Essay On The Movie Kingdom Of Heaven

A film based on a well-known historical episode elicits an immediate question: “How accurate is it?” For a controversial episode of history such as the Crusades, the issue of historical accuracy becomes even more relevant. When Ridley Scott released his Crusade epic Kingdom of Heaven in 2005, his film provoked widespread controversy from historians and derision from film critics. The film’s historical denigrators were divided into “Muslim historians offended at the film’s purported misrepresentation of the Saracens and non-Muslim historians offended by misrepresentations of the Christians.”[1] Film critics thought the film’s theatrical cut shallow and truncated.[2]

However valid these criticisms were, many of them were muted by the release of a 192-minute director’s cut of the film in 2006, which was both more historically accurate and artistically satisfying. Important historical episodes like the crowning of the young King Baldwin V were added back into the film, and the characters’ motivations were made clearer with the extra running time.

While it may be going too far to take the view of Dr. Hamid Dabashi and say, “You don’t go to a work of art to learn about history,” [3] the artistic purpose of a film will always trump its need for historical accuracy, even in the case of a historically-based film. Such is the case with Kingdom of Heaven. The film’s historical inaccuracies are not the result of a lack of research, but deliberate creative decisions.

By analyzing the film alongside the historical reality of the situations it depicts, one comes to a better understanding of how Kingdom of Heaven presents a readily comprehensible twenty-first century fable set in the twelfth-century. Through its portrayal of Reynald de Chatillon, Guy de Lusignan and the Templars, Saladin, and Balian of Ibelin, Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven sacrifices rigid historical fidelity in order to secure relevance in modern society.

In Kingdom of Heaven Crusaders are seen mostly in a negative light, with Reynald de Chatillon, Guy de Lusignan, and the Templars occupying the necessary roles of villains. The depiction of Reynald is the most historically accurate portrait of any character in the film. According to a contemporary Muslim historian Ibn al-Athir, “Prince Reynald, lord of Kerak, was one of the greatest and wickedest of the Franks, the most hostile to the Muslims and the most dangerous to them.”[4] As the film depicts, Reynald had a running rivalry with Saladin, raiding his caravans and even capturing his sister in a raid that became the provocation for Saladin’s invasion of Jerusalem.[5] Even Christian historians agreed that Reynald was an evil figure. William of Tyre saw Reynald’s aggression towards Muslims and his illegal raiding of caravans as the “pretext for the loss of the kingdom of Jerusalem.”[6] The twelfth-century Muslim view of Crusaders was that they were courageous and skilled warriors, but barbaric in all other aspects.[7]

Kingdom of Heaven certainly portrays the Crusaders in such a light. Although King Baldwin IV and Tiberias[8] are seen as moderates with a philosophical commitment to religious pluralism – things they were not in reality[9] – Reynald, Guy, and the Templars embody the ultraviolent religious fanaticism that the Crusades are known for. In actuality, Guy de Lusignan was little more than an ineffective king who had won the heart of Sibylla.[10] However, because the film includes a romance between Balian and Sibylla, the need for an antagonist to Balian arises, and Guy is made more villainous to fill the role. He is a counterpoint to Balian – a knight who demonstrates all the negative qualities of knighthood just as Balian demonstrates all of its positive qualities. He becomes closely associated with Reynald, a man who in reality thought him a pathetic king, in order to assert his villainy.[11]

Together, Reynald, Guy, and the Templars become both an embodiment of our twenty-first century view of the “barbaric” Crusaders and a reflection of the arch-villain of our own time: the religious fanatic. It is no accident that because Kingdom of Heaven was made after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the film depicts violence done in the name of religion as the ultimate evil. The Templars’ belief in their divine authority – “God wills it!” – and their overzealous hatred of Muslims defines them as such villains.

The film ignores the fundamental Crusader concept that violence done in the name of God can be good and just, because such a concept is impossible to relate to the modern moviegoer. Modern audiences see violence done in the name of religion as indisputably evil and medieval opinions that would endorse said violence are unacceptable. This is why the heroes of Kingdom of Heaven are religious skeptics and the Templars are the film’s villains. In order for Kingdom of Heaven to relate to modern audiences, the villains had to embody the Crusader as he has come to be seen in the post-colonial world.

In medieval Christendom there existed two opposing views of Saladin. One was that he was a murderous infidel prince, an apocalyptic figure connected with End Times concepts from the Book of Revelation. The other was a romanticized infidel king, the best of the non-Christian rulers as portrayed in The Divine Comedy by Dante.[12] The version of Saladin found in Kingdom of Heaven is the latter. Saladin is viewed as a humanist ruler.

When Balian first meets Tiberias, Tiberias comments that “Saladin and the King between them would make a better world.”[13] Saladin is presented as the Muslim counterpart to Baldwin, another skeptical, moderate king who rules with honour and justice. In reality, Saladin was seen as magnanimous but also ruthless by both Christians and Muslims.[14] Saladin became the hero of the Islamic world by uniting the Muslim kingdoms together in order to oppose the Crusaders.[15] It was his dream to drive the Crusaders out of Jerusalem and reinstate Islamic control of the Holy Land. In a few instances, Kingdom of Heaven does show glimpses of Saladin’s ruthlessness. The episode where he slits Reynald’s throat and then beheads him after the Battle of Hattin is an example of his desire for revenge, a scene taken right out of historical fact.[16] However, for the most part Saladin is seen more as the romanticized philosopher king. A significant event that is left out of the film is Saladin ordering his Sufi mystics to execute the Templar prisoners after the Battle of Hattin.[17] Saladin’s demand for ransom for the people of Jerusalem is also omitted from the film, simplifying the climax’s resolution and making Saladin seem more generous.

The Saladin in Kingdom of Heaven is a deliberate depiction of the moderate Muslim, an olive branch-of-sorts to Muslim viewers of the film. Kingdom of Heaven’s Saladin is religious, but does not allow religion to make him a fool. In one instance he lectures one of his angry generals, asking him, “How many battles did God win for the Muslims before I came?”[18] In order to have a hero on both the Christian and the Muslim sides, Saladin could not be presented in radical terms, and thus, both his religiosity and ruthlessness are downplayed. Instead like Balian and Baldwin, it is his moderate nature and honour that is emphasized, and he is one of the few characters in the film whose virtue remains intact throughout. If nothing else, Kingdom of Heaven’s Saladindefies the stereotypes of Hollywood’s Muslim, becoming the film’s non-Western hero and mitigating any perceived western bias.

Balian of Ibelin as presented in Kingdom of Heaven has almost no basis in history. The only historical facts that the film’s Balian shares with the real Balian are his name, his renown, and his defense and surrendering of Jerusalem to Saladin. The historical Balian of Ibelin was not born in France, but in Ibelin; was not the illegitimate son of Godfrey but the legitimate son of Barisan of Ibelin;[19] did not have a relationship with Sibylla, princess of Jerusalem, but was married to Maria Comnena, the widow of the father of Baldwin and Sibylla;[20] and fought at the Battle of Hattin[21].

The main reason for the disparity between fact and fiction is the convention in historical fiction to have a completely fictional protagonist whom the audience sympathizes with.[22] The filmmakers were adamant that their hero be the man who surrendered Jerusalem to Saladin, but that was where their fidelity to history ended. The filmmakers made Balian an outsider of Jerusalem so that the audience would be introduced to the world of the Holy Land along with him. He is the audience’s window into the film, the reluctant perfect knight with whom we sympathize throughout the film.

Although the biographical details of Kingdom of Heaven’s Balian of Ibelin have no basis in history, the moral character of Balian does. In the historical accounts, Balian is seen as the one Christian to retain his wisdom and composure leading up to and after the disaster of the Hattin.[23] The film uses Balian as the template for a perfect knight, portraying his journey to Jerusalem to seek forgiveness for himself and his dead wife as an example of the purer motivations of the Crusades. Balian characterizes the medieval ideals of knighthood: honour, courage, chivalry, and military prowess. The historical Balian was such a revered knight “whose standing…was equal to that of the king”[24] that the Patriarch of Jerusalem begged him to defend the city against Saladin’s impending attack, being the last defender of Jerusalem just like in the film.[25] Balian’s speech to Saladin at the defense of Jerusalem – “Before I lose it, I will burn it to the ground. Your holy places – ours. Every last thing in Jerusalem that drives men mad.”[26] – is very similar to Balian’s actual speech to Saladin, which persuaded Saladin to offer terms.[27]

The Balian of Kingdom of Heaven may lack all the historical details of the actual Balian, but he shares his namesake’s attributes of a perfect knight. Historically, it was “thanks largely to Balian’s perseverance and diplomacy [that] the majority of the people [of Jerusalem] were escorted to Christian-held territory.”[28] The film’s Balian of Ibelin becomes our window into the world of the Crusades and an example of both modern and medieval concepts of a perfect knight.

When discussing the Crusades in the twenty-first century it is necessary to rethink the Eurocentric notions that have dominated such discussions over the centuries. A modern film dealing with the Crusades has to be sensitive to the East-West dialectic that has arisen due to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Although Kingdom of Heaven veers starkly from the historical records, it depicts characters that are relevant to the modern-day moviegoer and also helps us reevaluate the world of the Crusades. Every consecutive culture has a particular way of understanding the past. Although it does not accurately depict the fall of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, Kingdom of Heaven is a valid exploration of the clash of Crusader and Muslim over the Holy Land, albeit astutely packaged for modern day sensibilities.

[1] Arthur Lindley, “Once, Present, and Future Kings: Kingdom of Heaven and the Multitemporality of Medieval Film,” in Filming the Other Middle Ages: Race, Class and Gender in ‘Medieval’ Cinema, ed. Lynn T. Ramey and Tison Pugh (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 17.

[2] See www.rottentomatoes.com for an aggregative overview of the various criticisms the film received upon release.

[3] “Creative Accuracy: The Scholars Speak,” on Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut, 26 minutes, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2006, DVD.

[4] Ibn al-Athir, The Chronicle of Ibn al-Athir for the Crusading Period from al-Kamil fi’l-ta’rikh Part 2: The Years 541-589/1146-1193 – The Age of Nur al-Din and Saladin, trans. D. S. Richards (Burlington: Ashgate, 2007), 316.

[5] William of Tyre, The Old French Continuation of William of Tyre, 1184-97, in The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade: Sources in Translation, ed. and trans. Peter W. Edbury (Brookfield: Ashgate, 1998), 29. Other sources say that it was Saladin’s mother that was captured, but it’s hard to verify either way.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Majid Fakhry, “The Crusades in Arabic Historiography,” in The Crusades, Other Experiences, Alternate Perspectives: Selected Proceedings from the 32nd Annual CEMERS Conference, ed. Khalil I. Semaan (Binghamton: Global Academic Publishing, 2003), 63.

[8] Tiberias is a fictionalized version of Raymond, Count of Tripoli, who was also Count of Tiberias through his marriage. His name was made Tiberias in the film so that audiences wouldn’t confuse Raymond name with Reynald and wouldn’t think of Tripoli in Palestine with Tripoli in North Africa.

[9] Baldwin promoted low-level religious tolerance because he was a pragmatic and did not want to provoke Saladin, see “Creative Accuracy: The Scholars Speak” for a discussion of Baldwin’s pragmatism. Raymond of Tripoli was an ally of Saladin’s after the death of Baldwin IV and the end of his regency. It was in his interest to tolerate Muslims to ensure his treaty with Saladin continued.

[10] Thomas F. Madden, The New Concise History of the Crusades: Updated Edition (Toronto: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers Inc., 2005), 72-73.

[11] Ibid., 74.

[12] “Creative Accuracy: The Scholars Speak.”

[13]Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut, produced and directed by Ridley Scott, 192 minutes, Twentieth Century Fox, 2006, DVD.

[14] Majid Fakhry, 66.

[15] Thomas F. Madden, 69.

[16] Ibn al-Athir, 323-24.

[17] Majid Fakhry, 67.

[18]Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut.

[19] Peter W. Edbury, John of Ibelin and the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1997), 9.

[20] Ibid., 10.

[21] William of Tyre, 48.

[22] “Creative Accuracy: The Scholars Speak.”

[23] Peter W. Edbury, 16-17.

[24] Ibn al-Athir, 330.

[25] William of Tyre, 50.

[26]Kingdom of Heaven: Director’s Cut.

[27] Ibn al-Athir, 332.

[28] Peter W. Edbury, 17.

Kingdom of Heaven is a 2005 epichistorical drama film directed and produced by Ridley Scott and written by William Monahan. It stars Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Ghassan Massoud, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Iain Glen, Marton Csokas, Liam Neeson, Edward Norton, Michael Sheen, Velibor Topic and Alexander Siddig.

The story is set during the Crusades of the 12th century. A French village blacksmith goes to the aid of Kingdom of Jerusalem in its defence against the AyyubidMuslimSultan, Saladin, who is fighting to claim the city from the Christians; this leads to the Battle of Hattin. The film script is a heavily fictionalised portrayal of the life of Balian of Ibelin (ca. 1143–93).

Filming took place in Ouarzazate, Morocco, where Scott had previously filmed Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, and in Spain, at the Loarre Castle (Huesca), Segovia, Ávila, Palma del Río and Casa de Pilatos in Sevilla.[5] The film received mixed reviews upon theatrical release. On December 23, 2005, Scott released a director's cut of the film, which received critical acclaim, with many reviewers calling it the definitive version of the film.[6][7]

Plot[edit]

In 1184 France, Balian, a blacksmith, is haunted by his wife's recent suicide. A Crusader passing through the village introduces himself as Balian's father, Baron Godfrey of Ibelin, and asks him to return with him to the Holy Land, but Balian declines. The town priest, Balian's half-brother, wishes to claim Balian's property. To achieve this, he reveals that he ordered Balian's wife beheaded before burial, which would prevent her from ascending to heaven, in an attempt to convince Balian to leave to the Holy Land. Instead, an enraged Balian kills him and flees the village.

Balian joins his father, hoping to gain forgiveness and redemption for himself and his wife in Jerusalem. Soldiers sent by the bishop arrive to arrest Balian, but Godfrey refuses to surrender him, and in the ensuing attack, Godfrey is struck by an arrow that breaks off in his body, fatally wounding him.

In Messina, Italy, Godfrey knights Balian and orders him to serve the King of Jerusalem and protect the helpless, then succumbs to his injuries. During Balian's journey to Jerusalem his ship runs aground in a storm, leaving Balian the only survivor. After wandering the desert, Balian is confronted by a Muslim cavalier, who attacks him over Balian's horse. Balian reluctantly slays the cavalier but spares the man's servant, whom he convinces to lead him to Jerusalem. Once there, he lets the man go free, and the man tells Balian that his deed will gain him fame and respect among the Saracens.

After meeting Godfrey's men and announcing himself as his father's successor, Balian becomes acquainted with Jerusalem's political arena: the leper King Baldwin IV; Tiberias, the Marshal of Jerusalem; the King's sister, Princess Sibylla; and her husband Guy de Lusignan, who supports the anti-Muslim activities of brutal factions like the Knights Templar. After Baldwin's death, Guy intends to break the fragile truce with the sultan Saladin and make war on the Muslims.

As the new Baron of Ibelin, Balian settles in his new land of Ibelin. Using his skills as a blacksmith, he earns the respect of his subjects by building an irrigation system. Sibylla travels to meet him, and the two become secret lovers.

Guy and his ally, the cruel Raynald of Châtillon, attack a Saracen caravan, and Saladin advances on Raynald's castle Kerak in retaliation. At the request of the king, Balian defends the villagers, despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered. Captured, Balian encounters the servant he freed, whom he learns is actually Saladin's chancellor Imad ad-Din. Imad ad-Din releases Balian in repayment of the earlier debt. Saladin arrives with his army to besiege Kerak, and Baldwin meets it with his. They negotiate a Muslim retreat, and Baldwin swears to punish Raynald, though the exertion of these events weakens him.

Baldwin asks Balian to marry Sibylla and take control of the army, knowing they have affection for each other, but Balian refuses because it will require Guy's execution. Sibylla becomes queen and Guy becomes king. Guy releases Raynald, asking him to give him a war, which Raynald does by murdering Saladin's sister. Sending the heads of Saladin's emissaries back to him, Guy declares war on the Saracens and sends assassins to kill Balian, though Balian survives the attempt.

In 1187, Guy and the Templars march Jerusalem's army into the desert for war, despite Balian's advice to remain near water. Saladin's army annihilates the exhausted Crusaders in the ensuing desert battle, executes Raynald, and marches on Jerusalem. Tiberias and his men leave for Cyprus, believing Jerusalem lost, but Balian remains to protect the people in the city, knighting the men of the city. After a siege that lasts three days, a frustrated Saladin parleys with Balian. When Balian reaffirms that he will destroy the city before surrendering it, Saladin agrees to allow the Christians to leave safely in exchange for Jerusalem—though he ponders if it would be better if there were nothing left to fight over.

Balian is confronted by the disgraced Guy one final time, but defeats and spares him. In the marching column of citizens, Balian finds Sibylla, who has renounced her claim as Queen. After they return to France, English knights en route to retake Jerusalem ride through the town to enlist Balian, now the famed defender of Jerusalem. Balian tells the crusader that he is merely a blacksmith again, and they depart. Balian is joined by Sibylla, and they pass by the grave of Balian's wife as they ride toward a new life together. An epilogue notes that "nearly a thousand years later, peace in the Holy Land still remains elusive."

Cast[edit]

Many of the characters in the film are fictionalised versions of historical figures:

Historical accuracy[edit]

Bloom's character, Balian of Ibelin, was a close ally of Raymond III of Tripoli, the film's Tiberias, and a member of that faction which sought a place within the patchwork of the Near East and opposed the aggressive policy of Raynald of Châtillon, the Templars, and "fanatics newly from Europe", who refused to come to terms of peace with the Muslims.[8] Balian was a mature gentleman, just a year or two younger than Raymond, and one of the most important nobles in the kingdom, not a French blacksmith. His father, Barisan (the French "Balian"), founded the Ibelin family in the east, and probably came from Italy. Balian and Sibylla were indeed united in the defence of Jerusalem but no romantic relationship existed between the two. Balian married Sibylla's stepmother Maria Comnena, Dowager Queen of Jerusalem and Lady of Nablus. Nablus, rather than Ibelin, was Balian's fief at the time of Jerusalem's fall.

The Old French Continuation of William of Tyre (the so-called Chronicle of Ernoul) claimed that Sibylla had been infatuated with Balian's older brother Baldwin of Ibelin, a widower over twice her age, but this is doubtful; instead, it seems that Raymond of Tripoli attempted a coup to marry her off to him to strengthen the position of his faction. This legend seems to have been behind the film's creation of a romance between Sibylla and a member of the Ibelin family.[9]

King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, who reigned from 1174 to 1185, was a leper, and his sister Sibylla did marry Guy of Lusignan, though on her own initiative. Baldwin IV had a falling out with Guy, and so Guy did not succeed Baldwin IV immediately. Baldwin crowned Sibylla's son from her previous marriage to William of Montferrat, five-year-old Baldwin V, co-king in 1183.[10] The little boy reigned as sole king for one year, dying in 1186 at nine years of age. After her son's death, Sibylla and Guy (to whom she was devoted) garrisoned the city, and she claimed the throne. The coronation scene in the movie was, in real life, more of a shock: Sibylla had been forced to promise to divorce Guy before becoming queen, with the assurance that she would be permitted to pick her own consort. After being crowned by Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem (who is unnamed until late in the movie), she chose to crown Guy as her consort. Raymond of Tripoli was not present, but was in Nablus attempting a coup, with Balian of Ibelin, to raise Sibylla's half-sister (Balian's stepdaughter), Princess Isabella of Jerusalem, to the throne. Isabella's husband, Humphrey IV of Toron, refused to precipitate a civil war and swore allegiance to Guy.[11]

Raymond of Tripoli was a cousin of Amalric I of Jerusalem, one of the Kingdom's most powerful nobles, and sometime regent. He had a claim to the throne himself, but, being childless, instead tried to advance his allies in the Ibelin family. He was often in conflict with Guy and Raynald of Châtillon, who had risen to their positions by marrying wealthy heiresses and through the king's favour. The film's portrayal of Raynald of Châtillon as insane is not supported by contemporary sources, though the same sources do portray Raynald as a reckless, aggressive freebooting warlord who frequently violated truces between the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Sultanate of Egypt. The film's picture of Guy encouraging Raynald of Châtillon to attack Muslim pilgrimage convoys on their way to Mecca to provoke a war with Saladin is false. Guy was a weak, indecisive king who wanted to avoid a war with Saladin and who was simply unable to control the reckless Raynald. Saladin's abortive march on Kerak followed Raynald's raid on the Red Sea, which shocked the Muslim world by its proximity to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Guy and Raynald also harassed Muslim caravans and herders, and the claim that Raynald captured Saladin's sister is based on the account given in the Old French Continuation of William of Tyre. This claim, unsupported by any other account, is generally believed to be false. In actuality, after Raynald's attack on one caravan, Saladin made sure that the next one, in which his sister was travelling, was properly guarded: the lady came to no harm.[9] The depiction in the film of the Battle of Hattin, where the Crusader force wandered around the desert for three days without water before being ambushed, is consistent with the known facts. The scene in the film where Saladin hands Guy a cup of iced water (which in the Muslim world was a sign that the victor intended to spare the life of his prisoner), and then notes that he did not hand Raynald the cup (indicating that Raynald was to be executed) is supported by the Persian historian Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani who was present with Saladin after the Battle of Hattin.

Balian was present at the Battle of Hattin, but escaped and fled to Tyre and then Jerusalem, to retrieve his wife and children. The defenders of the city, including the military orders and the Patriarch Heraclius, named him the leader of the city's defence. On the ninth day of the siege of Jerusalem, Saladin's forces breached the wall, but the defenders held out until the tenth day, when Balian surrendered the city to Saladin. The Christians of the city were made to ransom themselves, and Balian was unable to raise the funds to ransom all the city's poor; thousands marched out into safety and thousands into slavery.[12]

Balian and Sibylla remained in the Holy Land during the events of the Third Crusade. Sibylla was a victim of an epidemic during the Siege of Acre. Balian's relations with Richard I of England were far from amicable, because he supported the claim to kingship of Conrad of Montferrat against Richard's vassal Guy. He and his wife Maria arranged her daughter Isabella's forcible divorce from Humphrey of Toron so she could marry Conrad. Ambroise, who wrote a poetic account of the crusade, called Balian "more false than a goblin" and said he "should be hunted with dogs".[13]

An episode of The History Channel's series History vs. Hollywood analysed the historical accuracy of the film. This program and a Movie Real (a series by A&E Network) episode about Kingdom of Heaven were both included on the DVD release.

Production[edit]

Cinematography[edit]

The visual style of Kingdom of Heaven emphasises set design and impressive cinematography in almost every scene. It is notable for its "visually stunning cinematography and haunting music".[14] Cinematographer John Mathieson created many large, sweeping landscapes,[15] where the cinematography, supporting performances, and battle sequences are meticulously mounted.[16] The cinematography and scenes of set-pieces have been described as "ballets of light and color" (as in films by Akira Kurosawa).[17] Director Ridley Scott's visual acumen was described as the main draw of Kingdom of Heaven with the stellar, stunning cinematography and "jaw-dropping combat sequences" based on the production design of Arthur Max.[18][19]

Visual effects[edit]

British visual effects firm The Moving Picture Company completed 440 effects shots for the film.[20] A reel of their work can be seen here. Additionally, Double Negative also contributed to complete the CGI work on the film.[21]

Music[edit]

Main article: Kingdom of Heaven (soundtrack)

The music differs in style and content from the soundtrack of Scott's earlier 2000 film Gladiator[22] and many other subsequent films depicting historical events.[23] A combination of medieval, middle-eastern, contemporary classical, and popular influences,[22][23] the soundtrack is largely the result of British film-score composer Harry Gregson-Williams. Jerry Goldsmith's "Valhalla" theme from The 13th Warrior and "Vide Cor Meum" (originally used by Scott in the Hannibal movie and composed by Patrick Cassidy and Hans Zimmer), sung by Danielle de Niese and Bruno Lazzaretti, were used as replacements for original music by Gregson-Williams.

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Upon its release it was met with a mixed reception, with many critics being divided on the film. Critics such as Roger Ebert found the film's message to be deeper than that of Scott's Gladiator.[19]

The cast was widely praised. Jack Moore described Edward Norton's performance as the leper-king Baldwin as "phenomenal", and "so far removed from anything that he has ever done that we see the true complexities of his talent".[24] The Syrian actor Ghassan Massoud was praised for his portrayal of Saladin, described in The New York Times as "cool as a tall glass of water".[25] Also commended were Eva Green, who plays Princess Sibylla "with a measure of cool that defies her surroundings",[15] and Jeremy Irons.[26]

Lead actor Bloom's performance generally elicited a lukewarm reception from American critics, with the Boston Globe stating Bloom was "not actively bad as Balian of Ibelin", but nevertheless "seems like a man holding the fort for a genuine star who never arrives".[27] One critic conceded that Balian was more of a "brave and principled thinker-warrior"[15] rather than a strong commander, and Balian used brains rather than brawn to gain advantage in battle.[28]

Bloom had gained 20 pounds for the part,[15] and the Extended Director's Cut (detailed below) of Kingdom of Heaven reveals even more complex facets of Bloom's role, involving connections with unknown relatives. Despite the criticism, Bloom won two awards for his performance.

Online, general criticism has been also divided. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 39% based on reviews from 185 critics.[29]Review aggregatorMetacritic gives the film a 63/100 rating, indicating "generally favorable reviews" according to the website's weighted average system.[30]

Academic criticism[edit]

In the time since the film's release, scholars have offered analysis and criticisms through a lens situating Kingdom of Heaven within the context of contemporary international events and religious conflict, including: broad post-9/11 politics, neocolonialism, Orientalism, the Western perspective of the film, and the detrimental handling of differences between Christianity and Islam.[31]

Academic criticism has focused on the supposed peaceful relationship between Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem and other cities depicted. Crusader historians such as Jonathan Riley-Smith, quoted by The Daily Telegraph, called the film "dangerous to Arab relations", calling the movie "Osama bin Laden's version of history" and would "fuel the Islamic fundamentalists". Riley-Smith further commented against the historical accuracy stating that "the fanaticism of most of the Christians in the film and their hatred of Islam is what the Islamists want to believe. At a time of inter-faith tension, nonsense like this will only reinforce existing myths", arguing that the film relied on the romanticized view of the Crusades propagated by Sir Walter Scott in his book The Talisman, published in 1825 and now discredited by academics, "which depicts the Muslims as sophisticated and civilized, and the Crusaders are all brutes and barbarians. It has nothing to do with reality."[32][33][34][35] Paul Halsall defended Ridley Scott, claiming that "historians can't criticize filmmakers for having to make the decisions they have to make... [Scott is] not writing a history textbook".[28]

Thomas F. Madden, Director of Saint Louis University's Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, criticised the film's presentation of the Crusades:

Given events in the modern world it is lamentable that there is so large a gulf between what professional historians know about the Crusades and what the general population believes. This movie only widens that gulf. The shame of it is that dozens of distinguished historians across the globe would have been only too happy to help Scott and Monahan get it right.[36]

Scott himself defended this depiction of the Muslim-Christian relationship in footage on the DVD version of the movie's extra features. Scott sees this portrayal as being a contemporary look at the history. He argued that peace and brutality are concepts relative to one's own experience, and since contemporary society is so far removed from the brutal times in which the movie takes place, he told the story in a way that he felt was true to the source material, yet was more accessible to a modern audience. In other words, the "peace" that existed was exaggerated to fit modern ideas of what such a peace would be. At the time, it was merely a lull in Muslim-Christian violence compared to the standards of the period. The recurring use of "Assalamu Alaikum", the traditional Arabic greeting meaning "Peace be with you", is spoken both in Arabic and English several times.

The "Director's Cut" of the film is a four-disc set, two of which are dedicated to a feature-length documentary called "The Path to Redemption". This feature contains an additional featurette on historical accuracy called "Creative Accuracy: The Scholars Speak", where a number of academics support the film's contemporary relevance and historical accuracy. Among these historians is Dr. Nancy Caciola who said that, despite the various inaccuracies and fictionalized/dramatized details, she considered the film a "responsible depiction of the period."[37]

Screenwriter William Monahan, who is a long-term enthusiast of the period, has said "If it isn't in, it doesn't mean we didn't know it... What you use, in drama, is what plays. Shakespeare did the same."[38]

Caciola agreed with the fictionalization of characters on the grounds that "crafting a character who is someone the audience can identify with" is necessary in a film. She said that "I, as a professional, have spent much time with medieval people, so to speak, in the texts that I read; and quite honestly there are very few of them that if I met in the flesh I feel that I would be very fond of." This appears to echo the sentiments of Scott himself.

The historical content and the religious and political messages present have received both praise and condemnation. John Harlow of the Times Online wrote that Christianity is portrayed in an unfavourable light and the value of Christian belief is diminished, especially in the portrayal of Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem.[39] When journalist Robert Fisk watched the film in a Beirut cinema, he reported that the Muslim audience rose to their feet and applauded during a scene in the film in which Saladin respectfully places a fallen cross back on top of a table after it had fallen during the three-day siege of the city.[40]

Box office[edit]

The film was a box office disappointment in the US and Canada, earning $47.4 million against a budget of around $130 million, but did better in Europe and the rest of the world, earning $164.3 million, with the worldwide box office earnings totalling at $211,643,158.[41] It was also a big success in Arabic-speaking countries, especially Egypt. Scott insinuated that the US failure of the film was the result of bad advertising, which presented the film as an adventure with a love story rather than as an examination of religious conflict.[citation needed][42] It's also been noted that the film was altered from its original version to be shorter and follow a simpler plot line. This "less sophisticated" version is what hit theatres, although Scott and some of his crew felt it was watered down, explaining that by editing, "You've gone in there and taken little bits from everything".[43]

Accolades[edit]

Awards for Kingdom of Heaven
AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipientOutcome
Golden Schmoes AwardsBest DVD/Blu-Ray of the Year4-Disc Director's Cut Special EditionNominated
Goya AwardsJanuary 26, 2006Best Costume DesignJanty Yates
Hollywood Film AwardsOctober 24, 2005Composer of the YearHarry Gregson-Williams(also for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)Won
International Film Music Critics AssociationBest Original Score for an Action/Adventure FilmHarry Gregson-WilliamsNominated
International Online Cinema AwardsBest Costume DesignJanty Yates
Motion Picture Sound EditorsMarch 4, 2006Best Sound Editing in Feature Film - Foreign
Best Sound Editing in Feature Film - Music
Satellite AwardsDecember 17, 2005Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role, DramaEdward Norton
Outstanding Art Direction and Production DesignArthur Max
Outstanding Costume DesignJanty Yates
Outstanding Visual EffectsTom Wood
Outstanding Original ScoreHarry Gregson-WilliamsWon
Teen Choice AwardsAugust 14, 2005Choice Movie: Action AdventureNominated
Choice Movie Actor: Action Adventure/ThrillerOrlando Bloom
Choice Movie Love SceneOrlando Bloom and Eva Green
Choice Movie Liplock
Visual Effects Society AwardsFebruary 15, 2006Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion PictureWesley Sewell, Victoria Alonso, Tom Wood, and Gary BrozenichWon

Extended Director's Cut[edit]

Unhappy with the theatrical version of Kingdom of Heaven (which he blamed on paying too much attention to the opinions of preview audiences, and conceding to Fox's request to shorten the film by 45 minutes), Ridley Scott supervised a director's cut of the film, which was released on December 23, 2005 at the Laemmle Fairfax Theatre in Los Angeles, California.[44] The director's cut earned overwhelmingly positive reviews, including a four-star review in the British magazine Total Film and a ten out of ten from IGN DVD.[45][46][47]Empire magazine called the reedited film an "epic", adding, "The added 45 minutes in the director’s cut are like pieces missing from a beautiful but incomplete puzzle."[6] One reviewer suggested it is the most substantial director's cut of all time[7] and James Berardinelli wrote that it offers a much greater insight into the story and the motivations of individual characters.[48] "This is the one that should have gone out," reflected Scott.[6]

The DVD of the extended director's cut was released on 23 May 2006. It comprises a four-disc box set with a runtime of 194 minutes, and is shown as a roadshow presentation with an Overture, Intermission, and Entr'acte, in the vein of traditional Hollywood epic films like The Ten Commandments (1956), Ben-Hur (1959), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and Doctor Zhivago (1965) during the heyday of the roadshow theatrical release.[44] The first Blu-ray release omitted the roadshow elements, running at 189 minutes, but they were restored for the 2014 Ultimate Edition release.[49]

Scott gave an interview to STV on the occasion of the extended edition's UK release, when he discussed the motives and thinking behind the new version.[50] Asked if he was against previewing in general in 2006, Scott stated: "It depends who's in the driving seat. If you've got a lunatic doing my job, then you need to preview. But a good director should be experienced enough to judge what he thinks is the correct version to go out into the cinema."[51]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^"Company Information". movies.nytimes.com. Retrieved 30 July 2010. 
  2. ^"KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 20 April 2005. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  3. ^"Kingdom of Heaven". Film.com.
  4. ^ ab"Kingdom of Heaven". Box Office Mojo.
  5. ^Cinemareview.com: "Kingdom of Heaven – Production Notes"
  6. ^ abc"Directors Cuts, the Good, the Bad, and the Unnecessary". Empire. 10 January 2015. 
  7. ^ ab"Kingdom of Heaven: 4-Disc Director's Cut DVD Review". Ugo.com. Archived from the original on 10 August 2009. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  8. ^Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem. Cambridge University Press, 1952.
  9. ^ ab"Making the Crusades Relevant in KINGDOM OF HEAVEN" by Cathy Schultz
  10. ^Depicted in the director's cut.[citation needed]
  11. ^Christopher Tyerman, God's War: A New History of the Crusades. Penguin, 2006.
  12. ^Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem. Cambridge University Press, 1952, pp. 463–467.
  13. ^Ambroise; Marianne Ailes; Malcolm Barber (2003). The History of the Holy War: Ambroise's Estoire de la Guerre Sainte. Boydell Press. pp. 149–. ISBN 978-1-84383-001-6. 
  14. ^Richard J. Radcliff (29 May 2005). "Movie Review:Kingdom of Heaven". BlogCritics.org. Archived from the original on 25 February 2006.  
  15. ^ abcdStephanie Zacharek (6 May 2005). "Kingdom of Heaven – Salon". Salon.com. Archived from the original on 7 August 2007.  
  16. ^Carrie Rickey (6 May 2005). "Epic 'Kingdom' has a weak link". Philadelphia Inquirer.  
  17. ^Uncut, Review of Kingdom of Heaven, Uncut, 2005-07-01, page 129, web: BuyCom-Uncut: noted "Where Scott scores is in the cinematography and set-pieces, with vast armies surging across sun-baked sand in almost Kurosawa-like ballets of light and color".
  18. ^Nix. "Kingdom of Heaven (2005)". BeyondHollywood.com.  
  19. ^ abRoger Ebert (5 May 2005). "Kingdom of Heaven (review)". SunTimes.com.  
  20. ^"Kingdom of Heaven VFX breakdown". The Moving Picture Company. Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  21. ^"Kingdom of Heaven". www.dneg.com. Double Negative VFX. Retrieved 23 October 2014. 
  22. ^ ab"Filmtracks: Kingdom of Heaven (Harry Gregson-Williams)". www.filmtracks.com. 
  23. ^ ab"Kingdom of Heaven Soundtrack (2005)". www.soundtrack.net. 
  24. ^Jack Moore, Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut DVD ReviewArchived 22 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  25. ^Manolha Dargis, New York Times review of Kingdom of Heaven
  26. ^James Berardinelli, http://preview.reelviews.net/movies/k/kingdom_heaven.html
  27. ^Ty Burr, "Kingdom of Heaven Movie Review: Historically and heroically challenged 'Kingdom' fails to conquer"
  28. ^ ab"CNN "Kingdom of Heaven" Transcript". CNN.com. 9 May 2005. 
  29. ^"Kingdom of Heaven". 
  30. ^"Kingdom of Heaven". 
  31. ^Schlimm, Matthew Richard (20 August 2010). "The Necessity of Permanent Criticism: A Postcolonial Critique of Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven". Journal of Media and Religion. 9 (3): 129–145. doi:10.1080/15348423.2010.500967. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  32. ^Charlotte Edwardes (17 January 2004). "Ridley Scott's new Crusades film 'panders to Osama bin Laden'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
  33. ^Andrew Holt (5 May 2005). "Truth is the First Victim- Jonathan Riley-Smith". Crusades-encyclopedia.com. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  34. ^"Kingdom of Heaven info page". Zombietime.com. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  35. ^Jamie Byrom, Michael Riley "The Crusades"
  36. ^"Thomas F. Madden on ''Kingdom of Heaven'' on National Review Online". Nationalreview.com. 27 May 2005. Retrieved 21 August 2009. 
  37. ^"Creative Accuracy: The Scholars Speak (Video 2006)". 
  38. ^Bob Thompson (1 May 2005). "Hollywood on Crusade: With His Historical Epic, Ridley Scott Hurtles Into Vexing, Volatile Territory". Washington Post. Retrieved 8 January 2007. 
  39. ^John Harlow. "Christian right goes to war with Ridley's crusaders". 
  40. ^Robert Fisk (20 June 2005). "Kingdom of Heaven: Why Ridley Scott's Story Of The Crusades Struck Such A Chord In A Lebanese Cinema". Zmag.org. Archived from the original on 17 December 2005. 
  41. ^"Kingdom of Heaven – Box Office Data". The-Numbers.com. 
  42. ^""Kingdom of Heaven Trivia"". Hicelebs.com. Archived from the original on 13 January 2008. 
  43. ^Garth Franklin. "Interview: Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven". DarkHorizons. [dead link]
  44. ^ ab"Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut DVD official website". 
  45. ^"Double Dip Digest: Kingdom of Heaven". 6 June 2006. 
  46. ^
William of Tyre discovers Baldwin IV's leprosy; his accounts form the historical basis for much of the film.

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