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The title of the film, THE BATTLE OF VIENNA, rightly leads viewers to
an assumption that they are going to see an epic production dealing
with an important moment in the European history - the 1680s and the
siege of Vienna. Undeniably, 1683 saw the turning point for the western
world and its identity. Deserveably, the tribute in the form of the
newest motion picture depicting this historic battle is a desirable
achievement. For years, many history film buffs looked forward to its
screen adaptation. Although there have been certain plans, they somehow
did not materialize for several reasons. And here it is at last, a film
directed by Renzo Martinelli starring some great international and
Polish cast. With this challenging project, however, they should have
kept in mind one thing: as our experience with the genre gets richer,
our expectations naturally grow higher. What expectations?
Some await a spectacle, some look forward to historical accuracy, some preferably cherish the fictitious plots and characters creatively inserted into the historic moments. Unfortunately, Martinelli's movie does not meet any of these expectations and, sadly, disappoints a variety of viewers at multiple levels.
Amidst the storm of criticism among movie scholars, viewers can do their best to put up with innumerable flaws and try to find some positive aspects about a production. Nevertheless, it appears almost impossible in this case. If there is something positive or at least occurs to be promising, sooner or later, there turns up something that almost disqualifies the movie's producers, director and crew. The theme is serious but the backbone is a pure soap opera, cheap entertainment that leaves even a contemporary movie buff disappointed - not to mention learned historians. Let me consider some aspects more briefly.
JAN SOBIESKI and MARCO D'AVIANO: The two iconic figures of the historical moment, the religious and the military leader, are unforgivably diminished/distorted under Martinelli's direction. While Sobieski (Jerzy Skolimowski) is an almost background character diminished to some two or three scenes (no viewer, particularly the one who is not very acknowledged of history, can ever see the Polish king as the crucial victor of the battle), Marco d'Aviano is an almost fairy tale-like miracle worker.
SOBIESKI: Where is his charisma? Where is his military genius? Where is his detailed written correspondence with Pope Innocent XI? Where are his historic words he wrote to the pope after the battle paraphrasing Julius Caesar "Venimus, vidimus, Deus vicit" What do we get of Skolimowski's portrayal of the king? Just an episodic, supporting monarch...
MARCO D'AVIANO seems to be the protagonist of the film. He indeed has far more time on the screen. Played by wonderful F Murray Abraham, we have a clearer picture of the character. But the problem is what this picture has to do with the historical Marco d'Aviano or Carlo Dominico Cristofori... The terribly flawed and ridiculous (at moments) script did not allow even such a good actor as Murray Abraham to deliver something really powerful. The flashback to the youth itself with the alleged meeting with Kara Mustafa (when both were boys) is something that has no logical bases. It seems there is much of a miraculous or rather magical existence in his life. However, the director, for a number of reasons some intentional and some coincidental, ignored the jeopardy of a serious border that exists within depiction of the supernatural: border between a mystique experience and a mere laughable product of fantasy. Just to mention the sequence with the wolf (the priest's ancestor). What purpose does it serve?
OTHER HISTORICAL FIGURES: It would be unjust to start with yet another European. The winners take it all, true, and it has been so throughout centuries but let me highlight Kara Mustafa here played by just adequate Enrico LoVerso. As a matter of fact, there is nothing extraordinary about the portrayal of this key character so eager to spread the Ottoman Empire westwards. At the beginning, through some cheap computerized effects, we may get an idea of what he is like, the general impression might be quite impressive but in the second half of the movie, the character goes totally pale. The person who deserves credit is Piotr Adamczyk as Leopold I, the emperor of Austria. His performance, at least, leaves a certain idea of a ruler quite incapable of gathering the army but proud enough to refuse asking for help. Historically, this portrayal takes innumerable liberties again but at least, it is Adamczyk's interesting performance that viewers may enjoy (from the artistic point of view, I mean). The rest of the performances are worth soap opera. Sorry to say that but I think that I am not the only viewer who has that impression.
And the BATTLE itself? That would be the major point of criticism. It is diminished, belittled and cannot captivate a viewer whatsoever. This point, of course, refers to modern cinematic possibilities which allow for something truly spectacular. The reconstruction of the Vienna of the time (referred to as "Golden Apple" and the second, after Rome, greatest city of the continental Europe of the time) at the siege resorts merely to computerized packed images of some church towers (the ones of Minoritenkirche, Michaelerkirche and the copula of Karlskirche) and some almost laughable images of buildings. And what does the priest Marco D'Aviano do whilst the battle? He stands on a hill, shouts at the enemy in a Moses-like position and carries...something that thoroughly disqualifies even the soap epic...a bent, post-modern cross designed by Lello Scorzelli (so called 'Scorzelli staff) and carried by some recent popes, particularly John Paul II. Yes, Marco d'Aviano is supposed to be John Paul II for a moment... Great idea, isn't it?
A few years will pass and no one will be able to rescue such movies from oblivion...there is a danger that history and epic genre will also be belittled through such crap productions. A remake highly recommended.
I know, the movie is bad. All the critics hit the nail. But...This
movie is, how do they call them? Indie. this movie is the real "V for
Vendetta". This movie did not receive any funding from the state, from
the EU, from anyone, because it is not politically correct. It has no
lesbian scenes, no incest, no sex among clergypersons, and tackles a
topic too many European politicians would better seen buried under the
thickest and farthest away carpet.
After "masterpieces" of the like of "Kingdom of Heaven", or that Turkish movie on the siege of Constantinopolis (at least, righteously bashed by everyone), this movie was at least something to root for.
I am still waiting for a decent movie on the siege of Malta, but I know I'll die without seeing it - so be it, one can't have everything in this life.
Why 7 out of 10? That's why: I sympathize with all the Polish reviewers who killed this movie. You deserved a lot, but an awful lot, better. But really, at least this movie's heart is on the right side, and I am giving my 7 to its heart.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just had to create an account to write this review and warn people.
Under any circumstances do not go and watch that film.
The first thing that really hits you is the CGI. It's like it's taken out of a poorly designed computer game from the 1995.
The sound was so horrible especially when suddenly the speaking character is sort of behind you and you can see who's he speaking to... and when I say behind you I mean you feel like there's a huge pumped-up guy breathing down your neck... dreadful!
Music? What music? The music is supposed to help set the mood... well this film's music took the mood and wiped its behind with it. It's really closer to jingles you hear in some ads on the TV.
Dialogs? Action? Any drama? Nope. Sorry, ain't gonna happen. It was one of the worst films I've ever seen and the first one that made me leave the cinema. Ever.
Thank you, good night.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have to agree with the previous reviews - there is almost nothing
good you can say about this film...
My expectations were high - it's such a filmy topic... A great battle with the most powerful heavy cavalry in the military history of the world (the Polish heavy cavalry known as "husaria"), interesting characters of king Sobieski and Marco D'Aviano, not to mention Leopold I, and... nothing, zero emotions, no involvement in the movie whatsoever... Such a disappointment...
The only two positive things I can say about this film are: 1) a very comic portrayal of Leopold I by Adamczyk (just one look at him and I was dying with laughter - though I don't think that was the intention of the director) and 2) a very short scene in which Polish troops were shown mounting the Kahlenberg Hill - it perfectly picturized the arduous job it was to get to the top of the hill with the horses, in full armor, with cannons heavy as hell... But then that's it... The cavalry charge, which should have been the epitome of the battle, which should have shown how murderous those "husaria" charges were, was limited to a narrow frame of a few horsemen trotting their way down the hill in slow-motion almost... Watching them makes you start wondering why the whole of Europe had been so scared to death of those "winged" Polish knights for over two hundred years...
On the whole - if you look for great battles in a movie, go and see the Rohan riders' charges in The Lord of the Rings movies, if you look for great acting, choose any of the classics - but stay away from this horrible misunderstanding of a film.
Not a complete review, although I think the film was modestly
entertaining, it's hard to do a sweeping epic style film on a very
modest budget of only $12 MM.
So, my offering is a bit of trivia, an "oops" in the film. About 2/3 through or thereabouts, we see F. Murray Abraham carrying/holding a papal-like silver staff. It has a slightly down-turned cross, with a crucifix of a very thin and stretched out Jesus attached.
The problem, although a beautiful and imaginative design, is that that particular staff was designed by Lello Scorzelli, from Naples Italy, in 1965just about 300 years later than the time of the historical period!
The Scorzelli Staff has been carried by the last 3 Popes, among other ferula, not counting the other staffs. I just think they chose it for the beauty, but I recognized it immediately, did any of you?
Oh, what can I really say here? I love the history of great battles and the Polish events of the 17th century, Jan Sobieski was a distinguished king and a great warrior, and the very topic of Kara Mustapha and the peak of Ottoman Empire's power in Europe all seem to be very exiting topics to make a great film about. Did the filmmakers succeed? No. Why? First, and foremost, extremely poor special effects. They are so naive, amateurish and so obviously bad, that even a mere kid can immediately say that this is drawn, this is computerized and this was very sloppily assembled on a very simply software. Shame. The worst moment? he very battle, of course. My, it is so caricature, so unassumingly badly done, so fast and hasted, that one can marvel with a mouth open. Terribly poor effects and very laughable attacks recall all the great previous Polish movies on war, but here the battle simply sinks. Even the great casting cannot help. All the stars seem to be a bit lost and absent, with only two great exceptions - Adamczyk and Abraham - they did a marvelous job. But they did not save the poor film from a fail. Immense failure.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As Vienna never fell, there should be no spoilers possible; but it does
contain drama so I'll skip that.
As usual, the the Ottomans want to roll up Europe like they did the formerly Christian nations of the Middle East and North Africa. Only Vienna stands in their path. They bring a huge army. Their siege is working to perfection. And yet, they fail.
How? It's great to watch the movie. You might even see things that remind you of Lord of the Rings (Large army out of the East, city without a strong enough defense to survive alone, weak, decadent leaders who can't agree about what to have for lunch, and a few surprises.
This is worth watching (I saw it on cable in Korea) and buying. But only if you like movies where the good guys win.
not about politic or military victory but about force of faith. not about Vienna but about the Church. a film like a honest confession. not great, not impressive, not original. only a story about few people, a danger and the only solution for resist against it. result - not a bad movie but a different one. and it could be a surprise because not the low budget is its sin. the real cause - the chosen public. it is not a documentary and far to have the purpose to become a blockbuster. only to present a fruit of deep faith. that is all. so, it is not right to criticize it in serious manner. only see it without the ordinaries expectations for a historical film. and, maybe, it could represent an useful image about a fundamental episode from Europe past .
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It takes a lot to ruin an historical battle epic for me, but these guys
The director and writer obviously had an simplistic agenda: To show a victory of Christendom over Islam -- and to milk the coincidental historical date the Battle of Vienna (Sept. 11) for all it's worth. The jingoism is annoying enough. But the screenplay and the execution of the battle scenes also turns what should be an historically fascinating and action-packed story into a horrid trudge through the mud.
Why F. Murray Abraham would lend his considerable talents to such a mess is the only thing about the movie that could hold this viewer's interest.
Really I would give a 5.5 since the ratings are 3.4 which is lower than
it should. It's clear people want gory battles but this historical
drama lacks that. Like some, I just saw it on netflix and that's where
it belongs, quite an average film. Most epics are good films and few go
wrong but this one falls short.
Acting is average. F. Murray Abraham is overbearing as Marco D'Aviano. He just spends a bit too much time shouting. Did the real Marco D'Aviano shout? I doubt it since he was revered as a skill negotiator. Enrico Lo Verso plays Kara Mustafa which is fine since the real Mustafa was Albanian. A pleasant surprise appearance was Jerzy Skolimowski as Jan Sobieski, the King of Poland. He wrote the screenplay for Knife in the Water, a 1962 Polish gem by Roman Polanski. He also directed some unusual cult films like Moonlighting and Torrents of Spring. Personally I take a liking to his bizarre King, Queen, Knave and Adventures of Gerard (mostly due to Gina Lollobrigida and Claudia Cardinale). But yes, you get the point. Day of the Siege is an Italian-Polish production that falls into a sort of cult-like realm. A more religious cult-like realm.
So complaints by modern standards: No blood, special effects do look like a war video game at times, the sky never seems to be real, dialogue is stiff and formal, acting is over the top or stiff except a few moments where Lo Verso and Skoliminowski shine. Direction is very average, nothing special and predictable. The low ratings may be due to expectations that this would be a gory film about the battle. Battle choreography falls short by today's standards. Polish nationals might be disappointed that King Jan Sobieski's appearances are limited. People are not going to cheer for a monk unless it's Sean Connery in The Name of the Rose. Some of the low ratings may be due to turn- off with a religious tone. Some don't like the references to September 11 and the concept of defending the faith. So some complain about historical inaccuracy.
But actually, in researching this interesting siege of Vienna, the film could focus on King Jan Sobieski but Marco D'Aviano was a real key character. Perhaps he was made too zealous in the film with a weak script and direction - how could a monk win a battle? This part of the film was a bit fictional. But in reality Marco was a key diplomat who was a skilled negotiator in bringing the remnants of the Holy Roman Empire back together against the encroaching Ottomans. The real Marco had quite high standards and even several hundred captured Turks went to him to beg for mercy knowing his skills in helping others. But in terms of filmmaking, it's not that interesting and may involve deeper character development. Another person complained that Kara Mustafa prostrated before the Sultan and in Islam, one never prostrates unless before God. Actually that is incorrect, as it is traditional to prostrate before very high rank. And it is tradition that a failed Grand Vizier is executed by strangulation by a silk cloth. So some feel it makes the Ottomans look evil or inhuman. But on the other hand, the only family we see in the movie is Kara Mustafa's. Therefore he is a central figure who has a human touch.
It is an average film but below average for an epic. It lacks the excitement that a bloodier epic might have, such as Braveheart or the Last Samurai. But it is far more accurate than people suggest especially compared to most epics.
The strengths of the film was as some say, soundtrack was fairly strong, costume design was good. Just a bit too glorious and shallow. Like a nice piece of cake that looks good but a bit bland.
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