Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Monday, May 17, 2010

You, Sir, Are No Ingmar Bergman

Saw Robin Hood, as ever mourning the fact that people who read history shouldn't go to historical epics.
We can't help nitpicking - how come Cate was able to string a longbow effortlessly while walking, how come people were running swords through knights in chain mail, how come Robin was able to emerge from underwater and shoot the villain with a wet bowstring?
We can't accept the plot givens - that a plebian could in any age in England pass as an aristocrat without any problems with accent or manners...
We can't forget the elephant in the room - King Richard and King Jean shouldn't have been speaking English being fucking Normans
All these are problems that are only brought up by an entirely and admittedly misguided belief that filmmakers are or should be concerned with naive realism.
In this instance, to be sure, the vibe was to appear cynical, debunking, and realistic, but that was of course an artistic effect, not a legal commitment. And the effect was largely to throw up surely unintended echoes of the opening scene of MP and the Holy Grail....
WOMAN: Dennis, there's some lovely filth down here. Oh -- how d'you do?
ARTHUR: How do you do, good lady. I am Arthur, King of the Britons.
WOMAN: King of the who?
ARTHUR: The Britons.
WOMAN: Who are the Britons?
ARTHUR: Well, we all are. we're all Britons and I am your king.
WOMAN: I didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
DENNIS: You're fooling yourself. We're living in a dictatorship.
A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes--
WOMAN: Oh there you go, bringing class into it again.
DENNIS: That's what it's all about if only people would--
ARTHUR: Please, please good people. I am in haste. Who lives in that castle?
WOMAN: No one live there.
ARTHUR: Then who is your lord?
WOMAN: We don't have a lord.
ARTHUR: What?
DENNIS: I told you. We're an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week.
ARTHUR: Yes.
DENNIS: But all the decision of that officer have to be ratified at a special biweekly meeting.
ARTHUR: Yes, I see.
DENNIS: By a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs,--
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: --but by a two-thirds majority in the case of more--
ARTHUR: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!
WOMAN: Order, eh -- who does he think he is?
The basic problem seems to be that Crowe wants it all, over and over - to be shown as a rebel and a commander, a nationalist and a humanitarian, to be both Dennis and Arthur. Which leads to a plot with far more ins and outs than necessary. Typified by
- a scene where the traitor is told off to kill King Richard.
- a sequence where King Richard dies in battle.
- a sequence where the traitor ambushes the convoy and tries to kill King Richard but can't because he's dead.
- a scene where the traitor goes back and tells King Phillip that Richard's dead.
All so Crowe can be commissioned to take Lockley's sword to his father in England, which could have been done in one scene, which practically writes itself -
LOCKSLEY: Ah, I am slain! Robin, take this sword to England and give it to my father.

And I couldn't help noticing that the father concerned was played by Max Von Sydow, who some years ago was in a rather different movie about a knight returning from the crusade. How blind would you have to be to invite a comparison like that?

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