During the Thirty Years' War of 1600s, a band of Protestant mercenaries peacefully coexist with German Catholic villagers in a hidden idyllic mountain valley untouched by war.During the Thirty Years' War of 1600s, a band of Protestant mercenaries peacefully coexist with German Catholic villagers in a hidden idyllic mountain valley untouched by war.During the Thirty Years' War of 1600s, a band of Protestant mercenaries peacefully coexist with German Catholic villagers in a hidden idyllic mountain valley untouched by war.
17th century Europe was the century of the great religious conflicts between Catholic and the many Protestant faiths. The Catholic Hapsburg Holy Roman Empire was gradually losing its grip on more and more of the various little domains that made up their empire. More rulers and the populations of those small kingdoms were converting to either Lutheranism or Calvinism.
Of course the rest of Europe was concerned as to who would come out on top and from 1617 when the conflict first started, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, France, Spain, just about everybody got involved one way or another. Religion was the key factor, but hardly the only one. France because her prime minister Cardinal Richelieu feared the Hapsburgs more than Protestantism allied themselves with the Protestant rulers.
The war itself was fought mostly in Germany, not Germany the nation, but Germany the geographical expression, just a place where the German language predominated. The German people, weak and disunited, were just prey for the other invading powers.
The looting and pillaging you see here is exactly what was going on in 1641 when scholar Omar Sharif who had lost his entire family and home to the war is now reduced to being a wandering beggar and stumbles into this valley which has escaped the struggle. Unfortunately following him in is Michael Caine with a company of mercenaries.
But Sharif talks Caine into doing winter quarters there instead of just sacking the place and moving on as per the norm for the day. An uneasy alliance is formed between, Sharif, Caine and his soldiers, head honcho in the town Nigel Davenport and priest Per Oscarsson.
The peasants here are hardly a noble lot, Sharif's very education makes him a figure of suspicion. Yet they're just ordinary folks trying to survive in a world that they must think is coming to an end. It would have not been out of the ordinary for them to believe that what they were seeing was Armegeddon.
The Thirty Years War is not something that is taught in American schools. I think because the United Kingdom was not involved in it. they had a nice struggle going between the crown and Parliament in the first half of that century and what became the original thirteen colonies of America were all being settled by various immigrant groups. The Last Valley is a tremendous educational tool for anyone teaching European history. We don't see any of the great figures of the war, what we do see is a glimpse into the peasant life of the period that once seen is unforgettable.
James Clavell who later wrote and directed Oriental epics like Shogun and Taipan wrote and directed The Last Valley. He and the rest of the cast and crew should be proud of being involved in a cinema masterpiece.
- Apr 29, 2007