Inspired by "The Canterbury Tales," as well as the story of Ulrich von Lichtenstein, this is the story of William, a young squire with a gift for jousting. After his master dies suddenly, the squire hits the road with his cohorts Roland and Wat. On the journey, they stumble across an unknown writer, Chaucer. William, lacking a proper pedigree, convinces Chaucer to forge genealogy documents that will pass him off as a knight. With his newly-minted history in hand, the young man sets out to prove himself a worthy knight at the country's jousting competition, and finds romance along the way. Written by
As the first credits appear, the camera swings to show a constellation behind William and Jocelyn. The constellation is Orion, the Hunter. Jocelyn refers to William as the Hunter before she learns his name. See more »
The first time I saw A Knight's Tale (on cable, missed it in theater), I had the same reaction as many of you - Queen? David Bowie? In a movie set in the middle ages?
But I stayed with it, and I'm glad I did. Once you get past the glaring anachronisms (put in the film on purpose, of course), you find the movie is actually quite true to its period.
The presence of Chaucer in the film, combined with some of its details, leads me to suspect that Brian Helgeland has read "Chaucer's Knight" by fellow filmmaker Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame). The book deconstructs the knight in Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale" in a totally unique way -- he is seen NOT as the flower of medieval chivalry (as most scholars have interpreted him), but as a mercenary out for nothing but money and blood. The character in the film Chaucer would have written about, then, is not Sir William Thatcher (Heath Ledger), but Count Adhemar of Anjou (Rufus Sewell).
The part of the film in which this connection "clicked" for me was the scene where Count Adhemar is called away to his command in a "Free Company" -- a particular stain on the reputation of knighthood which Jones talks extensively about in his book.
Jones' book made use of extensive research into medieval history, and Helgeland's film obviously does, too.
Chaucer was a master of satire in his day. Helgeland's use of modern conventions in a period film is a conceit of which - I believe - Chaucer would definitely have approved.
I gave "A Knight's Tale" 9 out of 10 - it's not perfect, but I like it so much, I try to watch it every time it comes on (it's been on HBO and Cinemax pretty regularly for the past several months). Check it out!
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