Saturday, May 21, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven revisited

It was even better the second time around. :) A second time watching a grand scale movie like this on the big screen is always fun because of the details you didn't notice on the first time around. Personally, I just loved to sink into the atmosphere of the movie, drink in the beauty of the scenery, the tragedy of the story and well, krhm, enjoy the eye candy that is so nicely offered by Orlando. ;)

Here's my list of 15 favorite moments / things from the movie. I took the idea from dangermousie (who actually listed 20 favorites, I'm settling for a bit less), I couldn't comment on her post before I had seen the movie twice myself. So here goes, in no particular order.

1. the character of Salah ad-Din
The intensity of his eyes is mezmerizing. And his figure, when he walks into Jerusalem is just powerful, in a quiet and wise sort of way.

2. the last wave of hand the Hospitaller gives to Balian before riding into the battle of Hattin
I had tears in my eyes. It's the last time Balian sees the wise Hospitaller alive. I became quite attached to his character. Not only because I'm partial to Hospitallers anyway, but because he's just an admirable Knight, who's got a sensible view of his faith and the situation in Jerusalem.

3. the Hospitaller crossing the stream hiding behind the galloping horse in the battle in the French woods
Well, as I just said, I liked the character and this is one of the moments when he shows he's not only a quiet, philosophical medicine man, but also a skilled warrior. And how he pats Balian with his sword when riding by and then turns and bows ever so slightly. Ah, perfect.

4. the very first cut to Balian's face when he has returned to France
A look to die for. So full of emotion.

5. when Ibelin's men recognise Balian as their new baron and they bow in front of him
I'm such a sucker for such little gestures of chivalry. "Come this way, my lord." Ah, ah, ah.

6. Balian's men riding into battle in Kerak
First they ride side by side, then they form two lines, which then divide into two fronts that are overwhelmed by the moslem cavalry. The aerial view over the battle is breathtaking.

7. the surrender of Jerusalem
The whole scene from the white flag to the moment when Balian asks what Jerusalem is worth and Salah ad-Din replies: "Nothing. - - Everything." Which by the way is one of my favorite Salah ad-Din moments, too.

8. the Templars and their warcry "God wills it!"
Deus lo vult - hasn't been heard in centuries and made shivers go down my spine. Especially when at one point one of the moslem warriors utters the exact same thing. Isn't it madness?

9. the Hospitallers and their hospital
Just because. :)

10. Balian's determined and (ahem) manly gait at any point when he wears Ibelin's / Jerusalem's colors
A completely fangirlish fave. I think all men should have coat of arms and a cloak every once and a while - it seems to do miracles to the manner they walk around. :)

11. Baldwin IV: "I am Jerusalem."
Very powerful.

12. Sibylla's coronation gown
Wow. Her clothes and jewellery were amazing at any time - what I did ponder was how the big hoods of her cloaks stayed on when she was galloping around on that beautiful horse of hers...

13. Balian riding to catch up with his father in France
The scene is very beautifully filmed. The desperate gallop over the fields, the road in the forest, the light snow fall... One of the most esthetically pleasing moments in the movie.

14. Godfrey asking for forgiveness from Balian
You can see he's not really comfortable doing it, but nevertheless, he's determined to say what he came to say.

15. Balian kneeling down to be knighted by his dying father
You didn't think I was going to get through my favorite moments without mentioning at least one kneeling, now did you? :) This is, without a doubt, one of the teariest moments of the movie for me. Chivalry and nobility just ooze from it.

So there's my fifteen. I sure could've listed at least those five additional fave moments (like the one where a single moslem rider appears in the dark before the battle in Jerusalem and his sword shines in the night) , but I'm thinking this post is about as long as it should be. (These are the situations in which I actually would like to have the cut-feature that lj has...)

Now I'm left eagerly waiting for the director's cut to come out on dvd! Let it be soon!

Unfortunately, what will come sooner, are the essays that my students are writing at the moment in the rehearsal exam. That'll be the rest of my weekend. Grading, grading.


Tigerlily said...

I stumbled upon this article

and immediately thought of you! He seems a little nit-picky, but I'm curious to hear what you think.

I still haven't seen it!! ARGH!!!

Johanna said...

Well, that was interesting, thanks for pointing it out, Tigerlily.

I think the writer had a lot of good points (I'm not saying I agree with them all), but he really was a bit nit-picky... :)

I cannot say anything about the look of Jerusalem, since I honestly have no idea what it looks like today and how it would've looked in detail back in the times of Balian. But I thought the city looked just great on screen. I'm happy with that.

What I have to wonder, though, is that this writer (among a good number of other critics) also pointed out that Balian is given "a single sword fight lesson". Shhheeeessh. I'm sure the trip to Messina took a bit longer than one day, so wouldn't you think they'd had more time to train the blacksmith? Besides, it looked to me like he had some skills already, Godfrey just taught him to use a different guard and so on.

And about learning to defend the city - isn't it possible someone told him something about that stuff too? It's not like those events depicted in the movie all happened within a week or so. I'd say he would've had time to learn.

And about the tolerance speech. I saw someone comment somewhere that it's really sort of silly to think that we modern people are the only people in history who is allowed to have tolerance and understanding. I agree with the person who wrote that. Why is it so difficult to think that someone in the days of the Crusades might have had similar thoughts? Just might. Well, I suppose every single person living in the Kingdom of Jerusalem had to be an intolerant war-monger, just like all the modern moslems apparently have to be terrorists...

I'm more than willing to come up with these "excuses" for Scott, because he has, after all, made a historical movie, not a documentary. He can't possibly tell everything that happened to Balian, because that movie would go on for at least half a year, 24/7! (Hmm, I think I'd like to see that version too, heeee.)

Besides, I'm sure the real Balian's story would've been fascinating, too, but as it is, I'm under the impression that the general movie going public (in the US at least) wants to see love stories in which the odds are against the couple. Where would that have been, had Scott chosen to tell the story of a happily-married-to-Maria-Comnena Balian? Unfortunately, it seems, the directors have to think about the medium they're using. Movies are expected to entertain and to bring some money to their makers and this is why they have adapted screenplays instead of historical primary source books as scripts. Methinks.

So that's what I think, now I have to get back to work. :)