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KOH Director's Cut
on May 31, 2006
Kingdom of Heaven, the Director's Cut, is steeped in history and faithful to the Middle Ages. The time period was filled with religious and political hypocrisy, cruelty and greed, where innocent people suffered for the power and land grabs of kings and religious leaders--sound familiar?
Ridley Scott presents his vision of the Middle Ages and the Crusades with rich colours, beautiful architecture, panoramic vistas, glorious costumes, and in my opinion, with a certain sarcastic and almost angry tone to the script. William Monahan's script was written in a way to show the viewer that even though the film is about those wars that occurred almost one thousand years ago, those wars are still occurring today. And those wars still lead to the intolerable suffering of innocent people.
There is a truly revolutionary subtext in the script. The oath that Balian takes when he knighted by Godfrey (played by Liam Neeson): 'Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright that God may love thee. Speak the truth, always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless. Do no wrong', is an oath we should all take, with or without the God reference. We could all 'do the right thing' and in doing so, we could create a 'Kingdom of Conscience'. This idea is peppered throughout the film, and it makes one think: if we all acted ethically, there would be a lot less government and coercive religion, but more importantly, THERE WOULD BE NO WAR.
The actors were well-cast for their roles. Orlando Bloom is perfect as Balian. His role requires intelligence, skepticism, ethical and physical strength, and Bloom got it exactly right. Ghassan Massoud, who plays Saladin, has a truly majestic presence on the screen that makes it easy for the viewer to believe the history--that Saladin was one of the greatest warrior kings, ever.
There are some shots of battle scenes that owners of the Lord of the Rings extended edition will recognize. The raid at Osgiliath, the battle at Helm's Deep, the charge at Pelennor Fields and the siege of Gondor seem to have been transplanted from Middle Earth to the Middle East, but it is astonishing to see how much more life-like, gritty and violent Ridley Scott has filmed battle scenes.
Anyone who is a history nut for the period will be rolling in catnip. Again, in my opinion, this film could be a lot longer, perhaps giving more historical background, considering all the back and forth that went on between kings and popes, etc. Sir Ridley, if you read this . . .
Kingdom of Heaven is one of the best films I have ever seen.