Towards the end of the eleventh century, Pope Urban II announces a crusade against the Saracens, who have occupied the holy city of Jerusalem. Three young friends # Richard, Peter and ...
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Towards the end of the eleventh century, Pope Urban II announces a crusade against the Saracens, who have occupied the holy city of Jerusalem. Three young friends # Richard, Peter and Andrew # set off to join the crusading army. The three friends come from very different backgrounds: Andrew is a shepherd; Peter is a poor bell founder, and the illegitimate son of a Christian woman and a Saracen man; and Richard is the deeply religious son of Baron William of Aurocastro, who was murdered by his rival brother Corrado. The violent methods used by the crusaders soon cause the three friends to fall out with each other, and after a bloody attack on a Jewish monastery, they go their separate ways: Andrew remains with the crusaders, while Peter and Richard accompany the attractive Jewess Rachel # whose teacher, a rabbi, was killed in the raid # to Jerusalem. Andrew is very reluctant to see Rachel go, having # like Peter # fallen in love with her at first sight. In Jerusalem the situation is ...Written by
I will have to base my comments entirely on my unfamiliarity with life in the Eleventh Century, though not entirely unfamiliar with the events of this time. As a former militarist peripherally engaged in other "crusades," I see parallels in this film with events of the Twentieth and now in this Twenty-First Century. It firms my belief that men and ideas do not change much, only the times, the methods and the instrumentalities of implementing one's philosophies. Though lacking the spectrum of stars and the vastness of the array of invading forces, this film fits in with my ten favorites along with "The Longest Day," "Gettysburg," and others.
I found beauty in this story from the beginning when Peter (Alessandro Gassman, from a famous acting family) is left behind by his Saracen father. Just as there was good and compassion in this man, I see good in many who would be now considered among his posterity. That his ancestry and actions cause the film to delve into seeming divided allegiance, this only serves to fortify this viewer's interest. I cannot imagine how this story line would have succeeded as well as it did, nor could it have held the conflicts and following resolutions into the tight and numerous turns and even reverses seen in its three-plus hours; a tribute from me and credit to the writer Andrea Porporati. It is with anticipation I await seeing his later screen work, L' Inchiesta.
It adds so much to the story that Peter is a learned and scholarly man as well as a kind man who actually shows more Christian qualities than many of the leaders of the force making its way to the Holy Land. I did not find the slightest weakness in his portrayal of these qualities though at times, his quietude and acceptance of his conquered position without the extremes of violence seen by many of the others did puzzle me at first. However, this is not a film to be fully understood and appreciated at its first viewing.
Armin Mueller-Stahl's performance as Alessio was another of his commanding presences in most every film I have seen him appear in. I was saddened that his existence met its end so near the beginning of the film. I found the symbolism of the carrying of the palm frond and its being woven into the tapestry of the film much of a factor in carrying this portion of the interest foreword.
The performances of Thure Riefenstein and Johannes Brandrup are also powerful throughout the film. Their characters, actions and the unpredictability of the storyline add to the overall heightened interest I found throughout.
Franco Nero's role and familiar face add much to his part in the film and the revelations he makes add a completeness to an earlier facet of the film. His performance is at his usual high standard.
Some have noted and I comment also that it is a film without dialects and accents among the various factions. I suppose if this film had been made twenty years ago with Arnold Schwartzenegger playing Olaf Gunnarson; that would have satisfied the requirement. Given the various nationalities of Italians, Germans, Austrians, Slovakians, Yugoslavs, and likely others not identified playing Saracen roles, I found this lack of accents to be a plus as this film follows a number of very successful predecessors filmed by Cecil B. DeMille.
Noteworthy and appreciated by me was a somewhat less than the usual Hollywood depictions of killing and violence. Though killing is prominent in the film, there is little of the beheading, limb loss and volumes of blood seen. In most instances I do not believe this adds any realism and in fact, is deplored similarly by others like myself. There is art to hand-to-hand combat and swordplay which have been carefully executed by whomever was responsible for this choreography and I found it to be first-rate.
The locations and vistas chosen by the director and the liberal use of them and the quality of the cinematography adds much to this film. I always find a film much more interesting when it includes many scenes showing topography other than the action taking place on flat ground or cars buzzing around on city streets. There is more than an ample amount of horsemanship demonstrated which should prove spellbinding to those aficionados.
Finally I must complement the costumer of this film. There are so many different groups and factions coming together in this saga and a broad spectrum of camp wear is seen throughout the film. Noteworthy are these differences, as would certainly have been the case in fact given the times. Altogether I believe this film is an epic in the same category as "Troy," "Alexander," or the recent miniseries, "Rome."
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