Despite earlier promises to pass his crown to one of his Flemish, Viking or Norman relatives, English king Edward The Confessor dies in 1066, leaving his crown to Anglo-Saxon Harold Godwinson, causing a bloody succession war.
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In 1066, King Edward The Confessor of England dies leaving his crown to Anglo-Saxon Harold Godwinson. In doing this, King Edward disregards his earlier promises to give the throne of England to one of his legitimate successors from among his Flemish, Viking or Norman relatives.As a result of this unwise decision, a contest for the English crown begins. While an Armada of Viking ships under Viking King Hardrada invades the north of England, a Norman invasion, led by William Duke of Normandy, strikes the south. Caught in a giant pincer movement, the new English king Harold Godwinson and his small army must rush to the north to deal with the Viking invasion while planning an eventual mad dash to the south to face the Normans. The fate of Anglo-Saxon England hangs into balance. Written by
For me, this film was a success because it captured that horrified sense of loss not only of a battle, or of lives, but of a whole culture and the 650-year history that had produced it. The decision to focus only on the ordinary foot-soldiers (to the extent that none of the three leaders had a single line to speak, and William did not even appear on screen) was a good one, since it allowed the story to represent the fate of peoples instead of just the fate of kings. The narration, in a good imitation of the style of Anglo-Saxon epic poetry, was mournful and measured, and the revelation of the narrator's identity at the end nicely rounded out one thread of the story. Despite the constant bloodletting, the characters were attractive: Leofric the happy-go-lucky coward who does the right thing in the end; Hrothgar the weary general always trying to rally his weary men for one more fight; and Snorri the captured Viking who becomes a mainstay of the English at Hastings. The final stages at Hastings reminded me of the poem commemorating another English defeat, 75 years before:
"Thought shall be harder, heart shall be keener / Spirit shall be greater, as our might lessens." (The Battle of Maldon, 991)
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