Saturday, April 14, 2007

Kingdom of Heaven


“We have enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”
Jonathan Swift.

Orlando Bloom goes from Middle Earth to the Middle East in the period-piece Kingdom of Heaven. Set in the religion mad era of the Crusades, the Lord of the Rings heartthrob now plays a lost and tortured soul searching for salvation.

The story begins in France where Bloom plays Balian, a blacksmith and a widower fresh from loosing both wife and child. Like others beset with a tragedy, he thought himself to be cursed and far from the grace of his God.  Perhaps even thinking he no longer has a life.

While still in sorrow over his family, his destiny was soon to change through a meeting with a crusader named Godfrey, a lord and member of the King’s court in Jerusalem. Godfrey confesses that he is Balian’s father and goes on by asking the son to accompany him back to Jerusalem.

The grieving blacksmith was first hesitant in joining a father he never knew, but soon realizes that there is no point in remaining in France. All that he holds dear is dead. Not only that, he is drawn to Jerusalem like many others who are hoping to find God and redemption in what is said to be a kingdom of heaven.

Once in Jerusalem, Balian takes his fathers lesson to heart: be a good knight; be without fear in the face of your enemies; protect the helpless; and do no wrong. He is to serve the king first and the people, second.

It was a hard task in place that is far from heavenly. At this time Jerusalem is a drowning kingdom amidst a sea of Arabs lead by Saladin. Balian, along with Tiberias, Godfrey’s friend, are the dependable knight’s in court among fanatics and men blinded by their sense of entitlements.  

Kingdom of Heaven is by no means historically accurate. It has been commented more than once that Hollywood creates its version of history into something more palatable and sexy on the big screen, with the American audience having the highest consideration. What really happened in those days you have to read on your own, as I did, well at least a few pages of articles.

Saladin, like in the film, was great general for the Arabs and was highly respected on both sides. Some have the point of view that Christians have a better respect for him than the Muslims.

Jerusalem was indeed lost though I am not sure which crusade or war did it fall. The odds of holding the city were just insurmountable.

But most of all it is very true the barbarism chooses no religion, and neither does religion play a factor in doing the right thing. In Kingdom of Heaven the Templars were the most brutal, always with the insane line of “God wills it!” It is not so different from suicide bombers who cry out “God is great.”

My favorite line was made by the Hospitaller and it goes: “I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of god.” And that,“Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness. What god desires is here [points to head] and here [points to heart] and what you decide to do every day, you will be a good man - or not.” 

I like the film’s cinematography, location, musical score, and its costumes. It was very appropriate for that era. And a big applause also for the acting. Ghassan Massoud played Saladin beautifully. He looked every bit the part of the great Arab leader. Liam Neeson is another bright spot playing Balian’s father. The Irish actor is perfect in the mentor or teacher roles as seen in two other films: Star Wars Espisode I and Batman Begins.

Girls may kill me for this but the only dull spot in the acting department is Orlando Bloom. He seems lifeless when he acts. His voice is feels like it’s always in a monotone. No wonder he hasn’t gained much lift in his after having a movie like the Lord of the Rings.

Kingdom of Heaven is a good film to watch. It has enough action and respectable story to entertain. Furthermore, it has the ability to make people think of what happened then and what is happening now with Bush seemingly resurrecting the madness of the Crusades. “Holiness is in right action,” the movie says, and I fully agree. We should all just try to get along.