Wednesday, November 3, 2010
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: A Kingdom of Conscience
Is the THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (Director's Cut) worth the extra bucks? Yes, yes, yes! It certainly is if you are an avid fan of Ridley Scott's work, fascinated with the Crusades or appreciate medieval history. I held off buying the theatrical version knowing the definitive Director's Cut was rumoured. And I'm glad I waited. This 4-DVD package is not only an improvement over the previous release, it offers a wealth of information into the history of the period, the weaponry, the storyboards, script editing, etc. Extensive commentaries running concurrently with the film on two DVDs are provided by Ridley Scott, William Monahan, Orlando Blum and others to shed light into the technical aspects of the film.
Although the Director's Cut is now nearly four hours long, it is a much better film in its originally conceived epic form. What seemed piecemeal in the theatrical version, especially at the beginning of the film, is more fully developed. Characters like Balian of Ibelin (Orlando Blum) who seemed shallow are now more three dimensional so that we understand the purpose of his quest. Sibylla (Eva Green) has a child which we did not see in the earlier version. Her son from a previous marriage is crowned King by Baldwin IV (Edward Norton). A few other characters have been introduced as well, breathing much needed depth into the film. Strong performances from Liam Neeson, Edward Norton, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Ghassan Massoud round out this outstanding film. Incidentally all of these actors, with the exception of Neeson's Baron Godfrey of Ibelin, portray actual persons from the second Crusade, although they are slightly fictionalised to accommodate the story.
Armchair warriors won't be disappointed either. The climatic battle for Jerusalem is grand and reminiscent of the assault in The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers. In fact, its 'R' rating stems from such brutal and bloody scenes. And graphic it is! Though approximately 2,000 plus Moroccan troops were used as extras, the computer-generated effects are obvious. And never mind the battlefield is not actually Jerusalem's terrain or that Saladin's final assault was at a different section of Jerusalem. It is nevertheless visually stunning...spectacular!
While historians and theologians, from both East and West, may quibble over the accuracy of certain facts and practices depicted, this should not overshadow the film's message. Simplistic though it may seem, its strength lies in demonstrating that an everyman like Balian can rise above his own frailties if he so possesses the heart and wisdom to prevail. Moreover, there is an urgency to understand that differences in belief should not preclude shared values, whether one is a Christian, Jew or Muslim. Fanaticism and militancy is futile because in the end each side has to negotiate a settlement equitable for peaceful coexistence. But then, the reality and tragedy is there is still a lack of understanding, even after 900 years since the Crusades. Those differences have never been fully resolved.
Posted by Wordsmith at 7:59 PM