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As the story opens, King Henry II, who ruled England from 1154 to 1189 has entered Canterbury Cathedral to do penance at the tomb of his former friend, Thomas Becket. Bare to the waist, the king kneels to receive a flogging from Saxon monks. He begins to reminisce, recalling at first the carefree, promiscuous adventures with Becket, then his favorite drinking and wenching companion. A violently emotional drama that probes the changing relationship between two young men - between two close friends bound together by similar pride of flesh and spirit who become deadly enemies as they pursue their separate destinies . . . that of king . . . and saint. Written by
Empress Matilda (Maud), King Henry's mother, had been chosen by her father King Henry I to rule after his death; but the ruling Council of England decided it would be inappropriate for a woman to rule, and named her cousin Stephen as king. This set off decades of war, during which Matilda captured much of western England and was proclaimed Lady of England. Though she never became queen, she successfully established her son Henry's claim to the throne. She died in 1167, three years before Becket's murder. See more »
Although the story takes place in the late 12th century, the armored helmets that King Henry's children play in are right out of the 15th century, the same as one might see in films about Joan of Arc, or Henry the IVth and Vth. This choice by the costumers must have been purely aesthetic because the armor of the last 100 years of medieval times was by far the most splendid visually. See more »
King Henry II:
Well, Thomas Becket. Are you satisfied? Here I am, stripped, kneeling at your tomb, while those treacherous Saxon monks of yours are getting ready to thrash me. Me - with my delicate skin. I bet you'd never have done the same for me. But - I suppose I have to do this penance and make my peace with you. Hmm. What a strange end to our story. How cold it was when we last met - on the shores of France. Funny, it's nearly always been cold - except at the beginning, when we were friends....
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After having read the other comments, I hardly feel able to improve upon what has already been so eloquently expressed. For anyone who enjoys high-caliber acting, intriguing dialogue, and complex relationships in a film, this is a must-see. I agree with a comment that Burton was shafted the oscar for his performance of Becket. It does seem at times that the Academy veers from rewarding darker, complex, mercurial characters in favor of anaesthitized heroic caricatures. It is one of the greatest tragedies of film-making that the talented are often unrewarded and forgotten. Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole are perfect foils in this film. The souring of their friendship makes a deeply moving story. Historical inaccuracies I can easily forgive; this is a dramatic film, not a documentary, and a director and screenwriter must condense lives into a believable and appealing plot. It is far better to make alterations than to have nothing such as this produced... (Having exposed myself thus, I must own that I am also a history scholar and usually a stickler regarding more inferior productions.) All in all, I recommend this film to anyone who enjoys superior acting and thought-provoking drama.
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