24 December 2009 | Blueghost
I'm sorry I can't think of a better title for my comments. I thought of comparing it to "Kingdom of Heaven", the film trend in Hollywood, and a bunch of other things. But the one thing that really stands out for me is that it's just a good movie.
But the film's history reminds me of a personal anecdote regarding one of my former managers early in my film career, and his effort to get a medieval epic off the ground in the late 80s regarding Robert the Bruce. Without going into too much detail he lost control of the project, and the film that eventually came out of his efforts was "Braveheart", only "Braveheart" was the market competitor that was designed to compete with my manager's film, which never got made.
So it is with "Arn the Templar" in regards to "Kingdom of Heaven", only unlike my old boss's film "Arn the Templar" got off ground, and flourished into an impressive medieval Nordic epic. There's little to criticize about this film, other than the drama itself never really hits a high point. But perhaps that's as it should be, because it seems a bit more real. There's little in the way of over dramatizing the characters, which obviously holds back a more emotional film. This in turn allows the background itself to become a character.
We're taken to medieval Europe and Outremar. The landscape is barren, harsh, and most of all for the audience, real. The north is rich when love is in bloom, but cold when violence reigns. In the wastes of Jerusalem all is hot, parched, and full of death. The desert runs with blood.
The other plus in regards to this film are the costumes. The actors are made to look of the land. Those who trudge the desert are covered in dust, dirt, and caked mud via perspiration. And the costumes look to be of the period. Unlike another film I reviewed, "1066", the armor in this film looks like armor of the period as with the rest of the costumes. Such authenticity helps offset some of the notable lack of energy in the drama. In fact this film's art direction is perhaps superior to "Kingdom of Heaven".
Why is that? Because there is no CGI in this film. SFX for this film go back to golden era Classic Hollywood; i.e. no miniatures and no CGI. Everything you see is real. Which would help explain why this film was so expensive to make for Scandinavian film makers.
Negatives, and there're a couple. There's maybe two, possibly three oddly cut sequences where the alleged 180-degree camera rule is violated, and shots are put together in an unconventional way. But it's so minor that you hardly notice it. The only other criticism I'd make is that the film feels like a Scandinavian effort to make a Hollywood film. Not that that in itself is a bad thing, after all Europes Scandinavian types are finally mining their culture and history for some quality films.
All in all I liked what I saw. In fact I liked it better than "Kingdom of Heaven" for a number of reasons. First and foremost there are no real villains as such, and therefore unlike Ridley Scott's film this movie doesn't present us with one-dimensional sociopaths as the cause of main emotional propellant for the action. That is to say we don't need individual characters to help push the geo-politics. Outremar is there, and so is Saladin's army and the political forces driving both. We know this. Nations fight. They always have. They always will. The collective mind that nations create will always vie for power. It's the story of the individuals that are caught up in the maelstrom that we're interested in. This is what Arn the Templar is all about.
So, in the end does this film deliver? I think it does, but it does lack that extra bit of emotional muscle to really push it into the classic film category. That, and it does get somewhat reminiscent of classic films in the end. Still, this is a very solid piece of commercial cinema that should entertain.
NEW SCREENING 12/13/2010
I ordered a DVD import of the entire mini-series, and all I can say is ... my god, no wonder this thing was so expensive. The producers essentially shot an 8+ hour feature film for was supposed to be a TV series. Mini-series or no, if you spend this much time and care setting up the shots and getting all the particulars right, then is it any wonder this project cost so much?
From Arn's child hood to his eventual death, we look at his life and that of his love interest. But in a movie of the week format, not even a regular dramatic TV format, but a series that took the care and production values of a feature film, and injected them into an epic that makes the old epics pale in length. Imagine taking Coppola's "Godfather" and making a TV series out of it where every shot and prop was tended to with extra care. Well, that's what the mini series is.
Good stuff... even if I can't understand Swedish :-)
Check it out.