I'm so thrilled I can barely hold myself down. I put on a black shirt and hung my eight-pointed Maltese cross around my neck (just so everyone knows I'm all for the Knights Hospitaller!) and went to see Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven today and OMG it was good! For many reasons, some more obvious than others...
First of all, now I know I'm unbelievably lucky. I'm a 21st century historian researching the knightly orders of the crusades and as such, luckier than generations of historians before me. This is probably the first time in history since the 12th century for a historian to see Knights Templar charge into battle. I had chills down my spine throughout the movie (yes, yes, not all of them thanks to the historical stuff, but I'll get to that later) , just because on the screen before me there were places and people who, to me, are familiar from so many studies and books. And don't you dare spoil my sheer joy of the imagery by saying they were just actors! They were historical research papers and documents come to life, for me. Something I've been able to visualize in my head, for sure, but to see the Templars ride into battle or to see the Hospitallers taking care of the sick in their hospital - what an amazing treat! I love being able to think to myself "Wow, it really could've looked like that!". It's the romantic in me, but I don't care. I love it.
There are, naturally, some shortcuts and twists in the story, that aren't word for word "true". But then, there were quite a few scenes that were almost word for word what was said in the situation in 1187 (or so), at least according to my sources. Like the scene with Salah ad-Din and Guy de Lusignan and Reynald de Chatillon after the former has taken the two latter as prisoners. Salah ad-Din offers a drink to Guy de Lusignan, who then offers the cup to Reynald. (Who just happens to be one of the men Salah ad-Din hates most in the world. Long story.) Salah ad-Din is offended and says to Reynald that the cup wasn't offered to him and that it will be the last drink Reynald will ever have. And surely enough, he is immediately escorted outside and there beheaded by Salah ad-Din. Here the director follows a crusader's account on the event almost to the word. (Whether the drink Salah ad-Din offered was really mashed ice, is debatable, but other than that, it was about as accurate as a separate scene can be.)
Probably the biggest complaint I have about the shortcuts is, naturally, the existence of king Baldwin IV in the year 1187, which is the year the movie is mainly all about. The Leper King of Jerusalem had died a few years earlier and left as his heir his sister Sibylla's infant son, who then dies very soon and leaves the leaders of Jerusalem in a sticky situation. The late king, Baldwin IV, had stated in his last will, that the count of Tripoli, Raymond, should act as a regent until a new king is appointed by the pope, the patriarch of Jerusalem and the kings of England and France together. Well, due to some marriage arrangements gone awry in the past, this doesn't suit the Grand Master of the Templars, Girard de Ridfort and his supporters. All kinds of scheming follow, but in the end we get the same situation that the movie shows us - Sibylla is crowned Queen of Jerusalem and she then crowns her husband Guy de Lusignan to reign with her as King of Jerusalem.
I thought it was too bad that they didn't tell everything about the coronation and the scandal with the keys to the chest that held the regalia. That story is one of my favorites, as it shows what an honorable man the Grand Master of the Hospitallers was. Roger des Moulins was one of the only men opposing the crowning of Sibylla. He refused to give his key to be used in the ceremony. There were three keys to the chest, you see. One was kept by the patriarch of Jerusalem and the other two by the Grand Masters of the Templars and Knights Hospitaller. The other two had broken their vows to the late king, but Roger des Moulins wouldn't hear of it. (Ah, the fact that he eventually threw the key through a window to the courtyard only shows us that he too was a human and got very upset by the pressure piled on him by the others. Naturally the key was found without difficulties and the regalia gotten out of the chest. But I still like the story.)
Ok, enough of the historical nitpicking for now. Here's a reasonably good and fairly short article on what happened during the late 12th century in Jerusalem. Lots and lots of revenge, scheming, boneheadedness and plain greed! In the end, though, it all came down to men being such idiots when it comes to women. If that one arranged marriage would've worked out as it was supposed to (from the point of view of Girard de Ridfort), the history of Jerusalem could be completely different. Speculate on that. I sure will.
Then, the utterly and shamelessly fangirlish part of it all. Orlando Bloom. Oy, oy, oy! He's grown into a man, he has! And with the full Aragorn-effect working for him, too. Scruffy, dirty and omg how hot. He's just out-of-this-world-gorgeous! Plain and simple as that. Now I only want to see a movie with him and Ioan Gruffudd in it and I could die a happy girl. I'm thinking Ioan could play Will Turner's (Orlando's) long lost big brother in the PotC-series... *swoon*
Aaanyway. I can't wait for this movie to come out on DVD and actually, next week when I get my last salary from Lieto, I'll go and buy the soundtrack immediately. Beautiful medieval/oriental -music, with Natacha Atlas performing at least one of the theme songs! Wonderful!
I think Ridley Scott did an excellent job with the movie. I've heard that some people have complained about the story being boring or pointless, but I just don't agree with it. Sometimes, if you really want to bring real, documented history to life, the stories are bound to be less exciting than your average Hollywood action no-brainer. Then again, what is exciting? The fall of Jerusalem isn't? The story of Balian d'Ibelin, who actually paid a fortune in gold to get the poor people of Jerusalem out of the fallen city unharmed, is boring? The story of a great moslem leader, Salah ad-Din, is surely about as non-exciting as stories get? Well, I'm sorry, I just happen to disagree. Aren't I glad I'm a historian. I'm allowed to get reaaaally excited about dusty and boring old stories like these!
Ahh, there. Once again a movie I could go on and on about, but I have to restrain myself, because there's nobody on this planet who would read through all of my rants. In fact I'm very surprised if any of you got this far without yawning... I sure didn't. :) But that's because it's time I got to bed, I'm all done for tonight. Tomorrow's a big day. The prep course begins, yikes.