foreign languages.
Reston spoke to Arab News by telephone before leaving on a speaking
engagement in the Middle East. He said his fascination with the Crusades
began before he started his research, but admits he “got stuck” on the Third
Crusade “because of their fabulous characters.”
“Much of my historical work has attempted to tell stories that have modern
relevance, and here the relevance I immediately saw regarded the ArabIsraeli conflict,” Reston said.
The prolific author said that as researched his book he began to see a kind of
metaphor about the clash between “the West and the Arab word, a clash of
Christianity and Islam.”
“Warriors of God” was published in May 2001, months prior to the Sept. 11
attacks. “This book had an incredible trajectory right after September 11.
The American people were trying out to read anything about the Arab world
and Islam, and especially the clash of the civilization with the Arab world.”
Reston said he sold a lot of books, and was surprised with its influence.
The New York Times reported that in January 2002 “Warriors of God” was
one of three books that political adviser Karl Rove recommended President
George Bush read to understand the political and military context of tensions
in the Middle East.
Reston said that because the book was doing well, there was talk about the
book being made into a film. Eventually, Mike Medavoy, purchased the film
rights. Medavoy, producer of: “Platoon,” “Annie Hall” and “One Flew Over
the Cuckoo’s Nest,” has won 7 Academy Awards, and operates a film
company called Phoenix Pictures.
According to Reston, Medavoy learned that Ridley Scott (director of
“Gladiator,” and “Master and Commander”) was also interested in doing a
crusade film, and “Medavoy made an overture to him with my book. He
gave him my book and proposed that they go into business and make a film
together.”
Several months later, Reston said Scott contacted Medavoy to decline,
saying he had decided to make the movie about the Crusades, alone.
Reston said he accepted the news and thought nothing more of it until last
year, when he was in Spain working on a book scheduled to be released this
summer. It was there he learned that Ridley Scott was filming his crusade
movie in Spain and Morocco.
“It means he won the race (to make a film about the Crusades), but I was
still under the illusion that the story was different than mine,” said Reston.
He says he was shocked when he returned home and opened the New York
Times Aug. 12 edition “and there was a big story about Scott’s forthcoming
movie on the Third Crusade. It was a thunderbolt, I realized that Scott had
used the material in my book without my permission.”
He immediately called Medavoy, who “tried to be comforting but didn’t
know if anything could be done.”
Reston said because Scott’s film was “already in the can,” it ended the
chance for his book to be turned into a film. “There certainly wasn’t any
need for another Third Crusades movie, so my association ended with
Medavoy in October.”
In November of last year, Reston said he obtained a copy of Scott’s script
and was stunned with what he read. “Scott’s movie is called, ‘Kingdom of
Heaven,’ which is the title of the second chapter of my book.
“The entire second half of the movie basically relies on the major scenes of
the first 103 pages of my book, ‘Warriors of God,’” said Reston. “The
movie’s dramatic structure is based entirely on the first 100 pages of my
book.”
Reston hired a lawyer whose law firm carefully examined the movie script
and his book scenes. “They also concluded that I had been ripped off. It’s a
bald-faced theft of my intellectual property,” said Reston.
Reston said the Arab world should be very concerned by the way it is
portrayed in Hollywood. “This will be the first of many, many films coming
out of Hollywood that will treat American and Western and Christian and
Muslim people in the context of an American crusade in Iraq and the Arab
world.”
Reston’s lawyer, Timothy DeBaets, a partner at Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams
& Sheppard, sent a letter to 20th Century Fox informing them of the alleged
plagiarism.
DeBaets, who also spoke to Arab News by phone, said William Monahan,
the scriptwriter Scott employed, was “caught plagiarizing Reston’s book.”
DeBaets said there are many odd bits to this story, including the fact that
Medavoy gave Reston’s book to Scott — the competition — to begin with.
When asked what evidence they have to make such statements, DeBaets
said: “Once you compare the book and read their script, it’s quite clear Scott
and Monahan used Jim’s book.”
DeBaets gave Arab News a copy of a letter the lawyers at 20th Century Fox
sent to DeBaets, in response to his charges of plagiarism.
The Fox lawyers say the creators of ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ “did not even
read ‘Warriors of God,’ much less copy it.” Adding, “solely for the sake of
argument, even if your client’s book had been the source of some of the facts
in our screenplay, your client would have no claim. Facts cannot be
protected.”
The 5-page letter from Fox concludes: “Fox believes your client’s claim to
be without merit, and rejects his demands.”
DeBaets said he and his client, Reston, are considering a lawsuit — not only
in the US, but also in a number of key countries. This is significant, he said,
because of different jurisdictions for each country.
“Ridley Scott is British. He has a company in Los Angeles, but they’re based
in the UK This is a film that could be shown though the Middle East and
certainly throughout the Western world,” said DeBaets. “Many countries
require a copyright claim in their country to stop distribution of the film.
“In the US, judges will not stop a major film about to be released. But
internationally, things are different. In France, they tend to be more
protective of the writer and will defend their rights,” said DeBaets.
Telephone calls by Arab News to Twentieth Century Fox lawyers were not
returned.
As for “Kingdom of Heaven,” the movie is due to be released in May. A
trailer of the film can be seen at: http://www.kingdomofheavenmovie.com
But DeBaets cautions: “Remember when you see it, it’s all about copyright
infringement.”
Copyright:
Arab News © 2003 All rights reserved. Site designed by: arabix and
powered by Eima IT
Fox Rejects Copyright Claims for 'Kingdom of
Heaven'
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=598&e=1&u=/nm/20050330/film_n
m/media_kingdomofheaven_dc
Tue Mar 29, 7:34 PM ET
Movies - Reuters
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Twentieth Century Fox has rejected
demands from a historian who says the studio copied without
permission elements of its highly anticipated film "Kingdom of
Heaven" from a book he wrote on the Crusades.
Quic kTime™ and a
TIFF (Unc ompres sed) dec ompres sor
are needed to see this pic ture.
Reuters Photo
Historian James Reston Jr. has threatened to sue the studio for
copyright infringement in Britain and the United States, but so far was
still pondering his options, his attorney said on Tuesday.
In a March 21 letter to Reston's attorney, Fox described as "wholly
without merit" Reston's contention that the script for "Kingdom of
Heaven," set for a May 6 release, was "strikingly similar" to his 2001
book "Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third
Crusade."
Reston claimed that "Kingdom" director Ridley Scott rejected an offer
from Phoenix Pictures chief Mike Medavoy to direct a film based on
the book, then secretly used it as the basis for his own film about the
Crusades.
The film stars Orlando Bloom as a blacksmith who becomes a knight
and defends Jerusalem against invasion during the Third Crusade.
Reston said Scott and screenwriter William Monahan stole their main
character, an obscure knight named Bailan of Ibelin, from the first 105
pages of his book, and appropriated the film's title from the second
chapter heading.
Reston's attorney Timothy DeBaets told the studio in a March 4 letter
that his client would file a copyright infringement lawsuit in Britain or
the United States if Reston was not given credit and compensation for
the film.
DeBaets said Reston spent more than two years "painstakingly"
researching his "dramatic account of the Third Crusade," adding that it
"strains credulity" to believe that Monahan would have tapped the same
time period and characters.
But Fox lawyer Bonnie Bogin argued in her reply that Reston "cannot
claim a monopoly on history."
"The elements in 'Warriors of God'... are no more than historical facts,
which have been in the public domain for more than nine centuries,"
Bogin said.
Bogin said neither Scott nor Monahan read "Warriors," and she accused
Reston of "piggybacking" on press for the film to promote his book.
She also suggested Reston's claims against Scott and Monahan could be
defamatory.
Kingdom marches forth through attendance slump
Foreign moviegoers help to save the Crusades epic from lousy ticket sales; 'House of
Wax' drips into second place.
By R. Kinsey Lowe
Times Staff Writer
http://www.calendarlive.com/music/cl-et-boxoffice9may09,2,4580646.story
May 9, 2005
The Crusades epic "Kingdom of Heaven" grossed an anemic estimated $20 million at the
domestic box office but pulled in an additional $56 million in nearly 100 international
markets for a total opening weekend figure of $76 million, much to the relief of
executives at 20th Century Fox.
Studios increasingly have adopted a strategy of opening some key films worldwide
simultaneously with the domestic release, partly because of concerns about piracy, but
also because foreign box office has become such a significant factor. Last year, foreign
box office saved "National Treasure" from becoming a dud for Disney and vastly
enhanced the fortunes of "Troy" for Warner Bros.
"We kind of felt that it would be stronger internationally," said Bruce Synder, Fox's
president of distribution. "It was No. 1 in nearly every market, with South Africa one of
the exceptions in the top 20. It also was the biggest opening of the year in many of those
markets."
Snyder acknowledged a production budget of $130 million for "Kingdom of Heaven," of
which he said the studio was responsible for about $80 million; the rest was made up by
various partners. Snyder declined to estimate the marketing outlay, but it would not be
unusual for a studio to spend $40 million or more on a film like this.
The foreign estimate included figures from France and Italy, the only two of the top 20
overseas markets where Fox does not have rights to the film, according to Paul
Hanneman, executive vice president for sales and strategic planning for 20th Century Fox
International. It was not clear whether "The Pacifier" or "The Interpreter" beat "Kingdom
of Heaven" in South Africa, Hanneman said, because Fox didn't have access to official
numbers for those competitors.
The domestic number for "Kingdom of Heaven" was in line with most audience tracking
research going into the weekend, although one company's numbers had indicated "House
of Wax" could possibly emerge the winner, so Fox had to be grateful that its prestige
picture from Ridley Scott wasn't beaten by a horror film starring Paris Hilton.
The central character, played by Orlando Bloom, defends the people of Jerusalem against
invaders, but "Kingdom of Heaven" lacked his muscle: It couldn't overcome a persistent
slump in moviegoing overall.
Business is lousy, studio distribution executives agreed Sunday, although they have their
fingers crossed that the arrival of "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" on May 19
will change that, because a blockbuster tends to give other films a ride on its coattails.
The estimated total for all films was about $83 million, box office tracking firm Nielsen
EDI said, and if that estimate holds up when more reliable numbers come in today, this
weekend will rank as the year's worst. It's also the worst early May since 2000, when
"Gladiator," another period epic adventure from Scott, opened with $34.8 million,
according to figures at Boxofficemojo.com.
Industrywide, box office is running 7% behind 2004, and it was the 11th consecutive
weekend on which overall business was down relative to a year ago. EDI said grosses
were down 26% from last year and 8% from last weekend. Additionally, it was the fifth
straight weekend with business totaling less than $100 million, the longest such streak
since fall 2001.
"Kingdom of Heaven" attracted a grown-up audience of slightly more men than women,
Snyder said. Informal exit surveys in several markets indicated the audience was 52%
male and 48% female, and 66% of the audience was 25 or older.
Many films now typically gross about a third of their domestic gross in opening weekend.
If this holds true for "Kingdom," an optimistic projection would have the film topping out
in the U.S. at about $75 million. Movies also sometimes gross as much as five times their
opening weekend number, but those are usually big hits, which "Kingdom of Heaven" is
unlikely to be. (With a total of "$441.2 million, "Shrek 2" more than quadrupled its
opening weekend gross of $108 million, and "Meet the Fockers" eventually grossed more
than six times its opening number of $46.1 million to top out at $279.2 million).
Horror film "House of Wax," from the Joel Silver-Robert Zemeckis genre unit Dark
Castle Pictures, grossed about $12.2 million to open in second place.
Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. president of distribution, said the gross for the $35 millionbudgeted picture was "in line with the other Dark Castle movies, 'House on Haunted Hill,'
'Thirteen Ghosts' and 'Ghost Ship,' [the latter of] which opened with $11.5 million" in late
October 2002.
Like a number of recent horror films, the audience tilted toward female and the young,
with 54% under 21 and 56% female, Fellman said.
"Crash," the only other new movie in wide release, grossed an estimated $9.1 million,
opening in fourth place only slightly behind "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,"
which took in an estimated $9.13 million in its second weekend. "Crash," a Lions Gate
release that depicts a rather nasty state of race relations in Los Angeles, skewed older and
slightly female.
If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives .
Article licensing and reprint options
Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times
http://www.calendarlive.com/movies/goldstein/cl-et-goldstein10may10,2,5362763.story
How's this for a Crusades concept?
As a student of history, Ridley Scott knows as well as anyone that the Crusades have
been given the gauzy, soft-focus treatment by Hollywood.
By Patrick Goldstein
Times Staff Writer
http://www.calendarlive.com/movies/goldstein/cl-etgoldstein10may10,2,32577,print.story
May 10, 2005
As a student of history, Ridley Scott knows as well as anyone that the Crusades have
been given the gauzy, soft-focus treatment by Hollywood. What turned out to be "one of
the blackest chapters in the history of Christendom," where high ideals were "besmirched
by cruelty and greed," as one historian has put it, has often been treated as a noble
adventure with exciting opportunities for swordplay.
"The Crusades have been incredibly romanticized, starting with Richard the Lionheart
and King John," Scott told me the other day. "The 200 years of the Crusades is just full of
chronically bad behavior."
Since few directors rank higher than Scott in my personal pantheon, I was too polite to
point out that his new 20th Century Fox film, "Kingdom of Heaven," does some serious
romanticizing itself. The $140-million film, which had a mediocre $19.6-million opening
this weekend, follows the exploits of Balian of Ibelin, a blacksmith played by Orlando
Bloom who unsuccessfully defends Jerusalem against the great Muslim warlord Saladin
in 1187 during a lull between the second and third Crusades.
Perhaps "exploits" is too strong a word, since in Scott's film, written by William
Monahan, Balian is a curiously passive figure. He's an idealist, and an ineffectual one,
since he does little to prevent bloodthirsty Christian warlords from undoing what had
been a lengthy peace in the region. The critics for the most part have not been kind,
saying Bloom looks like "a page boy impersonating a warrior" and bemoaning a
storytelling approach that seems most concerned with not offending any religious group.
The saga ends with Bloom agreeing to a graceful surrender instead of valiantly fighting to
the death. As the New Yorker's Anthony Lane put it: "He comes across more as a fellow
to whom things happen than as somebody who can wrest events to his will."
Even his love interest, the comely Princess Sibylla, played by Eva Green, is alarmed by
his passivity, cautioning him, "There will be a day when you wish you had done a little
evil for a greater good." That's the line in the film that had the most resonance for me,
and not only because it's equally applicable today — one can easily imagine Iraq war
architect Paul Wolfowitz embracing the princess as a seductive poster girl for
neoconservatism. But Sibylla's warning set off cinematic alarm bells. It's not that Scott's
hero is too weak. If the Crusades are a classic example of the complexities of moral
fervor, Scott chose the wrong Crusade story altogether.
Regardless of how "Heaven" ultimately fares at the box office, it's hard to imagine there
being another major Crusades-era film anytime soon. This would be a great loss, because
there is a great story to be told, one that is recounted with wonderful vigor by historian
Jonathan Phillips in his new book, "The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople."
It is a tale teeming with unlikely heroes, canny operators and nasty brutes, plus bloody
battles and incessant political intrigue, not to mention fascinating military ingenuity. In
other words, it would make a great movie.
Roughly a dozen years after the fall of Jerusalem portrayed in Scott's film, Pope Innocent
III issued a call for a new Crusade to retake the holy city. Having seen how previous
Crusades were undone by arduous overland journeys, these Crusaders decided to travel
by sea. In need of an armada of ships and supplies, they turn to the wily Doge Enrico
Dandolo of Venice, then Europe's leading seafaring power. A strikingly modern figure,
he was so ingenious at brokering deals and exploiting the weaknesses of friend or foe that
he's best described as a cross between Henry Kissinger and Lew Wasserman.
And when it came to contractual brinksmanship, the doge, even though he was blind and
pushing 90, was the equal of anyone in Fox's business affairs department. In return for
securing provisions and building enough ships to transport 33,500 soldiers and horses, the
doge demanded 85,000 marks, double the salaries of the kings of France and England.
When barely a third of the expected soldiers showed up, leaving the Crusaders unable to
pay up, the doge decided to restructure the deal. Thus began a series of detours that led
the Crusaders farther away from Jerusalem and deeper into spiritual quicksand.
Eager to take back control of Zara, a neighboring city that had allied itself with the king
of Hungary, the doge told the Crusaders he would postpone the debt if they first
conquered Zara, a fellow Christian city. Talk about doing a little evil for a greater good.
Zara was quickly subdued, but the Crusaders were still short of money. Enter Prince
Alexius, the exiled heir to the throne of Constantinople, whose father, the rightful
emperor, had been deposed.
Alexius promised the Crusaders a huge sum of money if they would again postpone
freeing Jerusalem, this time by making a side trip to Constantinople, where they would
put him on the throne. Once again, this involved attacking a Christian city, but the
Crusaders justified it by assuring the pope that Alexius would place the Greek Orthodox
Church under the rule of Rome.
Constantinople was protected by a formidable wall to the west and water on every other
side, and the Crusaders' attack was the equivalent of a 13th century D-day, representing
the largest amphibious invasion ever attempted in medieval Europe. Having the
Venetians along proved invaluable. They built canvas-covered bridges atop their ships,
providing a protected walkway for knights who could disembark, fully armed, via scaling
ladders when the ships reached the city's battlements. At the height of the battle, fearing
his men were losing courage, the blind doge demanded that his sailors put him ashore so
he could lead the attack.
The usurper fled, but unrest continued. Soon a new warlord came to power, vowing to
crush the Crusaders. Before they began their ultimate siege of the city, the Crusaders
came to agreement on a decidedly ungodly subject: splitting the loot. It was a true
Hollywood-style profit participation deal. The Crusaders promised the doge 75% of the
spoils until Venice got its promised 200,000 marks. After that, the Venetians would take
a 50-50 split of further booty.
In battle, the Venetians' precision seamanship again proved invaluable. With knights
perched high atop their flying bridges, they managed to maneuver close enough to the
city walls to land men on the Greek battlements. The first invader was butchered. The
second fell to his knees, hiding under his shield, surrounded by Greeks. But when he
stood up, unhurt, and drew his sword, the Greeks fled. In victory, the Crusaders were far
less charitable than Saladin in "Kingdom of Heaven." The Crusaders' pent-up anger
unleashed a wave of rape, bloodletting and plunder.
The greater good had evaporated. The Crusaders never made it to Jerusalem, an outcome
that, if you like, could easily be compared to the modern-day war against Al Qaeda that
somehow took us into Baghdad. It's what makes the Fourth Crusade seem so resonant
today — it's a tragedy of good faith undone by blind self-righteousness. When I asked
Scott what he thought made "Kingdom of Heaven" relevant for today's audiences, he said
he wanted to show the heroism of a good man like Balian. "We need a few idealists," he
said. "Actually, we need a lot of them."
I couldn't agree more. But by focusing on a weak-kneed idealist, Scott not only leaves a
hole at the center of his story but misses a chance to show how much the conflicts of the
Crusades have in common with our noble causes of today. When it comes to drama, the
Fourth Crusade, which illustrates all too well the grievous limits of idealism, tells us
more about the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.
If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives .
Article licensing and reprint options
Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times
Onward Christian soldiers
Review: Peter Bradshaw bears the cross of Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven
Who's who in Kingdom of Heaven
Kingdom of Heaven
Cert 15
Peter Bradshaw
Friday May
6, 2005
The Guardian
http://film.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/Critic_Review/Guardian_Film_of_the_week/0,42
67,1477002,00.html
'Bloom plays the humble yet hunky blacksmith Balian in medieval France,
modelling a range of close-fitting jerkins'
It is four years since President Bush used the word "crusade" to describe the war
against terrorism, and then, while the liberal west winced, attempted to gulp it
back into his mouth. Ridley Scott's achingly well-intentioned epic looks like a 145minute dramatisation of that wince. Kingdom of Heaven is described on every
poster as "from the director of Gladiator". Well, try imagining a version of
Gladiator in which Joaquin Phoenix is half-heartedly given co-hero status with
Russell Crowe. Because this is a modernised romantic-liberal fantasy about the
Crusades, stuffed with some of the silliest supporting performances imaginable,
in which a young blacksmith from 12th-century Europe (Orlando Bloom) finds
himself joining the cause, not for the glory of battle or the supposed honour of
restoring Christian mastery in the Holy Land, but aiming to broker peace between
Muslims and Christians in a caring sort of multi-faith partnership.
Religions and religious institutions are treated with punctilious correctness here with the very conspicuous exception, incidentally, of the Vatican. Jerusalem is
attended by a cringing Papal legate, who rubber-stamps all manner of butchery
by the Templar hotheads and, when the city appears to be at the mercy of
Saladin, he whiningly suggests they all convert to Islam and repent later. Too
late. Everyone appears to have converted to ecumenical humanism long ago.
Bloom plays the humble yet hunky blacksmith Balian in medieval France,
modelling a range of close-fitting jerkins, in mourning for his wife who has
committed suicide after the death of their child. A grizzled old soldier comes
riding through his village on the lookout for Balian, who is his long-lost illegitimate
son. This is Liam Neeson, who reveals himself to be of noble stock and invites
his boy to join the Crusade. At first angry and confused, Balian then pursues him
in anguish, believing that a prayer for his late wife in the Holy Land will rescue
her from suicide's eternal damnation. On the way there, the boy becomes a man.
He turns into a knight, a brilliant military tactician (somehow), a lover and a
visionary of peace. In the desert, Balian has a Lawrentian moment of bonding
and respect with a Saracen warrior, who approaches him, moreover, without any
time-consuming gallop through the shimmering sand.
The movie briskly distinguishes between good Christians, represented by the
thoughtful and compassionate Bloom, and two-dimensional bad Christians like
the belligerent Templars who simply want to crush the Muslim world. The chief
baddie is Sir Guy De Lusignan, played by Marton Csokas, and he is the campest
villain I have seen in a long time - always sneering and pouting and arching his
body into all manner of haughty catlike postures. He's like a cross between Larry
Grayson and Satan, with a touch of that serial killer from The Silence of the
Lambs who liked dancing around in his lair with his penis tucked between his
legs. Sir Guy owes his eminence to the fact that he is the brother-in-law of the
peace-loving King Baldwin (Ed Norton) who is married to his sister Sibylla,
played by Eva Green, last seen in Bertolucci's The Dreamers.
Sibylla is enraptured by the handsome and noble Balian, and she is forever
galloping in and out of courtyards with a simpering distaff entourage, and
unwrapping her headscarf to reveal pedantically exotic makeup and jewellery.
She favours Bloom with a bewitching smile of inexpressibly sensuous
anticipation, like a mysterious princess who's about to get stuck into a bar of
Fry's Turkish Delight.
More whimsy is provided by Jeremy Irons, whose performance sends the thespo-meter into bleeping overdrive. He plays the king's trusted aide Tiberias, doing
his gruff best to keep up the city's decent current practice of moderation and
understanding with the Muslim world. Weirdly, everything else about his look
suggests villainy. He has close-cropped hair, a nasty scar under his eye, a very
growly voice, and marches and grumps about the place in the manner of Darth
Vader without the helmet.
Once the main battle starts, culminating in a massive siege of Jerusalem with
zillions of pixellated soldiers massing on a computer-generated plain, then at
least we get the impression of something happening, partly reversing the
sclerosis of boredom that has been creeping into the movie from the opening
credits. Perhaps the siege scene can't match up to those legions of orcs in Lord
of the Rings, or even Brad Pitt's battle at Troy, but at least the battle lines and
storylines are clarified a little.
As for the rest of it, the movie is uneasily like Scott's Black Hawk Down: an
attempt to acknowledge a flawed military adventure, but fundamentally
hamstrung by a deep reluctance to make our heroes look bad in any real way.
Any movie showing returning crusaders must do battle with the memory of Max
Von Sydow coming home in The Seventh Seal. There's no law that says a
director has to reproduce the nuclear winter of Bergman's disillusion, and
attempting to imagine a consensus between the Christian and Muslim world is no
bad aim for a film-maker. But everything about it looks glib and naive, and
Muslim audiences might well have mixed feelings about this fictional good-guy
crusader, congratulating himself on doing the right thing at all times.
Kingdom of Heaven (15)
Jerusalem, mon amour
By Anthony Quinn
06 May 2005
http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/film/reviews/story.jsp?story=635911
Ridley Scott's clangorous new epic advances through the territory of the medieval
Crusades rather like a UN peace-keeping mission: armed to the teeth with good
intentions, but lacking conviction. Kingdom of Heaven, seeking to find a middle way in
portraying the centuries-long struggle between Christians and Muslims for the troubled
soul of Jerusalem, has ended up pleasing neither side, though given the state of
geopolitics post 9/11 and the incendiary charge already carried in the word "crusade" the
film-makers probably saw this coming. During filming in Morocco last year the
production was reportedly beset by death threats.
How deeply these waves of hostility affected Scott's navigation of the material is
uncertain, but his screenwriter, William Monahan, has apparently taken pains to steer
clear of any us-versus-them partisanship. Tolerance and respect are the bedrock of this
particular yarn, for all that the history of the Crusades exemplifies the very opposite.
Orlando Bloom plays the noble-souled hero, Balian, a French blacksmith rediscovered by
his Crusader father (Liam Neeson) and dispatched to Jerusalem, where he hopes to make
amends for his young wife's suicide. No sooner has he fetched up on the shores of the
Holy Land than he is required to fight a Muslim swordsman for possession of a horse. He
kills the man, but gives the horse to his astonished servant. This is the first in what will be
an ongoing sequence of careful checks and balances.
Once inside the walls of Jerusalem, which Scott recreates on a majestic scale with the aid
of CGI, Balian finds a city-state governed by an uneasy truce between Christian and
Muslim. The real menace appears to be in the ranks of the madly bellicose Knights
Templar, whose leader, Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas), is a natural heir to a line of
medieval bearded baddies that began with Basil Rathbone.
When Guy and his flame-haired warmonger pal Reynald (Brendan Gleeson) propose a
move against Saladin (Ghassan Massoud) and his Saracen army, their inflamed cohorts
cry in support "God wills it", a phrase that will also be brandished by their enemies. In a
plot development that makes no sense - you will bump up against a few of these - the
dying king, Baldwin, offers Balian the chance to avert this disaster by killing the
iniquitous Guy, marrying his wife Sybilla (the tiger-eyed beauty, Eva Green) and thus
acceding to the throne himself, a bumper three-in-one offer you'd have thought no exblacksmith could refuse. But, perhaps because he can't read the royal expression - the
king wears an iron mask to shield his leprous face - he does refuse, and brings down hell
on Earth.
It comes as a relief when Scott finally cuts loose from the righteous blather ("Speak the
truth always, even it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong...") and
pitches into what he does best - battle scenes of panoramic scope and bloody savagery.
There's no director quite like him for balancing epic confrontation against the horrible
intimacy of hand-to-hand combat, and one detects a kind of militaristic relish in his
orchestration of the set-pieces. Welles called film the best train-set a boy ever had; for
Scott it's the best game of soldiers. Other directors may challenge him in terms of scale
(Wolfgang Petersen in Troy, Oliver Stone in Alexander) but Scott remains pre-eminent in
packing the screen to bursting point.
At times you get the impression that he's trying to reproduce the intensity of Gladiator,
his last foray into the ancient world, and certain sequences, such as the night sky
pinpricked by flaming arrows, are pound-for-pound imitations of the earlier film. It is in
the conception and casting of its hero where Kingdom of Heaven begins to feel
undernourished. Russell Crowe's gladiator was driven by revenge after his wife and child
were murdered, and in his course through destiny's grinder we were never allowed to
forget that this guy, a warrior by profession, was fine-tuning his reflexes as a lean, mean
fighting machine.
Now consider Orlando Bloom, who may be handy with the hammer and tongs but could
never be mistaken for a man of war. His motivation seems dodgy, too. He intends to go to
Jerusalem initially to seek forgiveness from God - for himself as well as his wife - yet,
somehow, loses his religion along the way. Then, by some extraordinary metamorphosis
granted only to movie characters, he becomes, in short order, a wily engineer, a brilliant
military brain and a full-throated leader of men. What he really looks like is a skincare
model mistakenly assigned to boot camp.
Scott is reported to have made the film as a challenge to "extremism of all kinds", and he
does deserve credit for at least trying to present a balanced account of an insoluble
conflict. But no one can seriously imagine that a two-hour-plus epic is a useful tool with
which to unpick it.
"What does Jerusalem mean to you?" Balian asks Saladin at the end of the movie.
"Nothing", he replies, then stops himself and says, "Everything". This could be a nice
illustration of a weary leader's ambivalence, or it could be another refusal on the film's
part to offer serious argument. I don't doubt that Kingdom of Heaven means well: it's just
that it means well so very unconvincingly.
Jeremy Irons: The king of his castles
Defending 12th-century Jerusalem or restoring his beloved 15th-century fortress in
Ireland, Jeremy Irons is a class act. He talks to Elaine Lipworth
Published : 06 May 2005
http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/film/interviews/story.jsp?story=635909
Jeremy Irons is rolling a cigarette and sipping cappuccino on a warm spring afternoon in
Pasadena, in the sedate manicured gardens of a five-star hotel. The British actor stands
out because he's so recognisable with those handsome features, hollow cheeks and floppy
grey hair - but also because he smokes, a habit that's practically outlawed here.
He's impeccable in a sharp black suit and white open-necked shirt. There's something
quintessentially English about Irons that is still reminiscent of his first big role as Charles
Ryder in Brideshead Revisited, the 1980 TV drama. But he's steered clear of the
aristocratic English gentlemen for most of his career, choosing more unsettling
characters. "I prefer the challenge. I like to make life difficult," he says.
He says he's about to spend a "difficult" week working on a screenplay with the director
David Lynch. "It's good to have challenges, because I've got a bit lazy in the past 14
years. I've never been passionate about acting, and I find more and more that I work to
live the life I want to live. An actor like Al Pacino lives to act. I'm not sure though, there's
something about the detachment I have, the feeling of the lack of importance about what I
do, that is healthy."
He may lack Pacino's passion, but you'd never know that from his best films. In 1998, he
played the sadistic twin gynaecologists in Dead Ringers. In Reversal of Fortune, (1990)
he won an Oscar for his chilling portrayal of Claus Von Bulow, the socialite accused of
murdering his wife.
In Kingdom of Heaven, Ridley Scott's new sword-and-sandals Crusader epic, he gives
another richly layered performance. Orlando Bloom stars as an idealistic French knight
who defends the city of Jerusalem from the Moslems, led by their ruler, Saladin. There
are big battles and a romantic storyline, but the film examines religious intolerance.
Irons, 56, plays Tiberias, military adviser to the Christian King Baldwin IV. "I quite like
playing dry old badgers like this. He's lost his idealism. He's an old warrior and has
fought his battles. But he's broad-minded; he's a closet Moslem, actually, heading toward
retirement, and he realises that people are in Jerusalem to make their fortune and their
name, not for the glory of God, whatever that be."
Unlike Tiberias, Irons says he's not a cynic. "Am I a spiritual person? I hope so. I'm not
very intellectual, I'm instinctive. My family's Catholic," he says, referring to his wife, the
actor Sinead Cusack, and their sons Sam, 27, and Max, 19. "I don't go to church much
because I don't like belonging to a club, and I don't go to confession or anything like that,
I don't believe in it. But I try to be aware of where I fail and I occasionally go to services.
I would hate to be a person who didn't have a spiritual side because there's nothing to
nourish you in life apart from retail therapy."
Film-making hasn't always been satisfying for Irons, which is why he's choosy about his
roles. "I've loved it, and I've loved being successful." He smiles. "But I looked at The
French Lieutenant's Woman recently, and I don't like what I do very much. I could have
done more with it, and I wish I'd had more experience when I made that film. Anyway,
I'm never satisfied. I think were I ever satisfied with my work, I'd be in trouble."
Interestingly, Irons enjoys being famous. Most stars say they detest the limelight. "The
world turns into your village. And I like being able to go to the off-licence and borrow a
tenner because I've no money on me and they know who I am and that I'll pay it back.
The downside is that you have to create privacy. So on holidays you just have to spend a
bit more and hire a boat instead of lying on a beach.
"I still enjoy acting," he says. "Even if I were a jobbing theatre-actor, I'd think I was
lucky. But I'm very easily bored making films. I don't like Hollywood bullshit." He was
recently in Being Julia with Annette Bening and has a small role as Pucci in Disney's new
Casanova.
Irons was drawn to Kingdom Of Heaven because he admires the director. "Ridley is very,
very good at what he does," he says. "He's at the top of his game. He's brilliant at action we saw that with Gladiator - but what's great about this movie is that it has a strong
emotional, spiritual centre. It's fully fledged."
Liam Neeson and David Thewlis also appear in the film, which was shot in Morocco and
Spain. "It's a fascinating period to research," Irons says, "because the kingdom of
Jerusalem was rather like Hong Kong before 1997. There were lots of expats living a
pretty good life out there in Jerusalem. It was a great place to be compared with the Dark
Ages of Northern Europe."
He pauses and picks up a San Pellegrino bottle holding a huge pink rose, and holds it
under my nose. "Just smell this, it's amazing," he marvels. "You rarely find a rose with
such a strong scent."
The distraction seems indicative of his approach to acting. He enjoys it, but there are
other things he enjoys more. "Basically, I want to keep working, so I don't worry about
the size of the character - if it's interesting, I'll do it. It's quite nice doing smaller roles, in
some ways. It means I get home more, and I can get on with my life."
You'd think there would be plenty of big-role opportunities for an actor of his ability, but
it seems not. "The movie industry is run by accountants in Hollywood and it's as simple
as this; everyone has a number on their computer." He smiles, then shrugs. "They can
look up Jeremy Irons and see what my last five movies have made. Say you want to make
a $20m picture, which is relatively cheap. If Jeremy makes $9m, the director makes $5m,
then you need a leading lady, and they just go through those figures - that's how casting
happens. And none of my movies has made a lot of money."
His last leading role was in Adrian Lyne's adaptation of Lolita in 1997. "The film was a
big disappointment," he says, "and because of the subject matter it didn't get a theatrical
release here, so my stock is quite low in America. All it needs is for me to do a picture
that's successful at the box office and I'll get offers. I am respected, though," he says.
"They'll say, 'We want a bit of cred, let's get Jeremy Irons on board.'"
Recently, Irons has found a different kind of pleasure (and "cred") restoring the 15thcentury castle he and Cusack bought in County Cork, Ireland. He's more animated talking
about his six-year building project than his films. "Doing the castle was sort of terrifying,
rather like making a film. I got a crew together. I'd turn up in the morning, and when we
were going flat out I had 40 people there.
"I'm quite good with my hands and I know about building. I've done conversions on
houses in London and Oxfordshire. And I had the money because I get paid an awful lot,
though not as much as I used to."
He pulls photos from a battered leather satchel and shows me a dozen angles of his
imposing home. "It's not that big. It sleeps about 12 if they don't mind sleeping double.
It's a wonderful sanctuary, incredibly quiet because the walls are so thick." He points to
one picture: "On the top of that tower there's a Jacuzzi. Although the castle's a very male
shape, with two towers, inside it's like a womb. It's on an islet, so there's a causeway
linking it to the mainland. It's very special and romantic."
Are he and Sinead still romantic after 27 years? "I don't know. I don't like talking about
my marriage," he says, a little uneasily. "You know, my wife's an amazing woman, a very
forgiving woman, which you have to be with me." Why forgiving? "Because she holds
the fort. I went off filming while she raised our children. She put her career on hold for a
long time.
"I'm lucky to have her. I think the fact that we're both in the industry helps. We have the
same neuroses and recognise them in each other, and we allow each other the privacy of
our careers, which gives a sort of freshness to the relationship."
Their son Sam is a photographer, and Max is auditioning for drama school. "I encourage
my children to do what they want. I was so lucky that I settled in a business that suited
me without giving it a lot of thought," Irons says. He attended Sherborne, the public
school, in Dorset and left without A-levels. He did some social work before getting his
first acting job in the theatre.
Irons, who had a difficult time as a child, says he's been intent on creating a strong bond
with his children. "As you get older, you look back and try to make sense of the sort of
person you have become. And I think the most important thing that happened in my
childhood was the first night I went to boarding school at the age of seven. I remember
that night, and the loneliness. Also, my parents' marriage broke up when I was 15. But I
think it was that first night at seven years old when I felt something had broken, and I've
spent my life trying to get back to that feeling of home.
"It's the same sense of family that you find in the theatre and movies. In fact, I'm hoping
to make a film about that very subject - the need for home. You don't really have a home
until you have children. And that home is created by the children."
Where's home now, I wonder? Irons owns five houses around Britain and Ireland. "Home
is wherever we are together as a family. But I love the castle.It somehow opens up your
sensitivities, as well as being very calming. I think my soul is probably lingering around
the castle."
He gets up to leave and, with his customary charm, plucks the rose from the bottle and
hands it to me. "Take it," he says. "It's too beautiful to leave behind."
Home > Enjoyment > Film > Interviews
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,14931-1597596,00.html
Kingdom of Heaven
By James Christopher
Ridley Scott's ripping crusades epic makes a man of Orlando Bloom
15, 145 mins
RIDLEY SCOTT’S crusade to Jerusalem is a thumping medieval yarn, dressed in all the
bloody trappings that made his last box-office epic, Gladiator , such a terrific watch.
Kingdom of Heaven is a Boy’s Own version of the 1187 battle to save the Holy City
from Saladin, and it’s as bitter and lopsided as one could wish. The Christian knights are
mouldy cynics. The Saracens are polished snakes. The twists are marvellous. And dying
with an axe in your head is a fine art.
But there is controversy in the stalls. Scott has reawakened an ancient fixture between
Muslims and Christians, and prominent academics are reacting like boozy football fans.
First up for the Millwall Templars is Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith, who declares that
the film is not historically accurate. It depicts Muslims as sophisticated, and the crusaders
as brutes and barbarians. Khaled Abu el-Fadl, a professor at the University of California,
puts in the boot for the Fulham Fundamentalists: “I believe this movie teaches people to
hate Muslims. How are people going to react to these images of Muslims attacking
churches and tearing down the Cross?” he froths.
This kind of venom should hardly be a surprise for Ridley Scott. Every big film he makes
begs to be taken to task. But claims of hatred and bias are feeble. Scott has always been a
“shoot first, think (much) later” director, and I admire him for it. He immerses you in the
period and action, and leaves you to extract the political shrapnel. What’s strange about
his latest film is that it’s so old-fashioned. The hero of the hour is Orlando Bloom, and he
bursts on-screen like a hand-crafted aristocrat from the pages of a vintage Mills & Boon.
He wears blowsy shirts, dusty britches and medieval cowboy boots when he’s impressing
the natives, and chain-mail armour and a huge glistening broadsword when he’s chopping
them in half.
He is fabulously uncomplicated, and effortlessly sexy. He’s also grown up from juvenile
swashbuckler to handsome and earthy lead. At the start of the film he is a village
blacksmith with impeccable aristocratic credentials, a trim beard, a ghastly past and a yen
to go to Jerusalem to atone for his murderous sins. But the road to salvation is
treacherous. The motley band of knights he is forced to join are as spiritually bankrupt as
their Christian cause.
Jerusalem is the usual thousand-year tease: it’s a state of mind, a rape date and a
ramshackle casino. The decent chaps who run it are fast going out of fashion. But being a
lord, and honourable hero, Balian of Ibelin (Bloom) has an honesty that bewitches the
king, and a charm that bedevils the enemy. In short he believes in the crusading faith, yet
he retches at what the crusaders have become.
Bloom’s shining idealism is a beacon in a city teeming with crooked barons and backstabbing plots. David Thewlis, Marton Csokas and Jeremy Irons put in superb cameos as
seasoned cynics.
And Bloom himself is torn between his loyalty to God, a married princess (Eva Green),
and the leprous king (Edward Norton).
But the film really lifts off only when Scott unleashes the dogs of war. He has never shied
away from hardcore combat. Whether we care to admit it or not, a lot of screen pleasure
in any Scott epic is invested in the pure claustrophobic horror of his set pieces. He puts
the viewer in the eye of the storm. He rams horses into each other at full speed. He
creates a bloody maelstrom with no exits to speak of, and he frames every grisly thump at
head height or waist level.
Defending the hallowed city against the tidal wave of Saracens — who march and grunt
like hungry orcs — is, of course, meat and drink for Bloom. His canny and preposterous
arts of survival will raise a sceptical eyebrow. But this is what star and director do best:
crazy odds, and bone-crunching visceral violence shot with tremendous flair and style.
“Convert to Islam. Repent later!” shrieks a cowardly bishop when giant pots of flaming
oil are flung over the ramparts by Jurassic-looking Saracen trebuchets. It’s a small but
priceless piece of comedy.
Bloom rallies his motley force of green-eared boys, plucky depressives and local
plumbers like Henry V before the Battle of Agincourt.
The last act is stirring if predictable mayhem, full of eye-watering speeches designed to
bring a tear to the eye and a lump to the throat. The Muslims, led by Ghassan Massoud’s
upstanding Saladin, have the manners to wait, and the grace to forgive. In fact they come
out of this film as the squeaking heroes. But try smuggling that notion past the Academy
without having your plimsolls X-rayed
Orlando Bloom, as Balian, turns from blacksmith to Crusader, not out of religious
conviction, but to pursue opportunity in "Kingdom of Heaven."
Kingdom of Heaven
http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050505/REVIEWS/504260
01/1023
BY ROGER EBERT / May 5, 2005
Cast & Credits
Balian: Orlando Bloom
Godfrey: Liam Neeson
Hospitalier: David Thewlis
Guy de Lusignan: Marton Csokas
King Baldwin: Edward Norton
Sibylla: Eva Green
Reynald: Brendan Gleeson
Tiberias: Jeremy Irons
Saladin: Ghassan Massoud
Gravedigger: Martin Hancock
Priest: Michael Sheen
Balian's Wife: Nathalie Cox
Twentieth Century Fox presents a film produced and directed by Ridley
Scott . Written by William Monahan. Running time: 145 minutes.
Rated R (for strong violence and epic warfare).
Printer-friendly »
E-mail this to a friend »
The first thing to be said for Ridley Scott 's "Kingdom of Heaven" is that Scott knows
how to direct a historical epic. I might have been kinder to his " Gladiator " had I known
that " Troy " and " Alexander " were in my future, but "Kingdom of Heaven" is better
than " Gladiator " -- deeper, more thoughtful, more about human motivation and less
about action.
The second thing is that Scott is a brave man to release a movie at this time about the
wars between Christians and Muslims for control of Jerusalem. Few people will be
capable of looking at "Kingdom of Heaven" objectively. I have been invited by both
Muslims and Christians to view the movie with them so they can point out its
shortcomings. When you've made both sides angry, you may have done something right.
The Muslim scholar Hamid Dabashi, however, after being asked to consult on the movie,
writes in the new issue of Sight & Sound: "It was neither pro- nor anti-Islamic, neither
pro- nor anti-Christian. It was, in fact, not even about the 'Crusades.'" And yet I consider
the film to be a profound act of faith." It is an act of faith, he thinks, because for its hero
Balian (Orlando Bloom), who is a non-believer, "All religious affiliations fade in the light
of his melancholic quest to find a noble purpose in life."
That's an insight that helps me understand my own initial question about the film, which
was: Why don't they talk more about religion? Weren't the Crusades seen by Christians as
a Holy War to gain control of Jerusalem from the Muslims? I wondered if perhaps Scott
was evading the issue. But not really: He shows characters more concerned with personal
power and advancement than with theological issues.
Balian, a village blacksmith in France, discovers he is the illegitimate son of Sir Godfrey
( Liam Neeson ). Godfrey is a knight returning from the Middle East, who paints
Jerusalem not in terms of a holy war but in terms of its opportunities for an ambitious
young man; it has a healthy economy at a time when medieval Europe is stagnant. "A
man who in France has not a house is in the holy land the master of a city," Godfrey
promises. "There at the end of the world you are not what you were born but what you
have it in yourself to be." He makes Jerusalem sound like a medieval Atlanta, a city too
busy to hate.
For the 100 years leading up to the action, both Christians and Muslims were content to
see each other worship in the holy city. It was only when Christian zealots determined to
control the Holy Land more rigidly that things went wrong. The movie takes place circa
1184, as the city is ruled by the young King Baldwin ( Edward Norton ), who has leprosy
and conceals his disfigured face behind a silver mask. Balian takes control of the city
after the death of its young king. Then the Knights Templar, well known from The Da
Vinci Code , wage war on the Muslims. Saladin (Ghassan Massoud) leads a Muslim army
against them, and Balian eventually surrenders the city to him. Much bloodshed and
battle are avoided.
What Scott seems to be suggesting, I think, is that most Christians and Muslims might be
able to coexist peacefully if it were not for the extremists on both sides. This may explain
why the movie has displeased the very sorts of Muslims and Christians who will take
moderation as an affront. Most ordinary moviegoers, I suspect, will not care much about
the movie's reasonable politics, and will be absorbed in those staples of all historical
epics, battle and romance.
The romance here is between Balian and Sibylla (Eva Green), sister of King Baldwin.
You might wonder how a blacksmith could woo a princess, but reflect that Sir Godfrey
was correct, and there are indeed opportunities for an ambitious young man in Jerusalem,
especially after his newly discovered father makes him a knight, and Tiberias ( Jeremy
Irons ) enlists him as an aide to Baldwin.
One spectacular battle scene involves the attack of Saladin's forces on Christiancontrolled Jerusalem, and it's one of those spectacular set pieces with giant balls of flame
that hurtle through the air and land close, but not too close, to the key characters.
There is a certain scale that's inevitable in films of this sort, and Scott does it better than
anybody. Even so, I enjoyed the dialogue and plot more than the action. I've seen one or
two vast desert cities too many. Nor do thousands of charging horses look brand new to
me, and the hand-to-hand combat looks uncannily like all other hand-to-hand combat.
Godfrey gives Balian a lesson in swordsmanship (chop from above), but apparently the
important thing to remember is that if you're an anonymous enemy you die, and if you're
a hero you live unless a glorious death is required. You'd think people would be killed
almost by accident in the middle of a thousand sword-swinging madmen, but every
encounter is broken down into a confrontation between a victor and a vanquished. It's
well done, but it's been done.
What's more interesting is Ridley Scott 's visual style, assisted by John Mathieson's
cinematography and the production design of Arthur Max. A vast set of ancient
Jerusalem was constructed to provide realistic foregrounds and locations, which were
then enhanced by CGI backgrounds, additional horses and troops, and so on. There is
also exhilarating footage of young Balian makes his way to Jerusalem, using the 12thcentury equivalent of GPS: "Go to where they speak Italian, and then keep going."
The movie is above all about the personal codes of its heroes, both Christian and Muslim.
They are men of honor: Gentlemen, we would say, if they were only a little gentle.
They've seen enough bloodshed and lost enough comrades to look with a jaundiced eye at
the zealots who urge them into battle. There is a scene where Baldwin and Saladin meet
on a vast plain between their massed troops, and agree, man to man, to end the battle
right then and there. Later, one of Balian's pre-battle speeches to his troops sounds
strangely regretful: "We fight over an offense we did not give, against those who were
not alive to be offended." Time for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
http://www.culturevulture.net/Movies10/KingdonofHeaven.htm
Within the first fifteen minutes of Ridley Scott's new epic , Kingdom of Heaven ,
there's a beheading and a burning-alive. Shortly thereafter, there's a rousing, small-scale
forest battle in which swords, bows-and-arrows, crossbows and knives all come into play.
Scott knows how to grab your attention from the start and he holds firmly on to it for the
over two hour running time of the film.
The hero, a blacksmith named Balian (a pumped-up Orlando Bloom), is the bastard
son of Godfrey (Liam Neeson), a nobleman Crusader. Godfrey acknowledges his son and
tells him of the great opportunities that lie in Jerusalem, far from the depressed conditions
in Europe at the time. At Messina, port of embarkation for the holy land, Godfrey knights
Balian, his successor as he dies from wounds suffered in battle. (It's a shame to kill off
such a fine actor so early in the film, but c'est la guerre. )
Jerusalem is ruled by King Baldwin (Edward Norton), a leper who, against Papal
orthodoxy, has made both Christians and Muslims welcome and sustained an uneasy
peace. His ally is the Marshall of the city, Tiberius (Jeremy Irons with a furrowed scar
running from eye to chin). The King's sister, the beauteous Princess Sibylla (Eva Green),
is married to the boorish Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas) who is in league with
Reynald (Brendan Gleeson), leader of the Templars, an extremist bent on warring on
Muslims. The Muslims are led by the legendary Kurd, Saladin (Ghassan Massoud),
portrayed here as tough, but reasonable, and under pressure himself from extremists
within the Muslim ranks.
Of course, there has already been public outcry about misrepresentation of the
Muslims in the film. 20th Century Fox publicists are undoubtedly delighted. When
Templars are hung in Jerusalem for attacking Muslims, the Marshall points out that they
were executed for doing what the Pope told them to do, but that Christ wouldn't.
Doubtlessly, Catholic protests will arise, then, as well. If anyone is entitled to be
complaining, it's the French, since the only really bad guys are de Lusignan and Reynald.
Balian, seeking salvation for his own perceived sins and inspired by his late father's
moral teachings, becomes a model citizen, a skilled leader, and the lover of Sibylla. The
screenplay by William Monahan is fine in many ways--vigorous narrative drive, clear
storytelling, thoughtful consideration of the political complexities. Its principal fault,
exemplified strongly in the central character of Balian, is an unwavering earnestness.
Sibylla is the only character who displays even a shred of irony; the others are 100%
straight-ahead determination, none more so than the hero. There's not even a hint of
comic relief.
Despite these weaknesses, Kingdom of Heaven emerges an entertaining film. It's
beautiful to look at--stunningly photographed, set and costumed. It has grandeur that
evokes De Mille with the occasional touches of Lucas and Spielberg. The battle scenes
make it clear that Scott knows his predecessors--from the slow motion blood spattering of
Sam Peckinpah to the wonderful massing of equestrian troops with banners that
Kurosawa made his own. In one scene, the camera rises above the chaos of the
battlefield, the sound of the conflict fades, and soft and sad music wells on the soundtrack
as the carnage continues below; it's an homage to Kurosawa's masterpiece, Ran .
Kingdom of Heaven is no Ran , but it is a highly respectable also-ran.
- Arthur Lazere
Kingdom of Heaven Movie Review
http://actionadventure.about.com/od/moviereviews/a/aa050505.htm
From Fred Topel ,
Your Guide to Action-Adventure Movies .
FREE Newsletter. Sign Up Now!
Epics for Dummies
Kingdom of Heaven makes Alexander look like Ben-Hur . (Since I liked Alexander , it’s
not as much of a stretch, but I’d say the same thing if I hated Alexander .) It’s got some
good action at the front and back, but in between makes no narrative sense. He’s training,
then he’s stranded, then he’s respected, then he’s looking for water, has a love affair and
then a big battle.
Obviously, any epic film has to cover a lot of story in a short time, but I could not see the
connections here. It just seemed like it was all setup for the big battle at the end. Actors
get to give big speeches and prance around in costume so they can win awards, but if you
don’t follow a human drama, it’s just CNN with CGI.
Balian isn’t trying to do anything.
He’s just dealing with whatever’s presented him, and that always erases the past. His
dead wife isn’t an issue after he meets his father, his father isn’t an issue after he becomes
a warlord. It doesn’t even seem like he wants to be a warlord. It’s just what’s there to do.
There’s no throughline.
Orlando Bloom as all the girls like him, topless, in Kingdom of Heaven
Photo provided by 20th Century Fox
Orlando Bloom does not carry the movie. From his ridiculous introduction to his “noble”
evolution, he’s just playing clichés. He’s overwrought with beaming eyes after his wife’s
death, and then an inspirational vocalist when he needs to be Braveheart. While killing a
priest with a fiery iron is cool, it’s just trying way too hard to be “intense” for this kind of
epic filmmaking.
There are some good parts to the film. The big battle has some cool moments, like
toppling towers and lots of fire. Still, it’s like every castle storming from Return of the
King to Timeline . The small fights are better than the big ones. There’s a great swordless
improv fight in the middle that’s just a brief encounter, but it has a beginning, middle and
end. That’s more than I can say for the film as a whole.
The training scene in the beginning is great, especially because it’s Liam Neeson in Qui
Gon mode. But Balian sure learns to fight well for only one lesson.
Seeing how people lived with wounds is cool. Hearing about fighting for two days with
an arrow through the testicle is badass. We should have seen things like that. They
showed the leper face but they can’t show an impaled nut sack?
You see sweeping shots of Ancient Jerusalem with moving people in them and you just
know it’s good CGI. You see big epic battles and costumes and sets and it’s just like,
“Yeah, they had high production value, but what did they do with it?” It’s not that we’ve
seen it so many times before. The good ones always stand out. It’s just that Kingdom of
Heaven is “Epics for Dummies.”
The film was so devoid of insight into its epic themes, I truly expected it to end with the
text, “And nothing bad ever happened in Jerusalem again.” Everything else is so shallow,
it would have fit perfectly.
'Kingdom of Heaven'
http://www.calendarlive.com/movies/reviews/cl-etkingdom6may06,1,3124091.story?coll=cl-movies-util
MOVIE REVIEWS
Ridley Scott did it. He made an epic film that speaks to our times.
By Kenneth Turan
Times Staff Writer
May 6, 2005
Jerusalem has the power to drive men mad.
It's the paradox of this city sacred to three great religions that there are those who would
kill to defend its holiness. That's as true today as it was nearly a thousand years ago,
when Pope Urban II's cry of "God wills it!" sent Europe's knights to the Middle East in a
series of bloody expeditions against Islam that we know as the Crusades.
Director Ridley Scott, long fascinated by knights, those heroic Boy Scouts of yore, has
made a film about not the entire two-century span of those invasions but rather a brief
and pointed moment between the Second and Third Crusades when the fate of Jerusalem
and the region hung in the balance.
Scott, the epic director of our time ("Gladiator," "Blade Runner," "Black Hawk Down"),
is not what you would call a political animal, but in "Kingdom of Heaven" he delivers
that rare big-star blockbuster (Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons top the
cast) that still manages to have something relevant to say.
Working from a strong script by William Monahan and making full use of that solid cast
and his own impeccable skill with imagery, Scott has fashioned an impressive film that
resonates with lessons for an age when Crusaders, this time in American uniforms, are
trying to save the Middle East from itself yet one more time.
Scott did not necessarily set out to do that. He wanted an action-adventure film that
would provide satisfactions commensurate with (and able to repay) its estimated $140million budget. He's provided huge battles, spectacular vistas and slash-and-burn action,
but given the times the film was made in, it is fortunate, and perhaps fated, that it turned
into something more.
"Kingdom of Heaven" is not one of those cheerful combat movies that believe
bloodletting is the answer to everything. It is a violent movie that laments a peace that
didn't last, a downbeat but compelling epic that looks to have lost faith in the value of
cinematic savagery for its own sake. If you combine this film with Scott's recent "Black
Hawk Down," you find the director in a place where he is no longer exulting in his ability
simply to put violence on screen; he wants you to feel its searing effects as well.
What Scott and screenwriter Monahan do believe in is the code of chivalry, the notion
that, as one character puts it, "holiness is in right action and courage on behalf of those
who cannot defend themselves." The knight who initially exemplifies these traits is
Godfrey of Ibelin (a powerful Neeson), a nobleman introduced returning to France in
1184 accompanied by a member of the military order of Hospitaler (David Thewlis).
Back in the East, Jerusalem has been under Crusader rule for nearly a century, but
Godfrey has returned on a personal mission: He wants to find a son he's never
acknowledged.
That would be humble blacksmith Balian (Bloom), who gets the news about his
parentage just as he's suffered a terrible personal tragedy. Godfrey asks his son to join
him in Jerusalem, "a new land at the end of the world" where "you are not who you are
born but who you can make yourself to be."
There wouldn't be much of a movie if Balian didn't decide to take the trip, but he is
initially more of a brooder — albeit a very masculine one — than a man of action. He
worries about his faith and the state of his soul, worries that he is "outside God's grace."
Truly, no one ever needed a new world more.
Once in Jerusalem, Balian follows his father's advice and aligns himself with the forces
of light. That would be King Baldwin IV (an especially effective Edward Norton), an
intrepid ruler so eaten away by leprosy he wears a silver mask over his face at all times,
and Tiberias (Irons), the man who runs the city for him.
Representing the dark side are the ambitious Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas) and the
wily Reynald de Chatillon (Brendan Gleeson, always irresistible). Bridging the gap
between good and evil is Sibylla (Eva Green of Bertolucci's "The Dreamers"), sister of
the king, wife of Guy and a woman who just happens to have a weakness for brooding
types newly arrived from France.
What makes the bad guys the bad guys, interestingly enough, is that they are aligned with
religious zealots who are sworn enemies of a fragile truce that has existed for a precious
few years under the sponsorship of Baldwin. His opposite number, the great general
Saladin, is a hero who faces equal pressures from fanatics on his side of the issue to go to
war for the greater glory of God.
Saladin is intensely played by the charismatic Ghassan Massoud, a major film star in his
native Syria. "Kingdom's" willingness to cast its net that far to ensure a strong
performance is a sign of how scrupulously careful the film has been to be fair to both
sides, not just for political reasons but to ensure good drama. It's a quest that has
succeeded on all counts.
William Monahan's script for "Kingdom of Heaven" is not always convincing, but
(except for liberties taken with Balian) it does a better-than-expected job of staying as
close as it could to the reality of its characters' lives while tailoring them to the needs of a
major motion picture. Howler lines like "I once fought two days with an arrow through
my testicles" are kept to a minimum, and the dialogue is largely intelligent and to the
point.
The star of "Kingdom of Heaven" is not the script or any of the actors, it is the director's
unmatched gift for the visual. Shooting in Morocco and Spain, he created a physical
replica of the walls of Jerusalem by using 6,000 tons of plaster, then he masterfully
tweaked the result with digital technology.
Working with editor Dody Dorn (who cut Christopher Nolan's very different "Memento")
and composer Harry Gregson-Williams, he knows just how to pace battle scenes, how to
intercut aerial master shots with intimate details, and he refuses to linger on the effects of
violence more than he has to.
Collaborating for not the first time with his key production crew — cinematographer
John Mathieson, production designer Arthur Max and costume designer Janty Yates —
Scott has accomplished the difficult feat of making his film look as real as it is exotic.
Scott and company have gotten so accomplished at re-creating history that the results
have a welcome offhanded quality, making them spectacular without seeming to be
showing off. No matter what we're looking at, we're thinking, "It must have looked like
that." For a film like "Kingdom of Heaven," a better compliment would be hard to find.
'Kingdom of Heaven'<./b>
MPAA rating: R for strong violence and epic warfare
Times guidelines: Considerable medieval combat violence
Released by 20th Century Fox. Director, producer Ridley Scott. Executive
producers Branko Lustig, Lisa Ellzey, Terry Needham. Screenplay William
Monahan. Cinematographer John Mathieson. Editor Dody Dorn. Costumes Janty
Yates. Music Harry Gregson-Williams. Production design Arthur Max. Running
time: 2 hours, 18 minutes. In general release.
If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives .
Article licensing and reprint options
Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times
May 6, 2005
MOVIE REVIEW | 'KINGDOM OF HEAVEN'
An Epic Bloodletting Empowered by Faith
By MANOHLA DARGIS
http://movies2.nytimes.com/2005/05/06/movies/06king.html
Near the end of "Kingdom of Heaven," a plaintive period epic from Ridley Scott about
the bloody orgies of piety known as the Crusades, the camera pulls back from the tumult
of battle. Perched on high, as if assuming the view of a passing bird or some divine being,
the camera looks down on a medieval scene that condenses the barbarism that has
consumed the previous two hours of screen time - the impaled flesh, the crushed bone,
the hollow and inflamed invocations of faith. From this great height, the Christian
crusaders and Muslim warriors below no longer look like men, like warring armies of
God, but bacteria under a microscope.
Outside of a couple of sneering papal emissaries, this high-flown image of men at war
comes about as close to real commentary on the Crusades as Mr. Scott gets in his
curiously disengaged film about the Christian incursion into the Holy Land. Written by a
newcomer, William Monahan, "Kingdom of Heaven" is an ostensibly fair-minded, evenhanded account of one of the least fair-minded, even-handed chapters in human history,
during which European Christians descended on the Middle East for more than 200 years.
Given the presumed lofty price tag of the film, its global reach and the current state of
world affairs, with warriors of different faiths and ideologies battling one another in the
name of God and terrorism, this vision of the Crusades is not that surprising. Paint a
majority religion with too damning a brush and you just may lose out on a nice chunk
of the international movie market.
The historian Robert Wolff has called the Crusades a "long chronicle of greed, stupidity,
treachery, duplicity and incompetence." Mr. Scott begins his chronicle in France,
sometime before the Third Crusade, circa the late 12th century, with a grieving
blacksmith, Balian, played by the young English actor Orlando Bloom, reuniting with a
father he never knew, Godfrey of Ibelin ( Liam Neeson ). En route to Jerusalem, where
he has long done his part for the holy war, Godfrey pauses to give his son both legitimacy
and a title. Initially reluctant, Balian acquiesces partly because his wife's recent death has
left him unmoored, partly because the law is hot on his heels, a story element that gives
Mr. Scott license to very quickly - to borrow a memorable phrase from the director's last
epic endeavor, "Gladiator" - "unleash hell."
Mr. Scott is a virtuoso of movie violence and he does not disappoint on that count here.
"Kingdom of Heaven" is filled with scene after scene of choreographed mayhem. Soon
after Balian and Godfrey join forces, accompanied by crusaders whose numbers include a
sword-swinging, rough-riding monk (a characteristically fine David Thewlis ), they are
beset by soldiers intent on bringing the blacksmith to justice. (Earlier, Balian both crosses
the law and proves his crusader mettle by tossing a man in an open fire.) Amid a storm of
very fast cuts and whiplash camera moves, sprays of blood and flying dirt, men meet one
another without mercy. One crusader tugs at an arrow buried deep in his torso while
another kneels, stunned in the dirt, gurgling blood with an arrow speared straight through
his neck.
After starting with a bang, Mr. Scott tries to keep us in his storytelling grip with many
more visceral, frenetically violent scenes. Soon after they meet, Balian and Godfrey part
ways and the son ends up sailing for the Middle East without his father. What follows is a
shipwreck and a desert fight to the death (there are neither safe landings nor safe harbors
in this part of the world), followed by a lull during which Balian grapples with a crisis in
faith. The death of his wife has made Balian question his belief in God, a crisis that
serves the character but robs the story of both narrative thrust and purpose, since it means
that "Kingdom of Heaven" is effectively a Crusades movie without a convincing
crusader.
Both believers and nonbelievers joined the Crusades, driven into the Middle East from
Europe by a variety of spiritual and political rationales. (One historian has called
crusading "an act of love.") Whether the Crusades were offensive or defensive campaigns
remains a matter of predictable dispute, though a dispute that seems - at least from this
angle - beside the point given the ghastly death toll. Whatever the case, Mr. Scott
carefully stacks his films with the righteous and the tolerant, keeping the real villains far
and few between. In this context, Balian initially comes across as a kind of ecumenical
Hamlet, pondering not death but belief, and then, when forced to protect Jerusalem
against Muslim troops, a proto Henry V who rallies the faithful with yet another iteration
of the St. Crispin Day's speech.
Mr. Bloom delivers this unpersuasive speech amid a climactic battle during which the
Muslim leader, Saladin, tries to wrest Jerusalem from Christian control. As played by the
Syrian film actor Ghassan Massoud, Saladin looks as cool as a long drink of water. (That
may explain online rumors that some Christians are up in metaphoric arms about the film,
though this Crusade couldn't be better timed if it had been dreamed up by studio
publicists.) With his creased cheeks and wind-snapped black robes, Mr. Massoud quietly
commands his scenes with a hushed intensity that serves as a relief to Mr. Bloom's
droopy sensitivity and much of the rest of the cast's gnashing and bellowing. Only an
entertaining Jeremy Irons , in the role of the Jerusalem king's closest adviser, has a role
juicy enough to withstand such furious scenery chewing.
How it all comes down will be familiar to students of religion and cinematic spectacles
alike. Mr. Scott and Mr. Monahan play fast and loose with facts and figures, but here the
chief difference between history and Hollywood is that there are few bad guys outside of
Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas), a baron whose dastardliness is immediately signaled
by his French accent. "Give me a war," he growls to his henchman, played by Brendan
Gleeson like some holy evil fool, complete with rolling eyeballs and a very strange dye
job. Mr. Gleeson and the unfortunately cast Eva Green, as Balian's hot-to-trot illicit love
interest, a desperate housewife who appears to live in some kind of fabulous day spa,
bring "Kingdom of Heaven" perilously close to camp, which is depressing for a
filmmaker of Mr. Scott's gifts.
Equally at home in the future and the past, Mr. Scott seems born to direct epics. His
ravishing visual style, characterized by a fetishistic attention to surface detail and
unrelenting beauty, can work wonders with big subjects, but this is also a director who
needs actors powerful enough to shoulder narrative and emotional extremes. One of the
reasons that "Gladiator" worked as well as it did is that its star, Russell Crowe , could
credibly put across one of Mr. Scott's typically anguished and existentially lonely heroes
while wearing a skirt and gargling some very unfortunate lines. It takes an actor as selfserious as Mr. Crowe to carry the weight of Mr. Scott's ambitions; it also takes a story
Mr. Scott himself can really believe in for the filmmaker to do the same.
"Kingdom of Heaven" is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult
guardian). The film contains a great deal of bloody violence with lots of impaled flesh
and a few decapitations, among other outrages. It also features some discreet lovemaking.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
calendarlive.com
http://www.calendarlive.com/movies/reviews/cl-etkingdom6may06,1,3124091.story?coll=cl-movies-top-right
MOVIE REVIEWS
'Kingdom of Heaven'
Ridley Scott did it. He made an epic film that speaks
to our times.
By Kenneth Turan
Times Staff Writer
May 6, 2005
Jerusalem has the power to drive men mad.
It's the paradox of this city sacred to three great
religions that there are those who would kill to defend
its holiness. That's as true today as it was nearly a
thousand years ago, when Pope Urban II's cry of "God
wills it!" sent Europe's knights to the Middle East in
a series of bloody expeditions against Islam that we
know as the Crusades.
Director Ridley Scott, long fascinated by knights,
those heroic Boy Scouts of yore, has made a film about
not the entire two-century span of those invasions but
rather a brief and pointed moment between the Second
and Third Crusades when the fate of Jerusalem and the
region hung in the balance.
Scott, the epic director of our time ("Gladiator,"
"Blade Runner," "Black Hawk Down"), is not what you
would call a political animal, but in "Kingdom of
Heaven" he delivers that rare big-star blockbuster
(Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons top the
cast) that still manages to have something relevant to
say.
Working from a strong script by William Monahan and
making full use of that solid cast and his own
impeccable skill with imagery, Scott has fashioned an
impressive film that resonates with lessons for an age
when Crusaders, this time in American uniforms, are
trying to save the Middle East from itself yet one more
time.
Scott did not necessarily set out to do that. He wanted
an action-adventure film that would provide
satisfactions commensurate with (and able to repay) its
estimated $140-million budget. He's provided huge
battles, spectacular vistas and slash-and-burn action,
but given the times the film was made in, it is
fortunate, and perhaps fated, that it turned into
something more.
"Kingdom of
movies that
everything.
that didn't
Heaven"
believe
It is a
last, a
is not one of those cheerful combat
bloodletting is the answer to
violent movie that laments a peace
downbeat but compelling epic that
looks to have lost faith in the value of cinematic
savagery for its own sake. If you combine this film
with Scott's recent "Black Hawk Down," you find the
director in a place where he is no longer exulting in
his ability simply to put violence on screen; he wants
you to feel its searing effects as well.
What Scott and screenwriter Monahan do believe in is
the code of chivalry, the notion that, as one character
puts it, "holiness is in right action and courage on
behalf of those who cannot defend themselves." The
knight who initially exemplifies these traits is
Godfrey of Ibelin (a powerful Neeson), a nobleman
introduced returning to France in 1184 accompanied by a
member of the military order of Hospitaler (David
Thewlis). Back in the East, Jerusalem has been under
Crusader rule for nearly a century, but Godfrey has
returned on a personal mission: He wants to find a son
he's never acknowledged.
That would be humble blacksmith Balian (Bloom), who
gets the news about his parentage just as he's suffered
a terrible personal tragedy. Godfrey asks his son to
join him in Jerusalem, "a new land at the end of the
world" where "you are not who you are born but who you
can make yourself to be."
There wouldn't be much of a movie if Balian didn't
decide to take the trip, but he is initially more of a
brooder — albeit a very masculine one — than a man of
action. He worries about his faith and the state of his
soul, worries that he is "outside God's grace." Truly,
no one ever needed a new world more.
Once in Jerusalem, Balian follows his father's advice
and aligns himself with the forces of light. That would
be King Baldwin IV (an especially effective Edward
Norton), an intrepid ruler so eaten away by leprosy he
wears a silver mask over his face at all times, and
Tiberias (Irons), the man who runs the city for him.
Representing the dark side are the ambitious Guy de
Lusignan (Marton Csokas) and the wily Reynald de
Chatillon (Brendan Gleeson, always irresistible).
Bridging the gap between good and evil is Sibylla (Eva
Green of Bertolucci's "The Dreamers"), sister of the
king, wife of Guy and a woman who just happens to have
a weakness for brooding types newly arrived from
France.
What makes the bad guys the bad guys, interestingly
enough, is that they are aligned with religious zealots
who are sworn enemies of a fragile truce that has
existed for a precious few years under the sponsorship
of Baldwin. His opposite number, the great general
Saladin, is a hero who faces equal pressures from
fanatics on his side of the issue to go to war for the
greater glory of God.
Saladin is intensely played by the charismatic Ghassan
Massoud, a major film star in his native Syria.
"Kingdom's" willingness to cast its net that far to
ensure a strong performance is a sign of how
scrupulously careful the film has been to be fair to
both sides, not just for political reasons but to
ensure good drama. It's a quest that has succeeded on
all counts.
William Monahan's script for "Kingdom of Heaven" is not
always convincing, but (except for liberties taken with
Balian) it does a better-than-expected job of staying
as close as it could to the reality of its characters'
lives while tailoring them to the needs of a major
motion picture. Howler lines like "I once fought two
days with an arrow through my testicles" are kept to a
minimum, and the dialogue is largely intelligent and to
the point.
The star of "Kingdom of Heaven" is not the script or
any of the actors, it is the director's unmatched gift
for the visual. Shooting in Morocco and Spain, he
created a physical replica of the walls of Jerusalem by
using 6,000 tons of plaster, then he masterfully
tweaked the result with digital technology.
Working with editor Dody Dorn (who cut Christopher
Nolan's very different "Memento") and composer Harry
Gregson-Williams, he knows just how to pace battle
scenes, how to intercut aerial master shots with
intimate details, and he refuses to linger on the
effects of violence more than he has to.
Collaborating for not the first time with his key
production crew — cinematographer John Mathieson,
production designer Arthur Max and costume designer
Janty Yates — Scott has accomplished the difficult feat
of making his film look as real as it is exotic.
Scott and company have gotten so accomplished at recreating history that the results have a welcome
offhanded quality, making them spectacular without
seeming to be showing off. No matter what we're looking
at, we're thinking, "It must have looked like that."
For a film like "Kingdom of Heaven," a better
compliment would be hard to find.
'Kingdom of Heaven'<./b>
MPAA rating: R for strong violence and epic warfare
Times guidelines: Considerable medieval combat violence
Released by 20th Century Fox. Director, producer Ridley
Scott. Executive producers Branko Lustig, Lisa Ellzey,
Terry Needham. Screenplay William Monahan.
Cinematographer John Mathieson. Editor Dody Dorn.
Costumes Janty Yates. Music Harry Gregson-Williams.
Production design Arthur Max. Running time: 2 hours, 18
minutes. In general release.
If you want other stories on this topic, search the
Archives at latimes.com/archives.
TMS Reprints
Article licensing and reprint options
Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times
MAY 6 - 12, 2005
O Jerusalem
Ridley Scott goes medieval on us
by SCOTT FOUNDAS
(Photo by David Appleby)
In its depiction of a fleeting, but nevertheless
factual, peace in the Middle East, Ridley Scott’s
Kingdom of Heaven may seem a more quixotic Hollywood
fantasy than all six Star Wars movies lumped together.
The time is the late 12th century, between the second
and third Crusades, and the place is Jerusalem, where
an uneasy truce has been struck between the leper King
Baldwin IV (Edward Norton, his face concealed beneath a
smooth, silvery mask) and the fearsome Muslim leader
Saladin (Syrian actor Ghassan Masoud). But under
pressure from extremists on both sides — chief among
them, Baldwin’s warmongering would-be successor, Guy de
Lusignan (Martin Csokas) — the détente proves shortlived. Evidence that, where men and holy lands are
concerned, the more things change, the more they remain
the same.
The model for Scott’s new film (visually and
thematically) is in many ways his beautiful and absurd
debut feature, The Duelists, in which Joseph Conrad’s
feuding Napoleonic soldiers pursued each other across
great canvases of space and time until the cause of
their initial conflict had become irretrievably
blurred. In Kingdom of Heaven, the dynamic is different
— Baldwin and Saladin can conceive of the peace, though
their armies cannot — but the point is fundamentally
the same: The battle rages on because it is all that
the combatants can conceive of. Forthrightly and
unapologetically, Scott and his screenwriter, William
Monahan, have positioned Kingdom of Heaven as a tract
against religious intolerance, rife with philosophizing
about the consequences of acts committed in God’s name
that sounds decidedly more modern than medieval. (“We
fight for an offense we did not give against those who
were not alive to be offended,” reasons one of the
film’s Christian knights — an aphorism one could easily
imagine popping up in a late-period Godard film.)
I should add that Kingdom of Heaven, for all its
unusual (for Hollywood) polemical stance, remains an
expensive, multinational product made somewhat by
committee and designed for mass consumption by the
largest possible audience. Throughout the film, you
sense how Scott’s native intelligence and fanatical
fascination with the period are at odds with a
Hollywood superego telling him that the story must
contain a reluctant warrior hero (Orlando Bloom, as the
blacksmith-turned-knight Balian), a beautiful love
interest (sultry Eva Green as Baldwin’s sister,
Sibylla) and not one but two of those faux St.
Crispin’s Day speeches delivered by said hero on the
eve of battle. (Which is to say nothing of the de
rigueur boiling down of complex political relationships
into easily digestible morsels of good and evil.)
But if the compromises are manifold, they’re not nearly
as many as they might have been, resulting in a
tempered, thoughtful piece of mainstream entertainment
that few will confuse with Andrei Rublev, but which may
nevertheless disappoint those who are expecting
Gladiator II — which, in case you haven’t caught my
drift, I intend as a compliment. As Balian, Bloom is
more minimus than Maximus, possessing about as much
native authority as a postal clerk, and he’s effective
for that very reason — even though we know he must
eventually rise to the occasion against Saladin’s
encroaching hordes, Bloom almost convinces us that he
might, at any given moment, pack it all in and head
back to the iron forge. And while Scott still can stage
a battle sequence on par with the best of them, in
Kingdom of Heaven he spends as much or more time
burying us in the aftermath of such engagements, opting
to keep one major confrontation (the bloody Battle of
Hattin) entirely offscreen. Even once we arrive at the
climactic (and very bloody) siege of Jerusalem, Scott
makes us feel the full moral weight of the blows landed
by swords, arrows and giant pots of boiling oil. By
doing so, he guarantees that the provocative question
(and ambiguous answer) voiced late in Kingdom of Heaven
will reverberate that much more troublingly into the
night: “What is Jerusalem worth? Everything. Nothing.”
http://www.laweekly.com/ink/05/24/film-foundas.php
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN | Produced and directed by RIDLEY
SCOTT | Written by WILLIAM MONAHAN | Released by 20th
Century Fox | Citywide
PERSONAL BATTLES
by ANTHONY LANE
“Kingdom of Heaven” and “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the
Galaxy.”
Issue of 2005-05-09
Posted 2005-05-02
http://www.newyorker.com/critics/cinema/articles/050509
crci_cinema
Here’s a tough one. Why should “Gladiator” be such a
storm of a movie and “Kingdom of Heaven” such a damp
gust? After all, they share a fine director, Ridley
Scott. Both are set in distant lands: the first in
ancient Rome, the second in the heat of the Crusades.
Both feature a hero who battles for his honor against
resplendent villains. Both start with a dusting of
snow. And both introduce, by way of inventive weaponry,
great balls of fire.
One day, in the year 1186, Godfrey, Baron of Ibelin
(Liam Neeson), stops by a French village to inform the
local blacksmith that he is a complete bastard. To be
precise, he is Godfrey’s bastard, and now his rightful
heir. This is news to the blacksmith, the humble Balian
(Orlando Bloom), who nevertheless drops the horseshoe
he’s working on and accepts his father’s offer of a
trip to Jerusalem—all expenses paid, annihilation more
or less guaranteed. Why does Balian do this? His
religious faith is as watery as his bloodthirst, and he
seems unswayed by riches and reputation. We do know
that his wife committed suicide, and that he is seeking
some form of atonement, or peace, but that is a
dangerously spectral motive with which to fuel more
than two and a half hours of epic. Contrast, again, the
armored certainties of “Gladiator”: Russell Crowe, too,
was a widower, but his wife had been slain on the
orders of the new emperor, and so his path to revenge
lay clear before our eyes.
Holy Crap
The empire strikes back: Uneasy nods to contemporary
politics is all this Heaven knows
http://www.villagevoice.com/film/0518,atkinson1,63635,2
0.html
by Michael Atkinson
May 3rd, 2005 4:34 PM
write to us
e-mail story
printer friendly
Colt 1185: Bloom
photo: David Appleby
Kingdom of Heaven
Directed by Ridley Scott
20th Century Fox
Opens May 6
What more spectacular and reverent way to celebrate the
selection of the world's richest and most sanctimonious
corporation's new puppethead than release a Hollywood
softball epic about the Crusades? Deus lo volt, as the
knights used to cry. Untold millions of slaughtered
infidels later, President Bush announces his "crusade"
against Muslim terrorists, the Islamic and secular
worlds go apeshit over the reference, and Ridley Scott
says, Eureka! The time is right! Kingdom of Heaven is
well aware of the sociopolitical slag pit into which it
plops, and the movie does what any self-respecting
politician would do: sidestep the issues, soft-pedal
mortal costs, talk a fat game, and divert your
attention away from history with exercises in spectacle
and power.
As the Second Crusade's brooding Luke Skywalker, the
blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) is soon distracted
from the funk over his dead wife and child by a
Crusading Baron (Liam Neeson) passing through, who
informs our expressionless hero that he had raped
Balian's mother and is the lad's father, and why not
come with him to Jerusalem—declared more than once as
some kind of "new world!" After skewering a scummy
priest, Balian accepts and even submits to an Obi-Wan
swordsmanship lesson in the blue forests of Gladiator,
before entering the digitized walls of the Holy City
proper. From there, we're dawdling around in a
calamitous three-year period beginning in 1184, when
the city was ruled by Baldwin IV the Leper King (Edward
Norton, behind a mask), who maintained an uneasy truce
with Muslim leader Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). "Peace,"
we're told, "reigns between Muslim and Christian!" This
utopian fantasy doesn't last long, thanks to the lessdevout-than-power-mad Reynald (Brendan Gleeson) and Guy
de Lusignan (Marton Csokas), the designated evil
Templars. (The presence of an obnoxious French knight
only reinspires memories of the Pythons amid the
Scottish mist.) Bloom and Jeremy Irons, who gets the
Dafoe-in-Platoon, we-were-fighting-for-something-once
speech, represent the liberal garde. The simplistic
narrative cosmology drags on the eyelids like a covert
Star Wars sequel.
For the most part, Kingdom of Heaven is stupefyingly
dull; the naturally dramatic material is reduced to
vapid gazes, monosyllabic declarations, and aeons of
sword-clanging combat, dolled up with every shuddery
slo-mo post-production gimmick on Scott's state-of-theart hard drive. His film, containing not so much as a
single undoctored sunset, has as much human humor and
energy as a car commercial, a Sir Ridley specialty.
(Bloom is no help; his earnest emptiness makes oldschool costume vet Victor Mature look like Jim Carrey.
What wouldn't we give for Angelina Jolie and a snake?)
In fact, the unfettered passion on display for
monstrous marching hordes, army formations, and
computer- generated masses (occasionally seeming to use
programming left over from
The Return of the King) suggests a fascist or at least
newly Riefenstahlian perspective.
But getting to the bone of the matter, Scott's movie
grabs a hold of this lit-dynamite "crusade" business
rather delicately. On one hand, Kingdom of Heaven is
ostensibly secular, left-leaning, and almost
anticlerical—the greatest vehemence is reserved for
weaselly bishops. Saladin and his Muslims are noble,
tolerant, and pragmatic, and in a telling reversal, the
catapult-shelling of Jerusalem is as close to the fullon bombing of Baghdad as American audiences will ever
have to tolerate.
Mountains of Muslims die anyway, of course, which is
regarded as the price of event moviemaking as well as
empire. Balian, playing down party affiliation like a
congressman in TV ads, inspires the civilian
Jerusalemites to fight with heroic rationalizations
like "None of us took this city from the Muslims!"
Well, in that case . . . Not that second-generation
Israelis aren't prone to saying similar things. Can you
make a film about the Crusades and pretend that the
Christian invaders aren't mortally responsible for the
world's longest-running imperialistic carnage? Or that
the culpability doesn't matter? Perhaps screenwriter
William Monahan appreciated the nuanced moral vacuum
produced by Schindler's List, the American Holocaust
movie with a sensitive Nazi for a hero and a sense of
guiltless salvation that's palatable in public schools
from Southampton to Seattle.
"Who has claim?" Balian hollers late in the fray—
implying that no one does, and that Jerusalem is only a
few weapon surrenders from being Mr. Rogers's
Neighborhood. The optimism is touching, but it's hard
to say that Scott has, in the end, made an anti-war
film. It's just anti-reality.
..
Kingdom Of Heaven
http://www.ew.com/ew/article/review/movie/0,6115,105746
8_1_0_,00.html
Reviewed by Owen Gleiberman
CAPED CRUSADERS Bloom gets his hero on as the savior of
Scott's epic
CAPED CRUSADERS Bloom gets his hero on as the savior of
Scott's epic
In Kingdom of Heaven, Ridley Scott's handsome but
curiously remote Crusades epic, the bloody holy war
between Christians and Muslims surges forth with the
boiling logistical fury we've come to expect from films
that feature a cast of digital thousands. Men in chainmail armor, their white shields marked by a blood-red
cross, raise their broadswords and hack away in
righteous wrath. A shower of arrows fills the sky like
horizontal rain, and catapults hurl flaming rocks over
the walls of Jerusalem, as men, one by one, attempt to
scale those walls, only to be drenched by buckets of
gloppy thick oil. Giant wooden towers fall, the same
spectacular way they did in The Lord of the Rings, and
you can just about see every soldier inside. It's all
very teeming and hordelike and impressive.
When you hire Ridley Scott to direct an oversize
medieval war movie, there's one thing you needn't worry
about: The money will be there on screen. Yet as I
watched Kingdom of Heaven, a thought — a question —
opened up in front of me like a dramatic-existential
abyss: Who, or what, exactly was I rooting for? In
1184, Balian (Orlando Bloom), a young French blacksmith
with a noble wisp of beard, is drawn into the orbit of
his father (Liam Neeson), a righteous Crusader who
leads him to Jerusalem, the city of hallowed ground and
sacred stones that the Christians took from the Muslims
a hundred years before. The movie views both sides as
equal in their idealism, with one or two bad apples on
each team spoiling things for everybody.
The Muslims, led by the fierce and honorable desert
warrior Saladin (Ghassan Massoud), have ample motive
for their aggression: A band of Christian soldiers
struck them first. (Okay, they want Jerusalem back as
well.) So God be with the Muslims! You must understand,
however, that the Christians didn't really mean it — at
least, not the devout mass led by Balian, the valiant
knight whose dream is to preserve the city as a
''kingdom of Heaven,'' a multiculti paradise where
Christians, Muslims, and Jews can all live and worship
together. The temples and the shrines mean nothing to
him, at least compared to the innocent civilians
inside. So God be with the Christians, too!
Watching Kingdom of Heaven, I could feel my liberal
empathy overflowing, to the point that I realized I was
rooting for everyone on screen to rise up and defeat
everyone else. That's not a feeling I would equate with
excitement, but then, it's not every war movie that can
turn the most gruesome sustained rampage in the history
of mankind into a misunderstanding between rival
peaceniks. Kingdom of Heaven is obviously meant to be
an allegory of our current global religious clashes,
but Scott, working from a script by William Monahan, is
so busy balancing our sympathies, making sure no one
gets offended, that he has made a pageant of war that
would have gotten a thumbs-up from Eleanor Roosevelt.
At the center of Gladiator, Scott's previous ancient
action spectacle, was Russell Crowe, the thinking man's
bruiser, slashing all comers in the Colosseum,
dominating the world with his molten contempt. It would
be an understatement, though, to say that Orlando Bloom
doesn't look like he has combat (or much of anything
else) on his mind. Bloom has fine soft features, a
liltingly ''literate'' accent, and the passive, neutral
demeanor of a page boy impersonating a warrior. Just
about everybody who lays eyes on him recognizes Balian
as his father's son, yet how can they tell? Liam Neeson
is full of dark fire, but Bloom is like invisible ink
on screen. The closest thing to religious fervor that
he has ever inspired is the passion of magazine editors
in search of a hunkalicious new movie-star-of-themonth.
Shot for shot, Kingdom of Heaven is infused with
Scott's lyric technological grandeur, yet it lacks the
entertaining vigor of political gamesmanship. When
Balian arrives in Jerusalem, it's like the Land of
Actors With Speaking Parts, except that none of them
are developed. Jeremy Irons as the noble Tiberias,
Marton Csokas as the treacherous baron Guy de Lusignan,
Eva Green as his sexy, suffering wife, who strays to be
with Balian — what should have been a tasty soap opera
of power never quite comes to life. Scott does achieve
something indelible in his portrait of the Christian
king Baldwin IV, a tender-souled leper who never
removes his mask. His mournful, faintly disembodied
voice — an uncredited Edward Norton — is spookier than
anything in the recent Phantom of the Opera. He's the
soul of the movie, all right: a gentleman trying to
halt a turf war. What's missing from Kingdom of Heaven
is the unholy madness of the Crusades — the violence of
men who, in their zealous desire to smite sin, were
only too willing to turn themselves into apostles of
blood.
This void at the core of “Kingdom of Heaven” would not
matter, perhaps, if our hero was large enough to fill
it. Sadly, Balian is not that filler. He comes across
more as a fellow to whom things happen than as somebody
who can wrest events to his will. Shipwrecked on the
shores of the Holy Land, he is bereaved of his father,
recruited by Tiberias (Jeremy Irons), who is the
military adviser to the King of Jerusalem, and seduced
by the King’s sister, Princess Sibylla (Eva Green), and
her massed ranks of mascara. From here, Balian becomes
fouled in a net of feuding, involving the King himself
(a leper in a metal mask); the great Saladin (Ghassan
Massoud), with whom there is a temporary truce; Guy de
Lusignan (Marton Csokas), Sibylla’s caddish husband;
and the frankly animal Reynald de Châtillon (Brendan
Gleeson). There really was such a beast, although
whether his warlike locks were truly tipped with hot
pink, so that he resembled an inflatable Christina
Aguilera, only chroniclers of the time can confirm. And
there really was a Balian of Ibelin, who did indeed
wind up, as the movie demonstrates, commanding
Jerusalem when it fell to Saladin in October, 1187.
Whether viewers will be content to see their hero
agreeing to terms of surrender, rather than battling to
the death, is open to debate; the fact that he does so
for the safety of his citizens proves how politically
nervous “Kingdom of Heaven” is. Scott plainly wants to
provoke comparisons with the religious loggerheads of
today, and to fire us with the swordplay of the
faithful. At the same time, he and his screenwriter,
William Monahan, take desperate care not to offend,
alighting on a lull between the Second and Third
Crusades when Christians and Muslims were in chivalrous
equipoise, and loading the saner characters with just
enough historical prescience to deconstruct their own
folly. “I thought we were fighting for God. Then I
realized we were fighting for wealth and land,” a
rueful Tiberias says. Even more self-chastening is the
dying Godfrey, who advises his son to become “not what
you were born but what you have it in yourself to be.”
Having barely studied the period, I hadn’t realized
that twelfth-century nobles favored the rhetoric of a
miked-up Tony Robbins.
What cripples “Kingdom of Heaven” is its want of a
beat—a basic pulse of expectation that would urge us to
stand at Balian’s side and to wonder, like him, what
lies over the crest ahead. This being a Ridley Scott
project, there are moments of deep bewitchment, as when
Balian sits in the falling dark, on the hill of
Calvary, and ponders his next move. So why not stay
with it for a while, as David Lean did in “Lawrence of
Arabia,” when Peter O’Toole sifted sand through his
fingers and thought through his plan for Aqaba? Scott’s
movie feels at once lengthy and rushed, and, to be
blunt, Orlando Bloom is no Peter O’Toole. Bloom’s
Legolas, in “The Lord of the Rings,” was cool and
winning because of the grace with which he slid and
breezed through every manner of peril, including a herd
of berserk pachyderms. But Balian should signal goodbye
to all that; the movie wants him bruised in body and
agonized of spirit. Instead, what do we get? A lightfooted lad, still part elf, who rouses the tremulous
defenders of Jerusalem with all the assurance of a head
prefect addressing a school assembly.
This is scarcely Bloom’s fault; he just doesn’t have
the build, or the banter, of a leading hunk, and thus
he joins the list of Hollywood stars, headed by
Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, who remain,
whatever the squeals of their fan club, a bunch of
kids. As with Tom Cruise, the überkid, there’s
something ungrounded about them, a reluctance to verse
themselves in the ways of the world. As the age of the
target audience drops, so Hollywood has taken to
plucking its principal actors from that same bracket,
scared that older or wiser men would set too high an
example—that their aura of experience might be
construed as an insult. It’s unfair to plant Orlando
Bloom in the center of Jerusalem and to assume that his
exertions will inspire the rest of the cast; in the
event, listlessness is rife, with even the dependable
Brendan Gleeson resorting to ham. One imagined that a
movie about the Crusades would be gallant and mad; one
feared that it might stoke some antiquated prejudice.
But who could have dreamed that it would produce this
rambling, hollow show about a boy?
It was inevitable that
Galaxy” would become a
of other things to be.
series on the BBC, “in
“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the
film, because it was running out
It started in 1978 as a radio
a huge blaze of no publicity at
all.” Those were the words—typically modest and
resigned, with a twist of exasperation—of its creator,
Douglas Adams. Word of mouth was persistent, rumor
swelled to a cult, and Adams recast the series as a
novel (No. 1 in “The Trilogy of Four”), which was
published the following year. A television version was
broadcast in 1981, and the long grind toward a movie
began. Adams died four years ago in Santa Barbara, of a
heart attack, at the ridiculous age of forty-nine. Let
us hope that the strain of adjusting to the world of
movie adaptation—a world less breathable than any of
the planets identified in his work, including Kakrafoon
and Golgafrinchan—was not a contributory cause.
There will be two completely separate and, I might add,
mutually hostile audiences for the resulting film. One
will be composed of “Hitchhiker” fans, millions strong,
who will interpret every minute discrepancy between
what they are watching onscreen and what they once read
on the page as a heresy punishable by law or, where
possible, stoning. These people are lunatics, and I am
one of them. Opposing us will be hordes of decent,
ungeeky humans who will be bewildered and patchily
amused by the tale of Arthur Dent and his voyage among
the stars. Arthur (Martin Freeman) is an Englishman
whose concern for his house, which is about to be
demolished to make way for a bypass, is overtaken by
his concern for the earth, which is about to be
demolished by alien busybodies to make way for a
hyperspatial express route.
From this initial conceit springs the rest of the
“Hitchhiker” plot, in which Arthur and his friend Ford
Prefect (Mos Def), who appears human but hails from
somewhere near Betelgeuse, hitch a ride through the
interstellar void. And from the opening, too, flows the
wry, consoling tone that Adams made his own: the
thought that, however many light-years you travel, and
however repellent or majestic the creatures that cross
your path, your reaction will be much the same blend of
tetchiness, confusion, mild lust, and nervous laughter
that prevailed in your everyday life. Adams, in short,
domesticated space. I had heard that the movie was a
wizened mockery of the original, so it was a pleasant
shock to find just how many of the brightest jokes
remain; one of the best, in which an entire
intergalactic battle fleet is swallowed by a small dog,
“due to a terrible miscalculation of scale,” is
declaimed during the final credits, as if nobody could
bear to leave it out. The problem is not that the film
debases the book but that movies themselves are too
capacious a home for such comedy, with its tea-steeped
English musings and its love of bitty, tangential gags.
The demand for the literal, too, seems overwrought; a
leading character with two heads became, in Adams’s
hands, a sustained joke about split personality,
whereas here he’s merely a job for special effects. As
radio listeners, we couldn’t believe our ears. These
days, as hoary old moviegoers, we shrug, and believe
our eyes.
washingtonpost.com
Hollywood on Crusade
With His Historical Epic, Ridley Scott Hurtles Into
Vexing, Volatile Territory
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2005/04/29/AR2005042900744.html
By Bob Thompson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 1, 2005; N01
PASADENA, Calif. It's Muslims against Christians, and
right now the Muslims are winning. Great balls of Greek
fire float through the night sky, then explode on the
battlements of Jerusalem. Screaming Muslim attackers
batter down a section of the city's wall. Howling
Christian defenders hurl themselves into the breach.
Swords slash. Blood gushes.
Sir Ridley Scott has invaded the Middle East. Can this
be a good thing for Western civilization?
On Friday, the British director's $130 million Crusader
epic "Kingdom of Heaven" -- which previewed at
Pasadena's Pacific Paseo theater last month -- is
scheduled to open in about 8,000 theaters worldwide. In
less troubled times, a violent costume drama set in
1187 might not seem any more relevant than, say, a
fantasy trilogy set in the third age of Middle Earth.
Yet after Sept. 11, 2001, and the American invasions of
Afghanistan and Iraq, historical antecedents of this
kind of East-West conflict can feel extremely timely.
Five days after the attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon, President Bush called for a "crusade"
against terrorism. He was widely chastised for using a
word that carries major negative connotations in the
lands the original Crusaders set out to conquer.
Words matter -- but these days, pictures matter more.
When it comes to shaping public understanding of the
Crusading era and its legacy, the Hollywood version
could have more impact than a thousand books. This is
why, long before Scott had even finished his movie, it
was being attacked by people who feared the fallout
"Kingdom of Heaven" might produce.
They didn't always fear the same kind of fallout,
though.
"It's Osama bin Laden's version of history. It will
fuel the Islamic fundamentalists," the eminent Crusades
historian Jonathan Riley-Smith of Cambridge University
complained to the Telegraph in January 2004 after
encountering some initial PR for the film.
"I believe this movie teaches people to hate Muslims,"
UCLA Islamic law professor Khaled Abou El Fadl told the
New York Times in August after reading a script the
newspaper had provided, which he saw as riddled with
stereotypes.
Scott says he was "dismayed and irritated" by these
attacks, especially Riley-Smith's. "How can a historian
say that?" he complains. "That's like me being a
specialist telling you you've got [bleeping] cancer and
I haven't examined you."
Coming soon, then, to a theater near you: Hollywood
meets history -- and the bloody 12th century meets the
bloody 21st.
'In the Shadow of 9/11'
Ridley Scott's original idea wasn't to make a
controversial Crusades film. He just wanted to make a
movie about a knight .
The director of "Alien," "Blade Runner," "Thelma &amp;
Louise," "Gladiator" and "Black Hawk Down" has reddish
hair, a whitening beard -- he's 67 -- and, on this
azure California morning, the resigned expression of a
man who'd much rather be sweating it out on location in
Morocco than trapped in a luxury hotel with the
entertainment press.
Born in England in 1937, Scott says he grew up
worshiping John Wayne and Charlton Heston. In art
school he affected Gauloises cigarettes and got drunk
on Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa -- artists who, he
says, "don't just consider the material, they consider
what light is on the tree in the background." With both
Hollywood and alternative cinema as part of what he
calls his "DNA," he has combined formula moviemaking
with a rich, frame-packing visual style that's kept him
in demand since his first feature, "The Duellists,"
appeared in 1977.
He always knew, he says, that he wanted to make films
about what he calls the "iconic figures" so beloved of
Hollywood: outsiders who "sit on the cutting edge of
society" and develop their own special ethical codes.
Cops, for example, or cowboys. Or those medieval dudes
with the heavy-metal body suits and codes of chivalry.
In the fall of 2001, after some false starts, it
finally started to happen.
Scott was working on a different project with
screenwriter William Monahan when he raised the
subject. "I said, 'What do you know about knights,' "
Scott recalls, "and he said, 'In armor? Hard armor or
chain mail?' " The director laughs. He knew he'd found
his man.
This conversation occurred "in the shadow of 9/11," he
says. He's sure his knight film would have happened
with or without that cataclysm or the wars that
followed it -- but he also says that 9/11, and the
strong reaction to Bush's crusade remark, was part of
the reason he decided not to put the word in its title.
It was still going to be set during the Crusades,
however. This was Monahan's doing. The screenwriter had
argued that these hard-fought holy wars would offer the
most dramatic context in which to develop Scott's
knightly hero.
But which Crusade? History gave them a lot of options.
The historical Crusades were varied and complex, and
they're difficult for a modern nonspecialist to keep
straight. The Crusading era began on Nov. 27, 1095,
when Pope Urban II -- sketching a horrifying though
largely fictional portrait of Muslim crimes against
eastern Christians -- called for armed volunteers to
perform an act of penance that would help them achieve
salvation. They were to march to the aid of their
Orthodox brethren in Constantinople -- who'd asked for
help fending off the Seljuk Turks -- and, while they
were at it, take back the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.
The end of the movement has often been dated to the
fall of the last mainland Crusader bastion in the
Middle East in 1291. Many historians find this
definition too narrow, because it leaves out various
later efforts, not to mention the closer-to-home
Crusades proclaimed against assorted European pagans,
heretics and political enemies of the papacy. But never
mind all that: 20th Century Fox wasn't going to fund a
Ridley Scott extravaganza on the Albigensian Crusade or
the War of the Sicilian Vespers.
The filmmakers could have opted for the chaotic but
triumphant First Crusade, which culminated in 1099 as
Jerusalem fell to the Christian soldiers after 461
years of Muslim rule. A small problem: They'd have had
to deal with the tendency of those pioneering Crusaders
to slaughter European Jews on their way east, and with
the brutal massacre of Jerusalem's Muslims and Jews
after the Christian victory.
They could have gone for the Fourth Crusade, a wildly
misbegotten venture that ended with the western
Christian army fighting not Muslims in Palestine but
Orthodox Christians in Constantinople (which they
ruthlessly sacked). Or they could have picked the muchchronicled Third Crusade, in which England's King
Richard the Lionhearted faced off against the legendary
Salah al-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, better known as Saladin,
the Kurdish-born leader who had recently united the
Muslims of Egypt and Syria.
As it happened, however, Scott and Monahan settled on a
dramatic period just before the Third Crusade, when the
feuding Crusader barons of what had become known as the
Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem were forced to confront the
growing power of Saladin. King Richard gets only a late
cameo. The film's hero is Balian of Ibelin, a Latin
Kingdom baron whose historical claim to fame is that he
led the defense of Jerusalem against Saladin.
An unintended consequence of this choice was a charge
by author James Reston Jr. that Scott, Monahan and Fox
had appropriated portions of his 2001 book "Warriors of
God," a popular history of the Third Crusade whose
opening chapters highlight many of the same dramatis
personae as the film. Reston's book experienced a spike
in sales after 9/11 and was optioned by veteran
producer Mike Medavoy of Phoenix Pictures. Medavoy, in
turn, sent it to Scott, who was known to be interested
in the topic.
Reston and his lawyers have threatened to sue.
Fox, Scott and Monahan have denied the charge. "There
was no
infringement, period," Monahan wrote in an e-mail.
"I've been familiar with the fall of the Latin Kingdom
for thirty-odd years."
A more positive consequence of choosing this slice of
history was that since Balian's was a name few
moviegoers would know, the filmmakers could turn him
into whatever kind of hero they chose. They turned him
into Orlando Bloom, wielding a broadsword this time
instead of the elfish bow he carried in "Lord of the
Rings."
He also got a wholly fictional back story -- and a
distinctly non-12th-century point of view.
'I Put No Stock in Religion'
Balian is a man on a mission. A French blacksmith whose
beloved wife has just committed suicide, he kills an
evil priest who disrespects the dead woman, then heads
for Jerusalem. He hopes to atone for both her sin and
his, but, pilgrimage complete, his prayers go
unanswered.
"It seems I've lost my religion," he tells a companion,
a member of an order of fighting monks called the
Hospitallers who serves as his spiritual guide.
"I put no stock in religion," the Hospitaller replies.
"In the word 'religion' I've seen the lunacy of
fanatics of every denomination before the will of God."
Holiness, he explains, is to be found "in right action
and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend
themselves."
These are words to live by. Balian, who's been made a
knight by now, aligns himself with the faction in
Jerusalem that believes in coexisting peacefully with
Muslims. In the small fiefdom he has implausibly
inherited from his long-lost father, he rolls up his
sleeves to help his combined Muslim, Christian and
Jewish workforce make the desert bloom. When war breaks
out and some poor folk are in danger of being overrun
by Saladin's cavalry, he leads a seemingly hopeless
charge to save them.
Oh, and he's in love with the Queen of Jerusalem, and
she with him, but he refuses to allow her scummy
warmonger of a husband to be killed so he can marry
into the throne himself. Predictably, Saladin and the
Latin Kingdom are soon at war, though Saladin -- played
with craggy-faced gravitas by the Syrian actor and
director Ghassan Massoud, who makes Bloom look about 12
years old -- has to be provoked into it.
What's wrong with this picture, from a historical point
of view?
It's hard to know where to start. So let's begin with
the good news.
"I think it does a very, very good job of presenting
the material texture and look of life in the Middle
Ages," says Nancy Caciola, who teaches medieval history
at the University of California, San Diego, and whom
Fox hired to come to Pasadena and talk with reporters.
Caciola particularly likes the fact that Scott's
Jerusalem is "dusty, filled with vendors, filled with
animals and carts -- you know, not a pristine-looking
place."
"Visually, it's stunning. The battle scenes looked
great," says the University of London's Jonathan
Phillips, author of "The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of
Constantinople," who recently was invited to see
portions of the film and hear Scott hold forth about
it.
And yet: "When he was giving the preview talk,"
Phillips says, "he put a great emphasis on the amount
of research that went into it. I appreciate that to
make a movie for a mass audience you have to take
liberties -- but you should admit it."
The small and mid-size inaccuracies are numerous. To
take just one example: "The love story is a nonstarter," Phillips says. The real queen was devoted to
her husband, who, while certainly no prize, wasn't the
meatheaded ogre the film makes him out to be.
To be fair, Scott does admit some of these things. "We
cheated a little bit," he'll say about a modest
manipulation of chronology for dramatic purposes, or
about a biographical inaccuracy in the way his movie
ends. "I don't think anyone historically, really,
except historians, cares."
He's probably right. But Caciola, Phillips and other
historians with knowledge of the period care less about
this level of historical misdemeanor than what they see
as a series of felonies against the past.
Take the skeptical attitude that Bloom's character and
the film as a whole display toward religion. "God will
understand," Balian says at one point, "and if He
doesn't, then He is not God." Says Caciola: "I just
don't think that that is the way medieval people
thought." As for what Scott describes as his hero's
permanent descent into agnosticism, Saint
Louis University historian Thomas Madden will have none
of it. In the Middle Ages, Madden says, losing faith in
God would be seen as a form of insanity.
Take the multicultural paradise Balian and his allies
are shown trying to build in Jerusalem. It's true that
the city's Christian overlords permitted their Muslim
subjects to worship freely, just as the Muslims had
allowed Christians to do when Jerusalem was in their
hands. But this was ruling-class pragmatism, nothing
more. Tolerant religious pluralism as a value system
is, in Caciola's words, "a post-Enlightenment
construct."
Or take the film's portrait of a patient, beneficent
Saladin who shares Balian's utopian dreams: "The major
problem I have is Saladin," Phillips says. "Yes, he is
an honorable man," as the film portrays him. But that
hardly means he wants a permanent peace. If he doesn't
expel the Christians, "he will lose all his support and
backing and his political base."
Meanwhile, Khaled Abou El Fadl, the UCLA professor who
attacked Scott's film, has filled his copy of the
screenplay with scribbled comments about its take on
Muslims. "Typical!" he writes of a scene in which an
armorless Balian and an aggressive "Saracen knight" go
one on one in the desert. And: "This image of tolerance
is supposed to be Jerusalem under Christian rule?" And:
"God!!! Typical view of every Muslim cleric!!"
This last comment refers to a fanatical mullah who
particularly angers Abou El Fadl. "It's as if there
cannot be a religious Muslim who is moral or
representative of an ethical tradition," he says.
In the finished film, the mullah's role appears to have
been reduced. ("Kingdom of Heaven" was cut from well
over three hours to two and a quarter; Scott says the
longer version will appear as a director's cut on DVD.)
Some other things that bothered Abou El Fadl are gone
entirely. Last week the Council on American-Islamic
Relations announced its view that the film offers "a
balanced and positive depiction of Islamic culture
during the Crusades."
Still, Abou El Fadl's strong reaction points to the
likelihood that some Muslims will see Scott's film
through their own, radically different, historical
lens.
Fair enough, you may think. But dig a little deeper and
you'll turn up a paradoxical complication.
That Muslim lens is nowhere near as different as you
would expect.
And here's where Crusades history -- and its
relationship to 9/11 -- gets especially fascinating and
strange.
'Saladin, We Have Returned'
A year after the attacks on the World Trade Center and
the Pentagon, Cambridge's Jonathan Riley-Smith -- the
early Scott critic who is perhaps the best-known living
historian of the Crusades -- was invited to Virginia to
lecture at Old Dominion University. He also spoke to
analysts at both the FBI and CIA about Osama bin
Laden's rhetorical use of the Crusades.
Riley-Smith went on to publish a version of his Old
Dominion talk as "Islam and the Crusades in History and
Imagination, 8 November 1898 -- 11 September 2001."
"One often reads that Muslims have inherited from their
medieval ancestors bitter memories of the violence of
the crusaders," he wrote. "Nothing could be further
from the truth."
What actually happened, according to Crusades
historians -- Riley-Smith's analysis draws in part on
the work of Carole Hillenbrand of the University of
Edinburgh, whose book "The Crusades: Islamic
Perspectives" is the preeminent work examining the
Muslim point of view -- is that after Muslims expelled
the Crusaders, they mostly put this unpleasant episode
behind them. If they did look back, it was with what
Riley-Smith describes as "indifference and
complacency." After all, they'd won -- big time. From
their point of view, also, they'd faced far greater
challenges, among them a frightful onslaught by the
Mongol descendants of Genghis Khan.
In Europe, meanwhile, the Crusades stayed high-profile.
They were romanticized by medieval chroniclers as the
height of chivalry, derided by Enlightenment thinkers
as gross religious intolerance, rehabilitated by 19thcentury historians as glorious antecedents of
nationalism and portrayed -- first with approval, then
disapproval -- as the precursors of European
colonialism. Through all this, the figure of Saladin
became rooted in the European imagination as the
worthiest and most chivalrous Crusader opponent, just
as he is in "Kingdom of Heaven." In Damascus, by
contrast, his tomb was allowed to decay.
Riley-Smith's mention of Nov. 8, 1898, refers to a
remarkable manifestation of this contrast. On that day,
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany "laid a satin flag and a
wreath, with an inscription dedicated to 'the Hero
Sultan Saladin' " on Saladin's grave, which he'd
apparently had some trouble locating. He then paid to
restore the tomb and included "another wreath, this
time bronze gilt, and inscribed 'From one great emperor
to another.' "
But the Muslim world's take on the Crusades was about
to change. It began to look at these ancient wars
through the European lens, and what it saw was:
colonial oppression.
The head of the Ottoman Empire, which was rapidly
losing territory to Europeans, responded by asserting
that his foes were engaged in a new Crusade. World War
I and its aftermath brought a renewed British and
French presence in the old Crusader territories of
Palestine, Lebanon and Syria -- "Behold, Saladin, we
have returned," one French military governor
proclaimed. The Crusade metaphor was picked up by Arab
nationalists. Saladin was revived as an inspirational
figure. Later in the century, he would be embraced by
the likes of Syria's Hafez Assad and Iraq's Saddam
Hussein.
Radical Islamists adopted the metaphor and extended it.
They argued, Riley-Smith notes, that "any offensive,
including a drive for economic or political hegemony,
against Islam anywhere by those who call themselves
Christians" was a form of Crusading, along with similar
actions by surrogates such as the "Crusader state" of
Israel. Such notions help fuel al Qaeda -- and are
widely shared by moderate Muslims who wouldn't dream of
initiating violence themselves.
"Since 9/11 I've done countless interviews," says Saint
Louis University's Madden, and the interviewers often
ask "how the Crusades 'created' the situation in the
Middle East. My answer is: They had nothing to do with
the current situation. But the recasting of the
Crusades that came out of 19th-century colonialism -that's what did it."
Current Muslim views on the Crusades are a form of
"recovered memory," more than one Crusades historian
says, and whether that memory is true or false, it's a
potent one. Is it any wonder that a Hollywood Crusades
movie -- any Hollywood Crusades movie -- looks to some
like a cinematic stone hurled straight at a political
hornet's nest?
'Not a Documentary'
One picture. A thousand words. What, in the end, will
"Kingdom of Heaven" add up to?
Whatever its intentions, Ridley Scott's knight movie
cannot escape either the historical era in which it is
set or the times in which it was made. It's likely to
be seen as both a harmless Hollywood rendition and a
dangerous provocation; as both historically evocative
and historically obtuse. To a moderately neutral
observer, it doesn't appear to be intentionally antianything, except religious fanaticism of all stripes.
But as one of Fox's imported historical experts put it,
the film is sure to be "interpreted by as many
interpreters as there are."
Screenwriter Monahan agrees. "Movies are such highvoltage cultural events," he explains, "that they
sometimes get people coming out of the woodwork to
unleash programmatic rhetoric, irrespective of what the
movie actually is." The film he and Scott made has
nothing to do with 9/11, he maintains, and as for
accuracy, well, Shakespeare modified history too: "What
you use, as a dramatist, is what plays."
"This is not a documentary," another Fox expert,
Columbia medievalist and film scholar Hamid Dabashi,
warned the press in Pasadena. "This is a work of art."
Best, perhaps, to leave that for history to judge.
Still, if you talk long with Dabashi and others who've
seen the film, one particularly striking sequence is
likely to come up. It's also the only one that Scott -the man with the Hollywood instincts and the visual DNA
-- mentions when asked to name the most meaningful
visuals in his film.
It begins up close and personal, in the midst of that
desperate struggle to hold the breach in Jerusalem's
wall. Orlando Bloom has lost his helmet -- as all stars
do in such battles, lest their fans lose track of them
among the grunting, bleeding masses -- and he's
slashing away like a berserker, sometimes backlit,
sometimes in slow motion.
But then Scott's camera gradually pulls us into the air
above the shattered wall. We see the fighters shrink
and the horizon expand. It's as if we've taken God's
point of view, from which it is a great deal harder -impossible, in fact -- to justify the savagery below.
"That clearly speaks for itself, right?" Scott says.
"And that's where I think the visual is better than
words."
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
Advertising Links What's this?
Mother's Day Flowers starting at $19.99
Send her beautiful flowers from ProFlowers, rated #1
flower site by Money.com. Roses, tulips, lilies and
other flowers are available for Mother's Day delivery.
www.proflowers.com
MyCashNow - $100 - $1,000 Overnight
Payday Loan Cash goes in your account overnight. Very
low fees. Fast decisions. Direct deposit is not
required. No credit check. Confidential - secure.
www.mycashnow.com
LendingTree.com - Official Site
Lendingtree - Find a mortgage, refinance, home equity
or auto loan now. Receive up to four loan offers within
minutes. When banks compete, you win.
www.lendingtree.com
Scott's 'Kingdom': Heaven Help Us
washingtonpost.com
By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 6, 2005; WE41
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2005/05/05/AR2005050500732.html
WE KNOW we're supposed to be watching "Kingdom of Heaven," Ridley Scott's epic
about the battle of wills between Balian of Ibelin (Orlando Bloom), a 12th-century
French crusader charged with protecting Jerusalem, and Saladin (Ghassan Massoud), the
Muslim leader whose multitudinous army stands in force outside the holy city.
But as Balian and his people withstand the might of Saladin's fiery projectiles, siege
towers and the usual computer-generated swarm of soldiers, it's hard not to think we're
really watching "The Lord of the Rings IV: Legolas Defends Jerusalem."
Balian of Ibelin (Orlando Bloom) must defend Jerusalem in Ridley Scott's crusades epic
"Kingdom of Heaven." (Twentieth Century Fox
Epics have rapidly become digitalized, live-action cartoons for the pre-parental, and
there's little sign of abatement, so long as audiences remain resolutely young and
determined to watch heroes their own age playing grown-up warriors. Heroes used to be
greater and more imposing than the audience. Nowadays, they're slightly exaggerated
versions of the dudes and dudettes watching in the audience. Even though director Scott
and screenwriter William Monahan have assembled a thoughtful (if flawed) antiwar
scenario about the religious divisions that pit one great people against another, they still
have to reduce it to a mere backdrop for a boy toy with good hair and excellent
backlighting.
Bloom's Balian is a blacksmith in France, who learns he's the illegitimate son of crusader
knight Godfrey (Liam Neeson, these days a regular paternal figure in epics), whose
chivalrous reputation is well known in the Holy Land. Monahan and Scott sure ratchet up
Balian's motivation to go: His wife just committed suicide, which means she will remain
in hell unless he redeems himself somewhere.
Oh, yeah, and he just killed and burned a man who taunted him about all this. When local
forces come to apprehend Balian for murder, well, he has yet another reason to get the
heck out of La Dodge. He takes a 65-second sword-training session from his father and a
really big German warrior, and he's ready to get medieval.
Balian gets to the Holy Land and that one-minute tutorial turns out to have been useful.
He is forced to slay a belligerent Muslim warrior, but he shows mercy to the warrior's
companion, all of which reaches Saladin, whose own sense of chivalry is legendary.
When Balian gets to Jerusalem, he finds a city in which Christians, Muslims and Jews
live side by side in nonaggressive harmony. Saladin shows no sign of invasion as long as
everyone lives this peaceably. But there are bad forces within these walls, namely a group
of Knights Templar under the charge of Reynald (Brendan Gleeson) and dastardly Guy
de Lusignan (Marton Csokas, another "Lord of the Rings" grad; he was Celeborn).
Predictably, they mess up a beautiful thing and Saladin is ready to take Jerusalem.
Guy is married to Jerusalem's schwingy queen, Sibylla (Eva Green), who makes eyes at
Balian three seconds after he struts in. Now there's a Brad-meets-Angelina imbroglio
waiting to happen, but Balian has a city to defend first. A dude has to work up a
battlefield sweat then dither morally about hitting on royalty.
Bloom's presence in the movie is a red-carpet affair. Seasoned actors (including Jeremy
Irons and David Thewlis) project appropriate deference as he parts crowds and wows
extras. But the real star is Saladin, an Islamic hero of deep integrity. In the role, Massoud
(a Syrian actor well known in the Middle East) is masterful and booms with the gravitas
in short supply on the Christian side. To introduce an archetype like this to western
audiences -- as the world weathers culturally and religiously demonizing times -- may
have been worth this whole flawed movie. Too bad the story didn't just start with him.
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (R, 138 minutes) -- Contains graphic battle violence. Area
theaters.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
Advertising Links
washingtonpost.com
At the Gates of Hell
Beyond War's Spectacle, 'Kingdom of Heaven' Argues for the Power and the Glory of
Peace
By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 6, 2005; C01
"Kingdom of Heaven" is full of astonishments, not the least of which are its ideas.
You may or may not agree with them and you may or may not agree with the uses to
which the director, Ridley Scott, puts the historical record in order to advance them.
Regardless, the movie is built around an intellectual structure as much as a dramatic one.
Set in the 12th century, just before the Third Crusade, as Christian knights had
established a mini-Camelot in and around Jerusalem, the movie fully deploys the
splendors and the savageries of its age, including the beauty of armored men on
magnificent steeds under rippling pennants and the carnage that they are capable of
unleashing upon each other. But these are simply elements in the philosophical calculus,
a screen to mask its true direction.
It decodes into something quite familiar: zealots vs. cosmopolitans. In the liberal view,
this would be conservatives vs. liberals. In the conservative view, this would be warriors
vs. wimps. In Washington, neocons vs. cons. In any event, on both sides, the fanatics
push toward extreme solutions and the moderates urge restraint and negotiation. The
movie apotheosizes, at its end, an act not of heroism but of surrender: One general puts
himself and his men in the care of the other general, confident in the knowledge that both
are men of honor and, more important, men of the sane middle ground, and that both can
survive with dignity and responsibilities intact.
Soldiers at cross-purposes: Thousands of Saracens lay siege to Jerusalem in Ridley Scott's
"Kingdom of Heaven," a stirring film driven as much by ideas as spectacle. (Twentieth Century
Fox)
A pipe dream of possibility in the Middle East? Perhaps, and Scott has to do a lot of juryrigging of actuality in order to bring it off. But in Scott's retelling it's the moderate
elements of both Muslim and Christian societies that just want to get along, and the true
battle they face is against the extremists in either camp, who want not only war but
slaughter in its aftermath. In other words, the boys from Massacres-R-Us vs. the boys
from We-R-the-World.
We open with the French blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) mourning for his wife, who
killed herself after their child died. Balian's long-lost father arrives, and it's none other
than Sir Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson), a salty crusader up from his duchy in the Holy
Land to regain the out-of-wedlock son he'd abandoned years before. Balian rejects the
older man's entreaty, but when a priest mocks him for loving a wife who as a suicide was
not permitted into Heaven and now resides in Hell, Balian sends that fellow to Hell as
well by piercing his breast and dousing him in flame. Stricken with guilt, he realizes that
the only place where he can achieve God's forgiveness is the Holy Land, so he hastens to
join his father.
There truly was a Balian but he was no blacksmith. He was simply another highborn
knight in the Holy Land, which was the only home he ever knew. What's the point of the
change? Possibly Scott meant to show that by his loss, his grief and his ordeal was his
Balian open to compromise and change from a strict crusader's commitment to
slaughtering infidels -- even as the infidels were slaughtering them back, under the
impression they were the ones slaughtering infidels.
But this doesn't quite work. Instead, the plot argues a reactionary theory that Scott might
not even be aware of: the natural superiority of the hereditary aristocrat, particularly as
Balian, who has styled himself a blue-collar working guy, rises almost effortlessly by dint
of his inherited talents and soon is not only a knight himself but a wise battlefield
commander. (Balian's rise might not have seemed so easy and quick had the movie been
released in its intended 3-hour 40-minute format instead of this streamlined 2-hour 20minute variant.)
Anyhow, the wise and generous Godfrey is soon disposed of (in a brilliantly
choreographed small unit action), and Balian, now arrived in Jerusalem, finds himself in
the hothouse of crusader politics, backroom-style. In Jerusalem, the leper king Baldwin
(Edward Norton, behind a silver mask) and his wise counselor Tiberias (Jeremy Irons, as
a kind of Colin Powell of 1194) yearn for peace and work hard to negotiate with the
Muslims their grandfathers so bloodily drove out of Jerusalem some 80 years earlier.
Meanwhile, the great Muslim leader Saladin (Syrian actor Ghassan Massoud) battles his
own bloodthirsty minions to keep a fragile peace with the blue-eyed outlanders.
But most of the politics is on the crusader side: The knights Guy de Lusignan (Marton
Csokas) and Reynald (a red-bearded Brendan Gleeson) pine for war and the pleasures of
genocide. In a power ploy meant to hasten the demise of King Baldwin's power and
advance Guy's, they begin a secret terror campaign and soon enough, despite the
importunings of heroic moderates, the war is inevitable.
If you know your history, you know that the war was an exceedingly bad idea. Guy and
Reynald led the knights and squires and men at arms into the desert and, at a place called
Hattin, managed to get themselves wiped out. Reynald was executed by Saladin himself,
a scene that Scott creates as the application of justice. Then it was onward to Jerusalem,
which was at this time commanded by Our Hero Balian.
Two questions: Is Orlando Bloom enough of a star to sustain a $100 million costume
drama? The answer turns out to be yes. A pretty face as Paris in "Troy" and a blond
nonentity as the arrow-flinger in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, he is able to dominate
the second half of this film in the old-fashioned movie-star way. Scott is smart enough to
dirty the young man's face and let his beard blur the freak perfection of his features,
which gives this Balian a more masculine, more commanding presence. Bloom fights his
own fights and reveals an athlete's quick grace and strength with the broadsword, so that
as a warrior he's convincing. As a thinker and diplomat he's also impressive. As a lateborning humanitarian idealist he will break your heart, even if you despise his and the
movie's politics.
Second is the issue of war. This is Scott's specialty ("Gladiator," "Black Hawk Down"),
and as a technician of movie battle, he's probably the world's best. Using the full range of
film trickery -- the CGI is especially compelling in its ability to re-create medieval
panoramas and endless fields of troops -- he really puts you in the thick of mortal danger.
The early fights are mostly on horseback, and Scott loves horses and is able to get so
much of these grand, sinewy weapons of destruction, their muscles bulging, their
ligaments straining, their nostrils spouting steam. You feel like you've been deposited
into the center of a Howard Pyle illustration.
But it's the siege where Scott shines. He tracks the huge war machines that were the
heavy artillery of the pre-gunpowder age, gizmos that flung boulders like 155mm shells.
But most of all, he gets the labor of war: This was heavy lifting of the heaviest sort, and
the physical ordeal and the terrible nature of the blade- and spearpoint-induced wounds
gets full, frightening display.
Adore the film's politics or abjure them, you must respect Scott for refusing to settle for
empty spectacle. And the spectacle, besides being idea-jammed, is spectacular.
Kingdom of Heaven (138 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for extreme violence.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2005/05/05/AR2005050501889.html
Advertising Links
What's this?
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2005/05/04/do0402.xml
The Crusaders were right after all
By Christopher Howse
(Filed: 04/05/2005)
On February 11, 1847, the Scala opera house in Milan, its stage fitted out
with fantastic arabesque ogees, onion domes and filagree fretting
(representing the harem at Antioch), echoed to wild applause at the premiere
of Verdi's I Lombardi alla prima crociata (The Lombards on the First
Crusade).
It was not so much the music that wowed the opera-goers, but the
identification of Jerusalem, occupied by the cruel Saracens, with Milan,
occupied by the cruel Austrians. Lombard nationalists saw themselves as
Crusaders.
That was, obviously, an absurd projection of modern values on to a creaky
historical framework. But it was no more absurd than Sir Ridley Scott's new
film set in 1186, just before the Third Crusade. Kingdom of Heaven follows
the fortunes of Orlando Bloom (Legolas in The Lord of the Rings) as a
blacksmith's son handy with a sword in defence of Jerusalem.
Teen audiences who cheered on Legolas as he slaughtered hundreds by the
bow in the vast battles of Middle Earth, are invited in Kingdom of Heaven to
conclude that nothing is worth fighting for. Bloom's character, Balian,
surveying a massacre in the Holy Land, declares: "If this is the kingdom of
heaven, then God can keep it."
Sir Ridley explains: "Balian is an agnostic, just like me." Yet there were no
agnostics in the 12th century. That might sound ridiculous, but the word
"agnostic" is a 19th-century invention (1869), just like the word
"homosexual" (1892). There were sex acts between men in the Middle Ages,
just as men and women doubted their faith, but neither fact defined a
personal ideology.
Sir Ridley's problem is that he links agnosticism and tolerance as joint forces
of good in his film, and he makes true believers - either Muslim or Christian baddies. That is an impossible historical pill to swallow. And - groan - the
Knights Templar (with their baggage from The Da Vinci Code and The Holy
Blood and the Holy Grail) become the "Right-wing or Christian
fundamentalists of their day", in Sir Ridley's words.
"If we could just take God out of the equation," says Sir Ridley, like John
Lennon in Imagine, "there'd be no f---ing problem." A more realistic view of
history requires less retrospective fantasy and more brain work. It means
forcing our heads round to see what motivated men and women centuries
ago. Try thinking the unthinkable - that the Crusaders were right, and that
we should be grateful to them.
The First Crusade won back Jerusalem (pro sola devotione, "for the sake of
devotion alone", in the idealistic terms in which it was launched) from Muslim
control in 1099, not as an isolated incident but as part of a centuries-long
effort to roll back the map of territory overrun by warlike Islamic
expansionism since the seventh century.
The jihad of Mohammed's followers first won the Arabian peninsula (killing or
subjugating Jewish and Christian rulers and tribes) and its programme had
no end but the conquest of the whole world under unified Islamic rule. There
was no tolerant agnosticism there.
In response to this unparalleled strategy of aggression, the main "Crusade"
developed not in the Holy Land but in Spain, taking nearly 800 years to expel
the Moorish invaders. It was as if the French Resistance struggled for
centuries to throw off German rule. Amid the confused warfare even the
cultured but short-lived Caliphate of Cordoba (929-1016) was hardly the
garden of peaceful co-existence generally supposed.
It takes no great counter-factual leap to see what would have happened if
Crusaders had not fought back. Gibbon for once got it right when he
imagined a Muslim England where "the Koran would now be taught in the
schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people
the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet".
That, you might think, need not be so bad. But we wouldn't now be
complaining how boring the election is. There would be no election and no
free press in which to complain.
In Kingdom of Heaven, Saladin is portrayed as a gent, and so he was in a
way. Saladin, a Kurd (belonging to an Indo-European language group, and
no pan-Arabist), ruled the Islamic empire from Egypt. His prime success was
as a general slaughtering Crusaders (as at Hattin, July 4, 1187); the
Christian princes he captured were held hostage and sold for a ransom.
As a fighting man, Saladin was a mirror image of the ideal of the Christian
knight. It is possible to reject cynically the very possibility of chivalry in a
warrior. The Monty Python school of history paints any knight as a
murderous mercenary.
The truth is that medieval Europe was a martial civilisation, which the Church
futilely attempted to guide into the way of peace. But we are heirs to that
martial civilisation. A knight is a fighting man. Sir Ridley Scott was dubbed
with a sword.
History reduced to hogwash
(Filed: 06/05/2005)
Kingdom of Heaven
Brothers
In Ridley Scott's Crusades epic, the battle between Christianity and Islam becomes a vapid
tour of pretty 12th-century castles, says Tim Robey Kingdom of Heaven (15 cert, 144
min)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml;sessionid=DATLRD3YB1FLJQFIQMFSM5
WAVCBQ0JVC?xml=/arts/2005/05/06/bfheaven06.xml&secureRefresh=true&_requesti
d=15686
There's a fine line between stunning and numbing in the cinema of Ridley
Scott. He's been an almost peerless stylist ever since those wondrous sci-fi
classics Alien and Blade Runner.
Orlando Bloom stars in Kingdom of Heaven, playing the Crusader Balian like a
student in his gap year
But, while his skilful job on Thelma & Louise was half of a return to form, the
hollow majesty of Gladiator was a little over-praised. These days, it's often
hard to avoid the feeling that his visuals are like sumptuous window-dressing
for a shop with nothing inside.
Trust this director to turn the Crusades, a subject fit to overflow with muck
and mania, zeal and bloodlust, into a delectably pretty 12th-century castle
tour. Kingdom of Heaven is stultifying - Scott's dullest film since 1492:
Conquest of Paradise - because it seems a mere excuse for exotic spectacle,
not so much an epic as an executive decision to make one, and because its
rampant determination not to offend reduces the whole exercise to
ahistorical hogwash.
If you thought the Crusades were really about Christians and Muslims being
nice to one another, this is the film for you. It's set during a talky respite
between the Second and Third Crusades, with Jerusalem in the hands of the
Christian "leper king" Baldwin IV, a decent enough cove played behind a
silver mask by an uncredited and excellent Edward Norton.
The Saracens, led by wily old Saladin (Ghassan Massoud), are biding their
time before the next recovery campaign, while our main character, the
blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom), is that rare Crusader who has no
particular religious beef and generally prefers to stay out of trouble. The
movie's with him: you couldn't accuse it of being anti-Islam, anti-Christian,
pro either, or ultimately pro anything. It's a paragon of vapid fairness.
Scott might complain that he's damned if he offends and damned if he
doesn't. His Black Hawk Down (2001) deployed hundreds of Somali civilians
as faceless cannon fodder while ticking off the heroic deaths of its American
soldiers one by one.
But Kingdom of Heaven, which comes very close to blaming just two powerhungry Knights Templar (Brendan Gleeson and Marton Csokas, both
practically frothing at the mouth) for generations of religious warfare, isn't
the way to make amends.
As heroes go, Balian, the illegitimate son of an enlightened French baron
(Liam Neeson), is ahead of his time - about eight centuries ahead. Taken
under the wing of Baldwin's similarly minded military adviser Tiberias (a
pensive Jeremy Irons), he ends up fighting for the people of Jerusalem, but
only to help create some sort of pan-cultural "kingdom of conscience" in
which rifts are repaired and utopian peace reigns.
He basically just wants everyone to get along, so perhaps it's fitting that
Bloom plays this boy like a painfully earnest sociology student on his gap
year. Rich tan, wuffy hair, beard manicured to look not manicured - you only
miss the travel beads.
On this evidence, Bloom is more than just a pretty face. He's a pretty torso
too, briefly sported when he strips off for some passionless sex with
Baldwin's married sister Princess Sibylla (Eva Green). But instead of the
strong, visionary protagonist Scott's film vitally needs, we get a callow,
recessive blank.
Kingdom of Heaven wouldn't exist if it didn't have other films' battle scenes
to measure up to - Gladiator's, Troy's, Alexander's, each trying to outflank
the last with sheer weight of massed CGI legions. These historical epics can
preach a vague anti-war message until they're blue in the face, but their
bellicose showmanship and swooping adoration of combat tell a different
story.
And while Scott's latest boasts the requisite money shots, fireballs
bombarding Jerusalem as the Saracen siege towers totter and tumble, it
looks edited in a hurry - key sequences never find their rhythm, and the
pacing is sluggish and uncertain. The longer cut that Scott intends to release
on DVD may iron out some of these problems. But only an enormous
injection of added purpose could bring this comatose epic back to life.
Brothers (15 cert, 110 min)
One of our present-day crusades - nervously alluded to throughout Scott's
movie - provides the starting point for Brothers, the new picture from Danish
director Susanne Bier.
Brothers: a strong, serious theme
Ulrich Thomsen plays Michael, a UN peacekeeper whose helicopter is shot
down in Afghanistan, leading to a false report of his death back home. His
wife (Connie Nielsen) and brother (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) edge towards a
relationship, unaware of Michael's ordeal in a Taliban holding cell.
Bier's film - it's her first since the very good Dogme effort Open Hearts
(2002) - is finely acted but too self-conscious. Arty close-ups of blinking eyes
and ponderous cross-cutting make the drama seem creakier and more
clichéd than it actually is. While Thomsen does some wrenching work in the
one fully realised role, the underrated Nielsen is given little to do except
smile through tears.
Brothers has a strong, serious theme - post-traumatic survivor guilt - but
treats it heavy-handedly, barely managing a fraction of, say, The Deer
Hunter's bruising power.
But a bigger problem is that the human particulars of its story never quite
come into focus. Like too many Danish movies, it's an opportunity for good
acting and not much more.
Unzipped: costume extravaganza
(Filed: 06/05/2005)
Malika Dalamal rounds up the latest fashion news and gossip
Epic fashion
Sir Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven hits the cinemas today.
Eva Green
It's sure to be one of the most talked about films of the summer - if not for
its controversial subject matter, then for actress Eva Green's 28 exotic
costume changes
In tune with this summer's trend for all things ethnic, costume designer
Janty Yates used silks from India, embroidered with jewels and pearls, to
create Princess Sybilla's stunning cloaks, veils and turbans.
In a short film, Janty Yates talks about how she created character through
dress:
Watch in Quicktime
Watch in Windows
Beauty for boys
It seems that men, often neglected in the world of fashion, are finally having
their moment. First there was the launch earlier this year of men.style.com ,
the younger brother of the popular style.com and the first website devoted
entirely to men's fashion and lifestyle.
Now the boys are getting their own version of Space NK, the hugely
successful beauty store.
Space NK Men opens on Tuesday at 8 Broadwick Street, London, and will
stock more than 30 brands of men's grooming products from all over the
world, as well as treatment rooms for men's facials and body treatments. For
more information, call 020 8740 2085.
A mat for all reasons
Marshmallowliving.co.uk , a new website selling fashion and lifestyle products
for the home, garden and children, is as indulgent as its name suggests.
Top of the list of must-have items is a beautiful lavender fleece and faux
ostrich relaxation mat that can be used for yoga, the beach, or even for
nappy changing duties.
It comes with a faux leather base to prevent slipping and is available in blue
or lilac.
The original icon
In the days before any B-list celebrity carrying the latest "It" bag was
considered a style icon, women all over the world aspired to be like Jackie
Kennedy Onassis.
The Jackie Handbook by Naomi West and Catherine Wilson is the latest book
to pay tribute to a woman whose elegance and dignity made her one of the
most stylish people of the 20th century.
Filled with stunning images, the book is published by MQ Publications later
this month (£12.99).
Download
Related flashcards

Political science

34 cards

Types of organization

17 cards

Liberalism

24 cards

Liberalism

46 cards

Liberal parties

74 cards

Create Flashcards