Imperialism , Melani McAlister maintains that the Biblical film epic and the sword and sandals film epic were central to the development of U. Mervyn LeRoy, , and Ben Hur dir. William Wyler, need to be read not just as anti-totalitarian but also as anti-colonial. His struggle to regain Jerusalem ended in an uneasy truce with Saladin.
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Nearly a thousand years later, peace in the Kingdom of Heaven remains elusive. Moreover, Kingdom of Heaven is one of several film epics that have been read in relation to the war in Iraq. Bush and Alexander the Great Colin Farrell.
Delmer Daves, , Helen of Troy dir. Robert Wise, , The Bible dir. John Huston, , Hannibal dir. Edgar G. Robert Rossen, The era of the Hollywood historical epic […] can be characterized as informed by those cultural values identified with rational humanism, with bourgeois patriarchy, with colonialism and imperialism, and with entrepreneurial and corporate capitalism. It was in the s that, for a variety of reasons, these ideological values were placed in major crisis.
While these timing problems do not negate the value of historicizing films such as Kingdom of Heaven , they do call into question some of the central and unexamined assumptions underlying the historicist practice of using parallels and equivalences between a film and its moment of production. Nevertheless, DVD editions are significantly promoted and they are also widely reviewed on various websites and to some extent in major newspapers. A second minute extended version of the film was released a year later as a 4 disc edition, the first two discs being the film and the third and fourth containing more documentaries with academic scholars, production notes, galleries, storyboards, and so on.
The guides on both DVD editions of The Kingdom of Heaven invite the viewer to read them as hyper para texts rather than view them as films designed to be watched from beginning to end.
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Kingdom of Heaven , Ridley Scott, The digitalization of films such as Kingdom of Heaven calls into question the underlying and respectively narratological and phenomenological assumptions about the linearity and successiveness of historical and cinematic narrative, on the one hand, and about the integrity of the film as complete object, on the other. As Laura Mulvey observes, video and digital technologies have had a significant impact both on the cohesiveness of film narrative and on film spectatorship:. Once the consumption of movies is detached from the absolute isolation of absorbed viewing in the dark, at 24 frames a second, in narrative order and without exterior intrusions , the cohesion of narrative comes under pressure from external discourses, that is, production context, anecdote, history.
But digital spectatorship also affects the internal pattern of narrative: sequences can be easily skipped or repeated, overturning hierarchies of privilege, and setting up unexpected links that displace the chain of meaning invested in cause and effect. The digitalization of film changes its phenomenology and hence its narrative cohesion as a unity of duration and extension.
Vivien Sobchack writes:. Instead of one film, we get different films, each one an ostensibly final cut, accompanied by different paratextual commentaries and other extras. Unlike celluloid film, then, digital films such as Kingdom of Heaven are no longer one thing, but are subject instead to multiple recuts, which produce arguably more or less cohesive narratives.
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The two versions of the film and the paratexts on both DVDs enable Scott to engage retrospectively and repeatedly not only with the controversy over its putative partisanship in regard to the Muslims, but with two additional related controversies as well. Nancy Caciola, Ph. Hamar Dabashi, Ph. The scholars in the Creative Accuracy documentary, for example, did not serve as consultants on the film, and do not directly engage in their commentary the scholars who savaged the film before it was released theatrically.
The continued response to the pre-theatrical release controversies on both DVDs is all the more odd, given that response to the shorter theatrical release put an end to the pre-release controversies: the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee and the Council on American Islamic Relations issued statements in support of the film. Bush who disavow their own imperialism, Scott apparently has no problem with a superpower like the US or UK being an empire. Kingdom of Heaven floats a fantasy of decolonization, an exit strategy for Iraq that allows for an uneasy truce, if not peace, signaled by the repeated use of crane shots behind soldiers or civilians marching away from the camera.
Kingdom of Heaven, Ridley Scott, The two Kingdom of Heaven DVDs resemble less a museum than a mausoleum, the two spaces being more than phonetically connected, as Theodor Adorno and others have shown. Thus, the Templars are murderous marauders who provoke war for personal gain.
They are purely exploitative occupiers. Balian is a quasi-pacifist imperialist, someone who is interested, finally, neither in war nor in occupation but who wants to help the locals help themselves, rather like a Peace Corps volunteer. Balian wants moral improvement as well. Reversing the domination of the male gaze and eroticizing of the female body that are typical of Orientalist harem bathing scenes, Kingdom of Heaven shows a chaste Balian who is the object of the gaze: after bathing at his house in Jerusalem, he demands a towel from the manservant and covers himself at the waist with it, while impatiently allowing several smiling, attractive young woman briefly to towel his torso dry as they laugh in enjoyment.
In other words, Balian is the only truly good imperialist occupier. He is no Balian of Arabia trying to mobilize the Arabs to expel the occupiers. Balian is always and only a defender. He never attacks or lays siege unlike Cecil B. You always turn the other cheek.
David Butler, in which the pugnacious and belligerent Scottish hero, Sir Kenneth, makes an immediate and intolerant challenge to Saladin based on their religious difference. Protect the helpless. And then perhaps one day when I am helpless you will come and protect me. Balian is not only a defender, but, more significantly a loser, symbolically castrated in psychoanalytic terms and lacking property in economic terms.
In the extended version, he gives Ibelin to his Almaric Velibor Topic , the knight who served Godfrey as well as Balian, before the siege, should Balian not survive He loses consciousness several times while in the Holy Land, first after the shipwreck, then at the end of the battle for Kerak, again after killing the three Templars sent to assassinate him, and finally after the battle for Jerusalem.
In his ability to reside and be at rest in the Holy Land, he mirrors Tiberias, who tells Balian that he started out believing in God and then saw that the Crusades were all about the accumulation of power and wealth. Neither are any of the other good Christians colonizers. Godfrey dies on the way back, the Hospitaller is beheaded after the battle of Hattin, and Sybilla abdicates and leaves the Holy Land with Balian.
Hence, the logic of Balian inexplicably losing the black war horse after the shipwreck, only to find it at the oasis, and then, after winning the fight, give it away to Nasir. Although the latter gives Balian back the horse near the end of the film, he does so immediately and only after Saladin retakes possession of Jerusalem. The exchange of the horse is not only symbolic of friendship despite religious differences but also of who owns the Holy Land.
The giver in both cases gives when his side owns the Holy Land. Similarly, Balian tells Sybilla after he has negotiated the surrender of Jerusalem with Saladin, that the city that lives in his and her hearts and heads can never be surrendered. Assuming it is reasonable to draw this conclusion, Kingdom of Heaven leaves us with a series of unanswered questions even as its final intertitle, about the truce Richard negotiated and elusive peace of the present day, shifts from the present of the film into a past tense that frames what will have happened to the characters after the film ends, and shifts again to the aftermath of these events as of If Balian is returning with Sybilla, does that mean the two of them plan to rule as King and Queen?
If they are going back, their return to France seems rather pointless. Why did Sybilla refuse to be Queen and cut her hair if she never meant to abdicate permanently?
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After all, he leaves Jerusalem and goes back home. Has she had enough of his mourning and blacksmithing and decided to seduce Richard I instead, now the leader of the crusade and a monarch? The possession and holding of territory from a commanding, heroic, and male perspective emerges as a problem of scale that threatens to collapse distinctions both between genders and between adulthood and childhood. An eyeline match between Sybilla and Balian as she looks out at him as he touches the buds on a tree his dead wife planted in the yard below the forge, each of them smiling in mutual recognition, seems to affirm the transition both have made.
They seem to have mourned their losses, he of his dead wife and child, she of her dead brother and dead son. Yet this eyeline match quietly suggests that the transition is incomplete. As she looks out at him from above the balcony of the forge, she takes a position that the film marks throughout as the dominant one, reinstating her position on horseback looking down at him on foot in the first encounter, and again when she arrives at Ibelin and demands his hospitality.
Land is haunted by the dead in Kingdom of Heaven , and the film marks this haunting by including a balcony scene at Ibelin that recalls similar scenes in earlier film epics. Spartacus dir. Stanley Kubrick, contains a balcony scene with Crassus Laurence Oliver telling his slave Antoninus Tony Curtis about Rome, which he personifies as a demanding and dominating irresistible mistress.
Alexander dir. Oliver Stone, contains a balcony scene with Alexander Colin Farrell sounding like a neoconservative talking about multiculturalism and freedom with Hephaistion Jared Leto , and the two communicating their mutual affection.
In Troy dir. These balcony scenes are clearly homosocial, even homoerotic in the cases of Spartacus and Alexander , and arguably so in Ben Hur. To gaze is to command, whether to dominate or liberate. Kingdom of Heaven has a similar scene in which Balian takes possession of Ibelin, unused lands he has inherited from his father. An Episode in the Struggle for Religious Freedom. The Sectaries of Nuremberg New York: Columbia University Press, Exeter, Bishop of.
See [Lavington, George].
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