Thursday, October 20, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven

Kingdom of Heaven. I finally saw this movie the other day on DVD. I liked it. It was a well done film with many good battle sequences.

I was a bit put off by the politically correct feel of the movie. This film shows the fall of the Crusader state of Jerusalem. Despite this, the whole theme is of all religions being equal and how no one except a few evil Christians wanted the war. I doubt this was the prevailing feeling at the time the actual war happened. And I am certain there were some Muslims who eyed Jerusalem and wanted to reclaim the city and needed only an excuse to attack the weakened Kingdom of Jerusalem.

I did like this quote given by Balian to the Christian defenders of Jerusalem before the fall of the city. He said, "It has fallen to us, to defend Jerusalem, and we have made our preparations as well as they can be made. None of us took this city from Muslims. No Muslim of the great army now coming against us was born when this city was lost. We fight over an offence we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended."

We fight over an offence we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended.

And therein lies the key to much of the conflicts in world history, isn't it? The genocides and ethnic cleansings of history are often people fighting over offenses committed by the dead against those who are also dead. This leads to new injustice and a continuance of the violence and hatred.

We can see it in the world today. All the trouble in the Balkans was started by men fighting over grievances that originated centuries ago. How far does the injustice go back in Palestine on both sides of the conflict? How about Rwanda? How about those demanding slave reparations in the USA for those who were never slaves from those who never owned them?

Wouldn't it be nice if people would judge people based on the actions they have taken rather than the actions of their ancestors? What is important is not our DNA or our religion but each of us our own individual character. We are not responsible for the actions of the dead in times before we were alive and we are not owed anything because of injustices taken against the dead before we were born.

OK, that is the end of the sermon. I wish for a world that probably will never be. Except in the Kingdom of Heaven...


Rem870 said...

Nicely said.

beajerry said...

Perhaps the world should have an "erase past conflicts" day.

Impossible, but nice to think about.

FreebornMD said...

My response goes a little off topic. But in thinking about how the movie could have done a better job of symbolizing one of the themes you mention I started thinking about all the other things the movie could have done a better job with.

There were definitely some themes that rang true in the movie however I couldnt help but think of how short the final product came to reaching its potential.

There is so much real history to portray I didnt understand the reasons for many of the breaks from what we know to be true of the characters and events. The movie definitely gave entertaining and probably the most realistic siege footage we have seen (albeit in the course of a few minutes). But when the writers chose to make Bailin a grieving bastard blacksmith with little training at arms and what we could assume then no training armored and armed on horseback, for the audience to make the great leap that this same person is suddenly in no time defeating Saracen body guards in single combat, leading cavalry charges, a master of tactics and siege warefare, etc. etc. etc. There were just too many stretches that the script created when it didnt need to.

Too many things were done for the sake of creating character drama. I think Braveheart and Gladiator are two historical fiction movies, who probably had just as many historical innaccuracies as KoH, but in those two films the changes seemed to work. They didnt cause the audience to question, the changes truly just enhanced the drama. Which for a movie, we can forgive. In KoH, they portrayed the altered history, but yet I dont believe it improved the drama, in fact many of the breaks from history are also those parts which lessoned the believability and immersiveness.

Miland said...

rem870 and beajerry, thanks for the kind comments. I agree that we should have a "erase past history" day. Perhaps an international year of Jubilee where all is forgiven that happened over 100 years ago?

freebornmd, thanks for the comments on the movie. They are indeed on topic.

willwaddell said...

I found this movie more than a touch ridiculous. As we have noted, Balian is able to acquire an amazing knowledge of military tactics and siegecraft despite his origins as a blacksmith. In reality Balian d'Ibelin was the Lord of Rama and the descendent of lesser knights. He was respected by all, including his enemies, but Scott's attempt to make him a peasant turned medieval warlord is just too much. For some reason Scott feels it necessary to graft modern notions of political correctness and social justice on to world defined by religion and class. The speeches and attitudes displayed by the characters are misleading and historically inaccurate.

In the movie Balian takes a very ambivalent attitude toward Christianity. He tries, inappropriately, to make Jerusalem into some multi-cultural secular paradise. Nothing could be further from the truth. Balian did, in fact, earn the respect and admiration of Saladin, but he remained, to the end, a staunch defender of the Faith and a convinced Christian. In a similar fashion, Scott remakes many characters to reinforce his 21st century attitudes about the crusades. He presents Reynald of Chatillon as an oaf, a braggart and an idiot warmonger. Reynald was certainly reckless, but he also was an accomplished strategist. What is left out of the movie, as far as I can recall, is that Reynald spent years as a captive of the Muslim powers in Aleppo. His fanaticism was a direct result. The same is done to other characters like Count Raymond III of Tripoli, etc.

Perhaps the best example of how Scott purposely misuses history can be found in the final siege. Despite his portrayal as a tragic agnostic battling in a war he did not want, Balian d'Ibelin did actually threaten to butcher some 5,000 Muslim prisoners inside of Jerusalem. He also intimated that he would destroy the Dome of the Rock and the Aqsa Mosque if necessary. These were hardly the actions of a tolerant beatnik, much to Scott's chagrin.

I understand that Ridley Scott wants to create a world where religious wars don't have to be fought, but they were. In reality, they still are. Scott's Kingdom of Heaven is nothing but a figment of his very powerful imagination.

petetree said...

Does anyone know when the idea of heaven was first mentioned in history, by whom or what? I believe Plato is credited with couming up with the idea of a soul or spirit which leaves the body at death...