20 July 2004 | PeterKurten911
Our pride ruined.
I'll probably have to explain my comment summary a little for those people not living in Flanders, i'd say over 99.9 % of mankind. The so-called Battle of the Golden Spurs, dated the 11th of June 1302, was one of the armed conflicts between the king of France and his landlord, the Count of Flanders. Discussing the principles of early 14th-century feudalism at length would take us too far : let's just state that at numerous occasions, both parties would stress respectively their power & independence on the edge of a sword.
19th century novelist Hendrik Conscience turned this battle into a symbol of oppression of the Flemish people, telling a heroic and passionate story how the nobility & craftsmen from all over the land joined forces against twice as many opponents, simply stating : if we each kill two of them, there is no problem to speak of. Thanks to their courage, the muddy Groeningenkouter stream which hindered the French cavalry enormously & the mystical yet inspiring appearance of the captured nobleman Robert de Bethune as a knight dressed in golden armour, Flanders triumphed. (I will save you all that happened before, it's basically more patriotic heroism and more bloodshed in a black versus white portrayal that makes "the Patriot" look subtle.)
Conscience was one of the founding fathers of the so-called Flemish movement, pleading for recognition and respect for the Flemish language & culture in a Belgium that was dominated by French. Now, effective nationalism needs a heroic tale, and besides a short period of kicking the Spanish invaders, there was little to choose from. It is what you get when you are part of various empires for seven hundred years. In that perspective, De Leeuw van Vlaenderen is quite enjoyable, plus it kills a few hours.
Now, about the movie. It is very ambitious. It has Jan Decleir, our best actor ever in one of his best roles ever(as popular hero & resistance leader Jan Breydel - for the Americans : he always has that sarcastic Jack Nicholson thing going )a unique amount of genuine medieval locations & the best ... whatever. It does not have any French dialogue, while it's the second language in these parts for Christ's sake, and in either case we have very skilled actors in the French part of the country. It does not have great views; the historical settings are so tied up inside modern city centers the camera wringles itself to keep the cars out, though probably spotted some nevertheless. It does not have decent special effects, even for the mid-eighties, simultaneously with all that Friday the 13th-like gore : maybe arrows don't give up much blood in some places of the human body, but swords surely do. The acting feels rather artificial. And most of all, you cannot fake 90.000 men fighting a ferocious battle with about 1000 clowns running around on a field, leaving 5 yards minimum in between when not fighting or being dead. The shortage of manpower & effects screwing up the battle really screws up any credit one would have been willing to give the rest of the film. And if even Conscience did not consider the golden knight equals divine intervention in an empty harness to be credible, why should we ?
All together : if i might have 150 million dollars and some SFX crews to do a faithful adaption with some disembowlings this time.