Kingdom of Heaven (film)
Kingdom of Heaven is a 2005 epic historical fiction drama film directed and produced by Ridley Scott and written by William Monahan. It stars Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Ghassan Massoud, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Edward Norton, Marton Csokas, Liam Neeson, Michael Sheen, Velibor Topić and Alexander Siddig.
|Kingdom of Heaven|
|Directed by||Ridley Scott|
|Written by||William Monahan|
|Produced by||Ridley Scott|
|Edited by||Dody Dorn|
|Music by||Harry Gregson-Williams|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox (North America and United Kingdom)|
Warner Bros. Pictures (Germany)
|144 minutes |
194 minutes (Director's cut)
|Box office||$218.1 million|
The story is set during the Crusades of the 12th century. A French village blacksmith goes to the aid of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in its defence against the Ayyubid Muslim Sultan, Saladin, who is fighting to claim back the city from the Christians; this leads to the Battle of Hattin. The screenplay is a heavily fictionalised portrayal of the life of Balian of Ibelin (ca. 1143–93).
Filming took place in Ouarzazate, Morocco, where Scott had previously filmed Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, and in Spain, at the Loarre Castle (Huesca), Segovia, Ávila, Palma del Río, and Seville's Casa de Pilatos and Alcázar. The film was released on May 6, 2005 by 20th Century Fox in North America and United Kingdom and by Warner Bros. Pictures in Germany and received mixed reviews upon theatrical release. It grossed $218 million worldwide. On 23 December 2005, Scott released a director's cut, which received critical acclaim, with many reviewers calling it the definitive version of the film.
In 1184 France, Balian, a blacksmith, is haunted by his wife's recent suicide. A Crusader passing through the village introduces himself as Balian's father, Baron Godfrey of Ibelin, and asks him to return with him to the Holy Land, but Balian declines. After the town priest (Balian's half brother) reveals that he ordered Balian's wife's body beheaded before burial. Balian inspects the priest thoroughly, noticing the priest had stolen his wife necklace, Balian kills him and flees the village.
Balian joins his father, hoping to gain forgiveness and redemption for himself and his wife in Jerusalem. Soldiers sent by the bishop arrive to arrest Balian, but Godfrey refuses to surrender him, and in the ensuing attack, Godfrey is struck by an arrow that breaks off in his body.
In Messina, they have a contentious encounter with Guy de Lusignan, a Templar Knight and prospective future king of Jerusalem. Godfrey knights Balian, names him the new Baron of Ibelin, and orders him to serve the King of Jerusalem and protect the helpless, then succumbs to his arrow wound and dies. During Balian's journey to Jerusalem, his ship runs aground in a storm, leaving him as the only survivor. Balian is confronted by a Muslim cavalier, who attacks in a fight for his horse. Balian is forced to slay the cavalier but spares the man's servant, and the man tells Balian that this mercy will gain him fame and respect among the Saracens.
Balian becomes acquainted with Jerusalem's political arena: the leper King Baldwin IV; Tiberias, the Marshal of Jerusalem; the King's sister, Princess Sibylla, who is Guy's wife and also mother to a little boy from an earlier marriage. Guy supports the anti-Muslim brutalities of the Knights Templar, and intends to break the fragile truce between the King and the sultan Saladin to make war on the Muslims. Balian travels to his inherited estate at Ibelin, and finds the residents struggling and the land almost barren from lack of water. He quickly gets to work, using his knowledge of engineering to irrigate the dry and dusty lands, while working right alongside the workers. The land quickly turns into lush farmland which both improves the residents' lives and earns Balian the love and respect of his people. During that time Sibylla visits him and watches him as he interacts with his tenants, and they become lovers.
In 1185 Guy and his ally, the cruel Raynald of Châtillon, attack a Saracen caravan, and Saladin advances on Raynald's castle Kerak in retaliation. At the request of the king, Balian defends the villagers, despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered. Captured, Balian encounters the servant he freed, who he learns is actually Saladin's chancellor Imad ad-Din. Imad ad-Din releases Balian in repayment of his earlier mercy. Saladin arrives with his army to besiege Kerak, and Baldwin meets the army with his own. They negotiate a Muslim retreat, and Baldwin swears to punish Raynald, though the exertion of these events weakens him.
Baldwin asks Balian to marry Sibylla and take control of the army, knowing they have affection for each other, but Balian refuses because it will require the execution of Guy and the Templars. Baldwin soon dies and is succeeded by his nephew, Sybilla's son, now Baldwin V. Sybilla, as regent, intends to maintain her brother's peace with Saladin. In 1186, she is devastated when she finds out that her son, like his uncle before him, has begun to develop leprosy. Driven by the common belief of eternal damnation for lepers, she makes the heartrending decision to end her son's life by pouring poison into his ear while he sleeps in her arms; she then hands the crown to her husband Guy, and withdraws in private to mourn her son.
Guy, now king, releases Raynald, who gives Guy the war he desires by murdering Saladin's sister. Sending the heads of Saladin's emissaries back to him, Guy declares war on the Saracens in 1187 and attempts to assassinate Balian, who barely survives. Guy marches to war with the army, despite Balian's advice to remain near Jerusalem's water sources. The Saracens later annihilate the tired and dehydrated Crusaders in the ensuing desert battle. Saladin takes Guy captive, executes Raynald, and marches on Jerusalem. Tiberias leaves for Cyprus, believing Jerusalem lost, but Balian remains to protect the people in the city, and knights every fighting man to inspire them. After an assault that lasts three days, a frustrated Saladin parleys with Balian. When Balian reaffirms that he will destroy the city if Saladin does not accept his surrender, Saladin agrees to allow the Christians to leave safely in exchange for Jerusalem. They ponder if it would be better if the city were destroyed, as there would be nothing left to fight over.
In the city, Balian is confronted by the humiliated Guy, and defeats him in a sword fight, though he spares Guy's life, telling him to "rise a knight" as if he never was. In the marching column of citizens, Balian finds Sibylla, who has renounced her claim as Queen. After they return to France, English knights en route to retake Jerusalem ride through the town to enlist Balian, now the famed defender of Jerusalem. Balian tells the crusader that he is merely a blacksmith again, and they depart. Balian is joined by Sibylla, and they pass by the grave of Balian's wife as they ride toward the unknown. An epilogue notes that "nearly a thousand years later, peace in the Holy Land still remains elusive."
Many of the characters in the film are fictionalised versions of historical figures:
- Orlando Bloom as Balian of Ibelin
- Eva Green as Sibylla of Jerusalem
- Jeremy Irons as Raymond III of Tripoli (“Tiberias”)
- David Thewlis as The Hospitaller
- Brendan Gleeson as Raynald of Châtillon (“Reynald”)
- Marton Csokas as Guy de Lusignan
- Edward Norton as King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem
- Michael Sheen as Priest
- Liam Neeson as Barisan of Ibelin (“Godfrey”)
- Velibor Topić as Amalric
- Ghassan Massoud as Saladin
- Alexander Siddig as Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani
- Khaled Nabawy as Mullah
- Kevin McKidd as English Sergeant
- Michael Shaeffer as Young Sergeant
- Jon Finch as Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem
- Ulrich Thomsen as Gerard de Ridefort (“Templar Master”)
- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Village Sheriff
- Martin Hancock as Gravedigger
- Nathalie Cox as Balian's Wife
- Eriq Ebouaney as Firuz
- Jouko Ahola as Odo
- Giannina Facio as Saladin's sister
- Philip Glenister as Squire
- Bronson Webb as Apprentice
- Steven Robertson as Angelic Priest
- Iain Glen as Richard I of England (Richard Coeur de Lion)
- Angus Wright as Richard's Knight
The visual style of Kingdom of Heaven emphasises set design and impressive cinematography in almost every scene. It is notable for its "visually stunning cinematography and haunting music". Cinematographer John Mathieson created many large, sweeping landscapes, where the cinematography, supporting performances, and battle sequences are meticulously mounted. The cinematography and scenes of set-pieces have been described as "ballets of light and color", drawing comparisons to Akira Kurosawa. Director Ridley Scott's visual acumen was described as the main draw of Kingdom of Heaven, with the "stellar" and "stunning" cinematography and "jaw-dropping combat sequences" based on the production design of Arthur Max.
The music differs in style and content from the soundtrack of Scott's earlier 2000 film Gladiator and many other subsequent films depicting historical events. A combination of medieval, Middle Eastern, contemporary classical, and popular influences, the soundtrack is largely the work of British film-score composer Harry Gregson-Williams. Jerry Goldsmith's "Valhalla" theme from The 13th Warrior and "Vide Cor Meum" (originally used by Scott in Hannibal and composed by Patrick Cassidy and Hans Zimmer), sung by Danielle de Niese and Bruno Lazzaretti, were used as replacements for original music by Gregson-Williams.
The cast was widely praised. Jack Moore described Edward Norton's performance as the leper-King Baldwin as "phenomenal", and "so far removed from anything that he has ever done that we see the true complexities of his talent". The Syrian actor Ghassan Massoud was praised for his portrayal of Saladin, described in The New York Times as "cool as a tall glass of water". Also commended were Eva Green, who plays Princess Sibylla "with a measure of cool that defies her surroundings", and Jeremy Irons.
Lead actor Bloom's performance generally elicited a lukewarm reception from American critics, with the Boston Globe stating Bloom was "not actively bad as Balian of Ibelin", but nevertheless "seems like a man holding the fort for a genuine star who never arrives". Other critics conceded that Balian was more of a "brave and principled thinker-warrior" than a strong commander, and that he used brains rather than brawn to gain advantage in battle.
Bloom had gained 20 pounds for the part, and the extended director's cut (detailed below) of Kingdom of Heaven reveals even more complex facets of Bloom's role, involving connections with unknown relatives. Despite the criticism, Bloom won two awards for his performance.
Online, general criticism has been also divided. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 39% based on reviews from 190 critics. The site's critical consensus reads: "Although it's an objective and handsomely presented take on the Crusades, Kingdom of Heaven lacks depth." Review aggregator Metacritic gives the film a 63/100 rating based on 40 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews" according to the website's weighted average system.
In the time since the film's release, scholars have offered analysis and criticisms through a lens situating Kingdom of Heaven within the context of contemporary international events and religious conflict, including: broad post-9/11 politics, neocolonialism, Orientalism, the Western perspective of the film, and the detrimental handling of differences between Christianity and Islam.
Academic criticism has focused on the supposed peaceful relationship between Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem and other cities depicted. Crusader historians such as Jonathan Riley-Smith, quoted by The Daily Telegraph, described the film as "dangerous to Arab relations", calling the film "Osama bin Laden's version of history," which would "fuel the Islamic fundamentalists". Riley-Smith further commented against the historical accuracy, stating that "the fanaticism of most of the Christians in the film and their hatred of Islam is what the Islamists want to believe. At a time of inter-faith tension, nonsense like this will only reinforce existing myths", arguing that the film relied on the romanticized view of the Crusades propagated by Sir Walter Scott in his book The Talisman, published in 1825 and now discredited by academics, "which depicts the Muslims as sophisticated and civilized, and the Crusaders are all brutes and barbarians. It has nothing to do with reality". Paul Halsall defended Ridley Scott, claiming that "historians can't criticize filmmakers for having to make the decisions they have to make ... [Scott is] not writing a history textbook".
Given events in the modern world it is lamentable that there is so large a gulf between what professional historians know about the Crusades and what the general population believes. This movie only widens that gulf. The shame of it is that dozens of distinguished historians across the globe would have been only too happy to help Scott and Monahan get it right.
Scott himself defended this depiction of the Muslim–Christian relationship in footage on the DVD version of the movie's extra features—Scott sees this portrayal as being a contemporary look at the history. He argued that peace and brutality are concepts relative to one's own experience, and since contemporary society is so far removed from the brutal times in which the movie takes place, he told the story in a way that he felt was true to the source material, yet was more accessible to a modern audience. In other words, the "peace" that existed was exaggerated to fit modern ideas of what such a peace would be. At the time, it was merely a lull in Muslim–Christian violence compared to the standards of the period. The recurring use of "Assalamu Alaikum", the traditional Arabic greeting meaning "Peace be with you", is spoken both in Arabic and English several times.
The "Director's Cut" of the film is a four-disc set, two of which are dedicated to a feature-length documentary called "The Path to Redemption". This feature contains an additional featurette on historical accuracy called "Creative Accuracy: The Scholars Speak", where a number of academics support the film's contemporary relevance and historical accuracy. Among these historians is Dr. Nancy Caciola, who said that despite the various inaccuracies and fictionalised/dramatized details, she considered the film a "responsible depiction of the period."
Screenwriter William Monahan, who is a long-term enthusiast of the period, has said "If it isn't in, it doesn't mean we didn't know it ... What you use, in drama, is what plays. Shakespeare did the same."
Caciola agreed with the fictionalisation of characters on the grounds that "crafting a character who is someone the audience can identify with" is necessary in a film. She said that "I, as a professional, have spent much time with medieval people, so to speak, in the texts that I read; and quite honestly there are very few of them that if I met in the flesh I feel that I would be very fond of."
John Harlow of the Times Online wrote that Christianity is portrayed in an unfavorable light and the value of Christian belief is diminished, especially in the portrayal of Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem.
The film was a box office disappointment in the US and Canada, earning $47.4 million against a budget of around $130 million, but did better in Europe and the rest of the world, earning $164.3 million, with the worldwide box office earnings totalling at $211,643,158. It was also a big success in Arabic-speaking countries, especially Egypt. Scott insinuated that the US failure of the film was the result of bad advertising, which presented the film as an adventure with a love story rather than as an examination of religious conflict. It has also been noted that the film was altered from its original version to be shorter and follow a simpler plot line. This "less sophisticated" version is what hit theatres, although Scott and some of his crew felt it was watered down, explaining that by editing, "You've gone in there and taken little bits from everything".
|Awards for Kingdom of Heaven|
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient||Outcome|
|Golden Schmoes Awards||Best DVD/Blu-ray of the Year||4-Disc Director's Cut Special Edition||Nominated|
|Goya Awards||26 January 2006||Best Costume Design||Janty Yates|
|Hollywood Film Awards||24 October 2005||Composer of the Year||Harry Gregson-Williams (also for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)||Won|
|International Film Music Critics Association||Best Original Score for an Action/Adventure Film||Harry Gregson-Williams||Nominated|
|International Online Cinema Awards||Best Costume Design||Janty Yates|
|Motion Picture Sound Editors||4 March 2006||Best Sound Editing in Feature Film – Foreign|
|Best Sound Editing in Feature Film – Music|
|Satellite Awards||17 December 2005||Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role, Drama||Edward Norton|
|Outstanding Art Direction and Production Design||Arthur Max|
|Outstanding Costume Design||Janty Yates|
|Outstanding Visual Effects||Tom Wood|
|Outstanding Original Score||Harry Gregson-Williams||Won|
|Teen Choice Awards||14 August 2005||Choice Movie: Action Adventure||Nominated|
|Choice Movie Actor: Action Adventure/Thriller||Orlando Bloom|
|Choice Movie Love Scene||Orlando Bloom and Eva Green|
|Choice Movie Liplock|
|Visual Effects Society Awards||15 February 2006||Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Motion Picture||Wesley Sewell, Victoria Alonso, Tom Wood, and Gary Brozenich||Won|
Extended director's cutEdit
Unhappy with the theatrical version of Kingdom of Heaven (which he blamed on paying too much attention to the opinions of preview audiences, and acceding to Fox's request to shorten the film by 45 minutes), Ridley Scott supervised a director's cut of the film, which was released on 23 December 2005 at the Laemmle Fairfax Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Unlike the mixed critical reception of the film's theatrical version, the Director's Cut received overwhelmingly positive reviews from film critics, including a four-star review in the British magazine Total Film and a ten out of ten from IGN DVD. Empire magazine called the reedited film an "epic", adding, "The added 45 minutes in the director's cut are like pieces missing from a beautiful but incomplete puzzle." One reviewer suggested it is the most substantial director's cut of all time and James Berardinelli wrote that it offers a much greater insight into the story and the motivations of individual characters. "This is the one that should have gone out," reflected Scott.
The DVD of the extended director's cut was released on 23 May 2006. It comprises a four-disc box set with a runtime of 194 minutes, and is shown as a roadshow presentation with an overture and intermission in the vein of traditional Hollywood epic films. The first Blu-ray release omitted the roadshow elements, running at 189 minutes, but they were restored for the 2014 'Ultimate Edition' release.
Scott gave an interview to STV on the occasion of the extended edition's UK release, when he discussed the motives and thinking behind the new version. Asked if he was against previewing in general in 2006, Scott stated: "It depends who's in the driving seat. If you've got a lunatic doing my job, then you need to preview. But a good director should be experienced enough to judge what he thinks is the correct version to go out into the cinema."
Significant subplots were added as well as enhanced character relationships. The priest Balian kills at the beginning of the film is revealed to be his half-brother, while the lord presiding over Balian's hometown is revealed to be Godfrey's brother. Battle scenes are depicted with more violence than in the theatrical cut. More scenes with the Hospitaller offering guidance to Balian were added back in. The most significant addition was the subplot involving Sybilla's son Baldwin V, who becomes the first to inherit the throne of Jerusalem following the passing of Baldwin IV, but is shown to be afflicted with leprosy just like his uncle before him, so Sybilla peacefully poisons him to prevent him from suffering as his predecessor did. The gravedigger from Balian's hometown is given more attention: he is shown to be philosophical at the beginning of the film, and is shown to follow Balian to Jerusalem to seek salvation like Balian, who acknowledges his presence and personally knights him before the final siege. Finally, a final fight is shown between Balian and Guy, where Balian wins but spares Guy, leaving him dishonored.
Scott, possibly anticipating criticism of historical accuracy, said: "Story books are what we base our movies on, and what we base our characters on." The story of Balian of Ibelin was heavily fictionalized; the historical Balian was not a French artisan but a prominent lord in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. The characters of Godfrey of Ibelin and the Hospitaller were wholly invented, while the stories of others were "tweaked"; for example, Raynald of Châtillon's responsibility for the Christian defeat is downplayed in order to make Guy "more of an autonomous villain".
The historical Sibylla was devoted to Guy, but the filmmakers wanted the character to be "stronger and wiser". Some have said that the character of Sibylla was reimagined to fit the trope of exotic Middle Eastern woman, whereas historically Sibylla and Baldwin belonged to a distinctly Western class that sought to set themselves apart from Middle Eastern culture. Moreover, while described in contemporary accounts as a young man vigorous in spite of his leprosy, King Baldwin is portrayed in the film as passive, androgynous, and bound to his chamber.
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visually and sonically beautiful; visually stunning cinematography and haunting music.
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cinematography, supporting performances and battle sequences are so meticulously mounted.
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"Scott's visual acumen is the main draw of Kingdom of Heaven" and "stunning cinematography and jaw-dropping combat sequences" or "stellar cinematography".
- Roger Ebert (5 May 2005). "Kingdom of Heaven (review)". SunTimes.com.
Ebert noted "What's more interesting is Ridley Scott's visual style, assisted by John Mathieson's cinematography and the production design of Arthur Max. A vast set of ancient Jerusalem was constructed to provide realistic foregrounds and locations, which were then enhanced by CGI backgrounds, additional horses and troops, and so on".
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