Of knights and chargers
Ridley Scott's lavishly mounted Kingdom of Heaven takes a look at the Crusades.
FREEZE FRAME Orlando Bloom as Balian in search of his destiny.
Hot on the heels of the worldwide release of XXX - 2, comes yet another big-budget extravaganza Kingdom of Heaven, where Ridley Scott turns his eye on the Crusades. The film about radical Christians in the form of the Knights Templar waging war against the Muslims led by the moderate Saladin in Jerusalem seems strangely prescient. Though the Crusades took place 700 years ago, but for the costumes and weaponry, you could well be watching the latest happenings in Iraq on CNN!
Ridley Scott who has earlier gone historical with Gladiator and Black Hawk Down says, "We've chosen a point in history in which we see a state of peace, which we don't seem to be able to attain today. That is what is fascinating about it. We try to show both sides in a balanced light."
That is more than what Scott achieved in his multiple Oscar winning Black Hawk Down where the American soldiers where each given distinct identities while you could barely see the Somalians for the mud and dust. The film is set in 1186 between the second and third Crusades when Christians, Muslims and Jews coexisted in a tenuous peace. King Baldwin IV was ruler of Jerusalem while Saladin with his 200,000 strong troops surrounded the city.
The truce between the two leaders is constantly under threat by conspirators driven by ambition and greed. "I always wanted make a movie about knights and medieval times, the Crusades especially," says Scott.
Orlando Bloom who plays the chief protagonist Balian says, "I got to live every boy's dream. A knight quite simply gets the girl, gets to be everything he is meant to be. Balian is a reluctant hero on a quest, which is the best kind of hero for my money." The ensemble cast includes Liam Neeson as Balian's father Godfrey of Ibelin, Jeremy Irons as Baldwin's advisor Tiberias, and actor director Ghassan Massoud as Saladin. For the look and feel to be just right, incredible amount of research was done from the scripting stage. For costumes, Janty Yates who worked with Scott on Gladiator, trawled museums including the British Museum, the Leeds Armoury and the Salle de Crusades in Versailles where she found "Balian's 1180 crest. The crest of Ibelin was burgundy and gold and we translated that into burgundy and sand for the Ibelin livery. The Army of Jerusalem is entirely in cornflower blue so the king also wears cornflower blue with gold." Spain doubled up for 12th Century France while Morocco was the principle outdoor location. With a little help from CGI, (multiplying the 1,500 Moroccan soldiers, the assault towers and catapults) Scott has created a grand vision of the past.
While knights and holy wars are not something that we relate, spectacle is close to our heart. The encouraging showing of Oliver Stone's Alexander is proof of that. So irrespective of whether Scott has got his history right, the two hour twenty-two minute film promises some epic highs.
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