The story of the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War, and the soldiers on both sides that fought it, while their wives wait nervously and anxiously at home for the good news or the bad news.
It is the time of the Crusades during the Middle Ages - the world shaping 200-year collision between Europe and the East. A blacksmith named Balian has lost his family and nearly his faith. The religious wars raging in the far-off Holy Land seem remote to him, yet he is pulled into that immense drama. Amid the pageantry and intrigues of medieval Jerusalem he falls in love, grows into a leader, and ultimately uses all his courage and skill to defend the city against staggering odds. Destiny comes seeking Balian in the form of a great knight, Godfrey of Ibelin, a Crusader briefly home to France from fighting in the East. Revealing himself as Balian's father, Godfrey shows him the true meaning of knighthood and takes him on a journey across continents to the fabled Holy City. In Jerusalem at that moment--between the Second and Third Crusades--a fragile peace prevails, through the efforts of its enlightened Christian king, Baldwin IV, aided by his advisor Tiberias, and the military ...Written by
Sujit R. Varma
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The 194 minute Director's Cut is a roadshow format presentation with an Overture, Intermission and Entr'acte. In all, 45 minutes of new scenes have been added, with the biggest addition, as acknowledges in the introduction, being the subplot of Sibylla's son. Also, there is now more graphic violence in all the battle scenes, with newly added shots of spurting blood and new close-ups of wounds being inflicted. The primary additional scenes in the Director's Cut are:
In the opening scene, there is a shot of the Priest () splitting open his apple only to find that it is rotten. Also, newly added dialogue with the gravedigger () reveals that the woman being buried was married to the Priest's brother, Balian the Blacksmith ().
There is a new scene where the bishop of the town () orders Balian's brother to release Balian from prison so the blacksmith can aid him in completing the construction of the new abbey.
There is a new scene of Balian looking at the sapling planted by his wife (), coupled with a flashback of her planting it. The guard of the prison ('Tim Barlow' ) then comes in to Balian's cell and releases Balian.
There are several newly added shots of the French village as Balian walks away from the prison. These shots help to establish the local geography more clearly than in the theatrical version.
After Godfrey () and his men arrive, there is a new scene of them having dinner with Godfrey's elder brother (). While Godfrey is away from the table, the elder brother and his son () conspire to kill Godfrey and take the mantle of Baron of Ibelin for themselves, which creates an additional reason for the forest ambush later in the film (in the theatrical cut, the ambush seems based purely upon an attempt to arrest Balian).
A new scene shows Balian being verbally abused by his brother whilst sitting at the crossroads looking at his wife's grave.
The following day, the Priest gives the Crusaders some background information on Balian, including his role as an engineer and how he used to build towers that could fling "the largest stones." Additionally, Odo () asks Balian if he has ever seen warfare, to which Balian responds that he has, both on horse and on foot.
Immediately after Odo's conversation with Balian, there is a brief flashback of Godfrey saying goodbye to Balian's mother before he left for Jerusalem. The subsequent exchange between Godfrey and the Hospitaler () has been shortened in the Director's Cut, as some of the exposition given in that scene in the theatrical version has already been revealed in other newly added scenes, and their conversation is now much more oblique.
Godfrey's line "I am your father" in the theatrical cut is substituted with "I knew your namesake" in the Director's Cut.
After Godfrey and his men leave for Messina, there are a few additional shots of Balian's assistant () watching them leave and then looking back at Balian.
Later that night, the scene where Balian kills his brother is longer, with much more dialogue and additional taunting from the Priest prior to Balian's attack.
Several additional shots of Godfrey's men at camp have been added; the Hospitaler brushing his teeth; Firuz () shouting at one of the men for urinating upstream of the camp; the English Sergeant () greasing Godfrey's armor (this explains why Godfrey is hurt so badly by the arrow in the subsequent ambush - he is not wearing his chain-mail).
The ambush scene has several new additions. Roger's son greets Godfrey as "Uncle" and mentions his father (Godfrey's brother); as Roger's son leaves he says "You are my uncle, I must give you the road" as opposed to the theatrical "You are a knight, I must give you the road"; a new close-up of the horse crossing the river with the Hospitaler hiding by hanging off the left flank; a new shot of Godfrey chasing Roger's son, and saying "Thank my brother for his love"; a new execution scene where the son of Roger de Cormier () is stabbed in the back of the head by the English Sergeant after he demands the right to be held to ransom. The ambush is also considerably bloodier than in the theatrical cut.
On the pilgrim's road, the acolyte ('Steven Robertson' ) now says "To kill an infidel, the Pope has said, is not murder. It is the path to heaven." In the theatrical cut, he said "To kill an infidel is not murder. It is the path to heaven." There is also a brief new scene of the Hospitaler speaking to an old pilgrim () who is leading a group of children to Jerusalem. Additionally, there are a few more shots of Godfrey's tent prior to the arrival of Guy de Lusignan ().
At Messina, the English Sergeant gives Balian some background information about local trade and why the port is so busy.
The morning after Balian has met Almaric () in Jerusalem, there is a new scene in Balian's house. After waking up, Balian has a bath, but is embarrassed at having to get out of it naked in front of the servant girls. When he does finally get out, he is extremely uncomfortable in allowing them to dry him, so he grabs the towel and walks off, much to their amusement.
Also at Balian's house, there is a new scene where the Hospitaler discusses faith, remarking that he doesn't put much stock in religion anymore because he has seen too many fanatics use religion as an excuse for killing.
When the Hospitaler brings Balian to see Tiberias (), the title card 'Office of The Marshal of Jerusalem' appears later, closer to the actual introduction of Tiberias himself.
After Tiberias has told Raynald de Chatillon ('Brendan Gleeson' ) that one day, his title will no longer protect him, there is a short new scene where the witness () to Raynald's attack on the caravan complains to Tiberias about Raynald walking free, and Tiberias pays him off to keep quiet.
The scene where Balian meets Baldwin IV () is longer, with several new lines of dialogue scattered throughout. Additionally, there is a new section of the scene where Balian gives the King advice on how best to protect the city from a massive attack.
After speaking with Baldwin, as Balian leaves, he stumbles over a small toy soldier. As he scoops down to pick it up, he sees Sibylla's son () - although we don't know who he is yet. Balian smiles at the boy and puts the toy back down. After Balian has gone, the boy comes and gets the toy.
The close-up of Balian as he looks at the tableaux on the wall in his father's house at Ibelin has been extended, and there are a number of shots which serve to lay out the geography of the house in more detail than in the theatrical cut.
As Balian and Almaric survey the land at Ibelin, Almaric has a line not in the theatrical version; "My lord, this is a poor and dusty place." This pays off just prior to the beginning of the Siege of Jerusalem, where Balian tells Almaric that if he survives, he can have Ibelin, to which Almaric replies, "But my lord, it is a poor and dusty place," and they smile at one another.
There is a new scene between Balian and Sibylla ('Eva Green' ) where she washes his face after he comes in from working on the land, and she tells him that she is free to do as she pleases due to her being the King's sister.
The scene between Balian and Sibylla as Balian watches the Muslim servants performing their prayers has some additional dialogue where she tells him about her son.
There is a new scene with Balian where he is walking by the irrigation system and sees the toy boat that the boy used earlier when the water pumps were first set up. He picks the boat up and looks at it for a moment, before returning it to the water and watching it float away.
After the battle of Kerak, as the army leaves, Guy looks at Balian and then at Sibylla and notices them looking at one another; the implication being that he knows Balian and Sibylla have been together.
After the Mullah () leaves Saladin's () tent, there is a short new scene between Saladin and Imad () where they discuss what is likely to happen when Baldwin IV dies.
As the Saracen doctors enter Baldwin's chamber, there is a newly added scene of Guy practicing with his sword in the hallway.
Immediately after this, there is a new scene of Raynald walking around in circles in his cell repeatedly shouting out his name. The jail-keeper is trying to have his dinner and looses patience, slamming the inner door of the prison shut.
Following this, there is a new scene showing Baldwin IV refusing the last sacrament from Patriarch Eraclius ('Jon Finch' ). Eraclius leaves the chamber in disgust and meets Guy outside.
After the departure of Eraclius, there is another new scene in which Guy (rather unceremoniously) seduces Sibylla's maid ().
There is then a new scene between Balian and Sibylla where Sibylla points out that, as Regent, she is going to have to run the Kingdom until her son is ready to do it himself. Balian asks what role Guy will have in this new government, but Sibylla doesn't answer him.
After leaving Balian, Sibylla arrives at the palace in the early morning. Once inside, she sees Guy with her son, followed by a scene in which Guy attempts to force her to accept his knights' allegiance, threatening that if she does not, her son's reign as King will be "brief and bloody."
The scene where Guy brings Raynald some food is slightly longer; Raynald now makes Guy eat some of the food before he eats any himself.
There is a new scene of Sibylla teaching her son about England and France. Tiberias arrives and tells her that if she wants to say goodbye to her brother, she had better do it now. At first, she is reluctant, but Tiberias persuades her to go. After she and Tiberias leave, the boy places his palm on top of the fire lamp and feels no pain, despite blistering his flesh - thus indicating that he, like his uncle Baldwin IV, has leprosy.
Baldwin IV's death scene is slightly longer than in the theatrical cut, with some additional moments of silence between him and Sibylla.
When Guy confronts Sibylla after Baldwin's death, an additional line of dialogue has been added; "If my son has your knights, you have your wife."
The scene where Sibylla visits Baldwin's body is slightly longer. In this version, after she removes the mask to look at his face, she then gently places the mask back on, and tucks it in under his hood.
There is a new scene showing Baldwin V's coronation.
Immediately after the coronation, an interesting new scene between Balian and the Hospitaler has been added. Balian is throwing a stone at a bush, trying to get a spark so as to make the bush ignite. As the Hospitaler arrives, Balian succeeds, and suggests this is proof God doesn't exist. The Hospitaler disagrees. They talk briefly, and as the Hospitaler rides away, a bush several feet away from the burning one suddenly ignites in flames without any apparent cause. Balian turns around in amazement, and then turns back to the Hospitaler, but he is gone; the plains are deserted for miles around. As Balian looks around, his horse seems to jump in fright.
A series of new scenes follow the bush scene. We see the new King signing various documents, and there is a close-up of some wax dropping onto his hand without him feeling anything. Eraclius and Sibylla both see this, and realize that something is wrong. There is then a short scene of a physician pricking the boy's feet with pins, without him feeling anything, and Sibylla beginning to cry. Next, Tiberias tells Sibylla that rumors are spreading that the boy is ill, and that he needs to be seen publicly to dispel such gossip. Sibylla breaks down and Tiberius comforts her. Finally, there is a scene between Sibylla and her son in the palm orchard, where she pours poison into his ear so as to euthanize him, whilst singing him to sleep.
The scene where Guy comes to let Raynald out of jail is slightly different. There is some additional dialogue at the start of the scene where Raynald inquires as to whether Baldwin V is dead. Raynald then asks if Guy has had Balian killed. However, in the theatrical cut he asked, "Have the Templars removed your problem?", whereas in the Director's Cut he asks, "Have the Templars killed Balian?"
Another interesting new addition involving the Hospitaler occurs after Guy has been crowned King-Consort. Balian is lying on the ground after the attack by Guy's assassins, unconscious (or possibly dead; blood is coming from one of his ears), and the Hospitaler walks over to him and touches him on the cheek with his finger.
As well as stabbing Saladin's messenger () in the throat, Guy now also decapitates him.
After Guy's army leaves for war with Saladin, additional lines have been added into the exchange between Tiberias and Balian regarding Baldwin V's death and how Jerusalem has lost all hope of peace.
Saladin now decapitates Raynald as well as cutting his throat (there is also more blood when his throat is slit).
As he knights the men in Jerusalem, there is a new scene where Balian meets the gravedigger from the opening scene of the film and exchanges a few words with him.
During the siege, there is a new scene in the infirmary where Sibylla is tending to the gravedigger. They exchange some dialogue, and the gravedigger reveals that he knows she is the Queen. He then smiles kindly at her and leaves.
The scene where Balian wakes up the morning after the final battle is longer. Instead of waking and then immediately standing up, he wakes and looks around, seeing the body of the gravedigger nearby. He looks at the body and says, "Remember me in France, Master Gravedigger." He then stands up.
During the negotiation of terms between Balian and Saladin, an additional line has been added, said by Saladin: "As for your king, such as he is, I leave up to you." There is a brief shot of Guy at this point.
A new scene has been added after Balian has surrendered Jerusalem, but before the Christians have left the city. Balian is washing his face in an alleyway, and is approached by Guy, who challenges him to a sword fight. Balian wins, sparing Guy's life and simply walking away.
When Balian arrives back in France, he sees the tree planted by his wife is now beginning to bloom.
Kingdom of Heaven is directed by Ridley Scott and written by William Monahan. It stars Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Marton Csokas, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, Alexander Siddig, David Thewlis, Ghassan Massoud and Edward Norton. Cinematography is by John Mathieson and music scored by Harry Gregson-Williams.
Director's Cut, two words that has these days come to mean a marketing ploy to get the home movie fan to part with more cash. Except maybe when they call it something else, such as Unrated Edition or Extended Edition, the Director's Cut has rarely been more than the original theatrical version with some added bits sewed back in. Case in point Ridley Scott's own Gladiator. But Scott is a big advocate of the home formats available to us, and what he says in his introduction on these releases are always telling. Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut is one of the rare cases that deserves the label, it is the cut Scott wanted and with 45 minutes extra in the film, it's now a fully formed epic and without doubt a better film than the one the theatrical cut suggested.
Nutshell plotting finds the story set during the Crusades of the 12th century. Balian (Bloom) is a French village blacksmith who after finally meeting his father Godfrey (Neeson), sets him on a course to aid the city of Jerusalem in its defence against the Muslim leader Saladin (Massoud). Saladin is battling to reclaim the city from the Christians. It's a fictionalised account of Balian de Ibelin the man, but with the Crusades featuring so rarely in movies it's good to see one with attention to detail in relation to the events and time period.
Now this version exists there is no reason to visit the theatrical cut, for although this has one or two missteps in the narrative, big holes have been plugged and characters importantly expanded. Benefiting the most are Eva Green as Sibylla, and Bloom himself as Balian. The former now gets substance on why she transforms from a measured princess to a borderline head-case, and the latter gets a back story which helps us understand why he does what he does. Both actors performances are seen in better light as their characters become more defined. Neeson and Norton, too, also get more screen time, and that can never be a bad thing.
In this day and age the topicality of the film as regards Muslims and Christians is obviously hard to ignore, but Scott and Monahan are not in the market for political posturing. Scott had long wanted to do a film about The Crusades, to make it an historical epic adventure reflecting the period, and he has achieved that without head banging messages. In fact the culmination of the films major battle comes by way of tolerance, compassion and mutual respect, not by over the top histrionics or side picking. It's a crucial point to note that the makers have not demonized the Arab leaders, both Saladin and Nasir (Siddig) are portrayed as intelligent and cultured men of standing. Their drive and determination coming off as respectful as Balian's defence of Jerusalem is. They also provide the film with two of its best acting performances. Impressive considering the film is full of very good acting turns.
It will come as no surprise to fans of Scott's work to find that Kingdom of Heaven is tremendous on production value. Filled out with astonishing visuals and no overuse of CGI, it's arguably Scott's best production: it's certainly his most ambitious. Filmed in Spain and Morocco, the makers easily whisk us back centuries to the France and Jerusalem of the time, the ability to plant us firmly in the time frame is not to be understated. Mathieson (Gladiator) is a big part of that, his colour lensing for France (metallic cold blues) and Jerusalem (dusky yellow and brown hues) is a visual treat and integral to the feel of the story. While Gregson-Williams' score rarely gets a mention, but it's very at one with Scott's vision, a delightful mix of ethnic strains, mystical flair and medieval emphasis. Scott also ups the ante for visceral battles, the horrors of war never more vivid as they are here. Supremely constructed, the siege of Jersualem is one of the finest in cinema, the first sight of fireballs igniting the night sky bringing the hairs on the back of the neck standing to attention. It's just one of many great moments that form part of Scott's breath taking epic.
Badly treated on cinema release by the studio, who even marketed that cut badly, Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut is these days worthy of a revisit and deeper inspection. For rich rewards await the genre faithful. 9.5/10
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