21 August 2006 | kitsilanoca-1
My Favourite Version Up to Date
I watched this outstanding four hour epic for the umpteenth time yesterday evening and found I still was drawn to it as I was the first time I saw it. I agree with another viewer's comment that it isn't to be used for historical reference, but what it does with 12th century English history can be overlooked because of the way it makes you feel you are witnessing what life was truly like in the 1190s.
Ciaran Hinds and Susan Lynch sizzle as Brian de Bois Guilbert and Rebecca; I particularly find fascinating the way Hinds is able to transform Bois Guilbert from a deeply embittered, ruthless man into one who finds his own soul in searching for Rebecca's as he tries to woo her. After he has learned that the Grand Master of the Templars has demanded that she be tried as a witch, he immediately goes to warn her and tells her that "I haven't felt fear in 20 years, but I feel it now!", and you truly believe him. That and his final line as he lies beneath Ivanhoe's sword after he has fallen defeated in their Trial by Combat to decide whether Rebecca is to be burned as a witch: "In Austria I was not brave enough to die for (King) Richard...But for her...Do it!" A true anti-hero.
This drama has dozens of wonderful lines, but I think my favourite is when Sian Philips, in a very impressive brief role as the Dowager Queen Eleanor, comments to her lady-in-waiting in reference to her late husband King Henry II and her sons Richard and John: "Beware of powerful men, Bernice. They spawn unspeakable whelps!" It makes me smile every time.
Ralph Brown is deliciously wicked as Prince John, and I think his is the first accurate portrayal of the man destined to be King of England that I have ever seen, showing him as a scheming usurper, devious at statecraft, a womaniser and murderer. The way he subtly makes a joke at Rebecca's trial as he questions the claim by a dog's owner of Rebecca using magic to kill the animal. John says with a smirk he doesn't try to hide from the Grand Master, that the present panting, healthy hound "looks just find to me." He shows boredom and almost rolls his eyes at certain points of Rebecca's trial at what her accusers say, a sign of his defiance of the Church he will show later in his life.
I think Sir Walter Scott himself would be pleased with adaptation of his novel, which follows most of the story very closely while filling out certain characters that are more three dimensional in this film than they were in the classic novel. A true BBC masterpiece!