|Kingdom of Heaven|
Khaled El Nabawy
Jerry Goldsmith (library music)
Chisako Yokoyama (director's cut)
|Studio:||Scott Free Productions|
Studio Babelsberg Motion Pictures GmbH
|Distributor:||20th Century Fox|
|Country:||United Kingdom |
Kingdom of Heaven is a 2005 epic action film directed by Ridley Scott and written by William Monahan. It stars Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Marton Csokas, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McKidd, Alexander Siddig, Ghassan Massoud, Edward Norton, Jon Finch, Michael Sheen and Liam Neeson.
The story is set during the Crusades of the 12th century. A French village blacksmith goes to aid the city of Jerusalem in its defence against the Kurdish Muslim leader Saladin, who is battling to reclaim the city from the Christians leading to the Battle of Hattin. The film script is a heavily fictionalised portrayal of Balian of Ibelin.
Most filming took place in Ouarzazate and Ait Benhaddou in Morocco, where Scott had filmed Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. A replica of medieval Jerusalem was constructed in the desert. Filming also took place in Spain, at the Loarre Castle, Segovia, Ávila, Palma del Río and Casa de Pilatos in Sevilla.
In a remote village in 1184 France, Balian, a blacksmith, is haunted by his wife's recent suicide. A group of Crusaders arrive; one of them introduces himself as Balian's father, Baron Godfrey of Ibelin. Godfrey asks Balian to return with him to Jerusalem. Balian refuses and the Crusaders leave. The town priest, Balian's half-brother, reveals that he ordered Balian's wife beheaded before burial, a customary practice for people who commit suicide. Balian notices his brother wearing the cross that his wife wore before she was to be buried. In a fit of rage Balian kills his brother, retrieves the crucifix and flees the village. Balian pursues his father in the hope of gaining forgiveness and redemption for him and his wife in Jerusalem. After he reaches Godfrey, soldiers led by Godfrey's nephew arrive, ostensibly to arrest Balian. In reality, the nephew intends to assassinate Balian and Godfrey so that his father, and eventually he, may inherit Godfrey's barony. Godfrey refuses to surrender Balian. The nephew launches a sneak attack against Godfrey. The attack fails and Godfrey kills his nephew, but is struck by an arrow that breaks off in his body.
In Messina, Godfrey knights Balian and orders him to serve the King of Jerusalem and protect the helpless, before succumbing to his injuries. During Balian's journey to Jerusalem his ship runs aground in a storm, leaving Balian and a horse as the only survivors. When Balian releases the horse from the wreckage it flees in panic. Following the horse, Balian is confronted by a Muslim cavalier and his servant. A fight over the horse follows and Balian reluctantly slays the cavalier when attacked, but spares the servant, asking him to guide him to Jerusalem. Upon arriving, Balian gives the horse to the servant and releases him. The man tells him his slain master was an important knight amongst the Saracens; his deed will gain him fame and respect from them.
Balian becomes acquainted with Jerusalem's political arena: the leper King Baldwin IV, Tiberias the Marshall of Jerusalem, the King's sister Princess Sibylla, and her husband Guy de Lusignan, who supports the anti-Muslim activities of brutal factions like the Knights Templar. Guy intends to rule after Baldwin's death and seeks to provoke a war that will allow him to dispose of the Muslims and claim the Kingdom for the Christians.
Guy and his co-conspirator Raynald of Châtillon massacre a Muslim trade caravan with the aid of the Templars. Saladin, leader of the Muslim forces, advances on Kerak, Raynald's castle, to punish him for his crime. Balian protects the villagers entering the castle from Saladin's cavalry, despite a request from Raynald to withdraw. Though outnumbered, Balian and his knights charge Saladin's cavalry, allowing the villagers time to flee. A fierce, but one-sided battle ensues in which Balian's knights are captured. In the enemy camp, Balian encounters the servant he freed, Imad ad-Din, learning he is actually Saladin's Chancellor, who releases Balian to enter Kerak. Saladin arrives with his army to besiege Kerak and King Baldwin IV approaches with his. They negotiate a Muslim retreat and Baldwin swears to punish Raynald. Baldwin confronts Raynald, forcing him onto his knees. As Raynald grovels for mercy, Baldwin slaps him a few times and forces Raynald to kiss his diseased hand. The exertion of these events cause Baldwin to collapse, weakened beyond recovery. Saladin assures his generals that he will reclaim Jerusalem, but only when he is confident of victory.
Baldwin asks Balian to marry Sibylla, knowing they have affection for each other, but Balian refuses because in order for the marriage to occur Guy would have to be killed. After Baldwin dies, Sibylla's six year old son Baldwin V becomes King of Jerusalem. It becomes apparent that he is also infected with leprosy. Grief-stricken and unwilling to condemn her son to a life behind a mask, Sibylla poisons her son. Sibylla succeeds her son and names Guy King of Jerusalem. Guy releases Raynald, asking him to give him a war, which Raynald does by murdering Saladin's sister. When Saladin's emissary relays demands for the return of his sister's body, the heads of those responsible and the surrender of Jerusalem, Guy decapitates the emissary and sends his head back to Damascus. Guy sends three Templars to assassinate Balian, since he is the most strident voice against a war, though Balian survives the assassination attempt.
In council, war is agreed upon "because God wills it" and against sound advice they march into the desert to fight Saladin, leaving Jerusalem unguarded except for Balian, Tiberias, their knights, a few remaining Crusader soldiers and the townspeople. Saladin's army attacks the Crusaders and in the ensuing battle the Crusaders are annihilated. Guy and Raynald are captured; Saladin executes Raynald and then marches on Jerusalem, sparing Guy as king only out of tradition. Tiberias and his men leave for Cyprus, believing Jerusalem is lost, but Balian and his knights remain to protect the villagers. Knowing they cannot defeat the Saracens, they hope to hold their enemies off long enough for the Saracens to offer terms. After a battle that lasts three days, Saladin offers terms: Balian surrenders Jerusalem when Saladin offers the inhabitants safe passage to Christian lands. He also releases Guy back to Jerusalem where he attacks Balian but is defeated.
In the marching column of citizens, he finds Sibylla who has renounced her claim as Queen of Jerusalem and other cities. After Balian returns to his village in France, English knights ride through looking for Balian, defender of Jerusalem. Balian replies that he is the blacksmith, and the man leading the knights identifies himself as King Richard I of England, and they are commencing a new Crusade to retake Jerusalem. Balian responds that he is merely a blacksmith, and Richard rides off. Balian is joined by Sibylla, and passing by the grave of Balian's wife, they ride toward a new life together.
The visual style of Kingdom of Heaven emphasizes set design and impressive cinematography in almost every scene. It is notable for its "visually stunning cinematography and haunting music". Cinematographer John Mathieson created many large, sweeping landscapes, where the cinematography, supporting performances, and battle sequences are meticulously mounted. The cinematography and scenes of set-pieces have been described as "ballets of light and color" (as in films by Akira Kurosawa). Director Ridley Scott's visual acumen was described as the main draw of Kingdom of Heaven with the stellar, stunning cinematography and "jaw-dropping combat sequences" based on the production design of Arthur Max. 
See main article: Kingdom of Heaven (soundtrack). The music to the movie differs in style and content from the soundtrack of Ridley Scott's earlier 2000 film Gladiator and many other subsequent films depicting historical events. A composition of classical listings, rousing chorales, juxtaposing Muslim sacred chants, and subtle implementation of contemporary rock/pop influences,  the soundtrack is largely the result of British film-score composer Harry Gregson-Williams. During the climactic final battle scene, a piece of Jerry Goldsmith's "Valhalla" theme from The 13th Warrior is used. "Vide Cor Meum" (originally used by Scott in the Hannibal movie and composed by Patrick Cassidy and Hans Zimmer), sung by Danielle de Niese and Bruno Lazzaretti is also used during the funeral of the King.
Many of the characters in the movie are fictionalized versions of historical figures:
The cast was widely praised. Jack Moore described Edward Norton's performance as "phenomenal", and "so far removed from anything that he has ever done that we see the true complexities of his talent". The Syrian actor Ghassan Massoud was also praised for his portrayal of Saladin, described by The New York Times as "cool as a tall glass of water". Also commended were Eva Green, who plays Princess Sibylla "with a measure of cool that defies her surroundings", and Jeremy Irons.
However, lead actor Orlando Bloom's performance generally elicited a lukewarm reception from American critics, with the Boston Globe stating Bloom was "not actively bad as Balian of Ibelin", but nevertheless "seems like a man holding the fort for a genuine star who never arrives". One critic conceded that Balian was more of a "brave and principled thinker-warrior" rather than a strong commander, and Balian used brains rather than brawn to gain advantage in battle.
Bloom had gained 20 pounds for the part, and the Extended Director's Cut (detailed below) of Kingdom of Heaven reveals even more complex facets of Bloom's role, involving connections with unknown relatives. Despite the criticism, Bloom won two awards for his performance.
Online, general criticism has been also divided, but leaning towards the positive. As of early 2006, the Yahoo! Movies rating for Kingdom of Heaven was a "B" from the critics (based on 15 Reviews). This rating equates to "good" according to Yahoo! Movie's rating system. On Rotten Tomatoes, only 39 percent of critics gave the film a positive review; however, the aggregate review site Metacritic scored the movie as a 63, which means the film received "generally favorable reviews" according to the website's weighted average system.
Academic criticism has focused on the supposed peaceful relationship between Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem and other cities depicted. Crusader historians such as Jonathan Riley-Smith, quoted by The Daily Telegraph, called the film "dangerous to Arab relations", claiming the movie was Osama bin Laden's version of the Crusades and would "fuel the Islamic fundamentalists". Riley-Smith further commented against the historical accuracy stating "nonsense like this will only reinforce existing myths", arguing that the film "relied on the romanticized view of the Crusades propagated by Sir Walter Scott in his book The Talisman, published in 1825 and now discredited by academics."   Fellow Crusade historian Jonathan Phillips also spoke against the film. Paul Halsall defended Scott, claiming that "historians can't criticize filmmakers for having to make the decisions they have to make... [Scott is] not writing a history textbook".
Scott himself defended this depiction of the Muslim-Christian relationship in footage on the DVD version of the movie's extra features. Scott sees this portrayal as being a contemporary look at the history. He argued that peace and brutality are concepts relative to one's own experience, and since contemporary society is so far removed from the brutal times in which the movie takes place, he told the story in a way that he felt was true to the source material, yet was more accessible to a modern audience. In other words, the "peace" that existed was exaggerated to fit modern ideas of what such a peace would be. At the time, it was merely a lull in Muslim-Christian violence compared to the standards of the period. The recurring use of "Assalamu Alaikum", the traditional Arabic greeting meaning "Peace be with you", is spoken both in Arabic and English several times.
The "Director's Cut" of the film is a four-disc set, two of which are dedicated to a feature-length documentary called "The Path to Redemption." This feature contains an additional featurette on historical accuracy called "Creative Accuracy: The Scholars Speak", where a number of academics support the film's contemporary relevance and historical accuracy. Among these historians is Dr. Nancy Caciola, who said that despite the various inaccuracies and fictionalized/dramatized details considered the film a "responsible depiction of the period."
Screenwriter William Monahan, who is a long-term enthusiast of the period, has said "If it isn't in, it doesn't mean we didn't know it... What you use, in drama, is what plays. Shakespeare did the same."
Caciola agreed with the fictionalization of characters on the grounds that "crafting a character who is someone the audience can identify with" is necessary in a film. She said that "I, as a professional, have spent much time with medieval people, so to speak, in the texts that I read; and quite honestly there are very few of them that if I met in the flesh I feel that I would be very fond of." This appears to echo the sentiments of Scott himself. However, the DVD does not feature historians expressing more negative reactions.
The historical content and the religious and political messages present have received praise and condemnation, sentiments and perceptions. John Harlow of the Times Online wrote that Christianity is portrayed in an unfavorable light and the value of Christian belief is diminished, especially in the portrayal of Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem. When journalist Robert Fisk watched the film in a Beirut cinema, he reported that the Muslim audience rose to their feet and applauded wildly during a scene in the film in which Saladin respectfully places a fallen cross back on top of a table after it had fallen during the three-day siege of the city.
The movie was a box office flop in the U.S. and Canada, earning $47 million against a budget of around $130 million, but was successful in Europe and the rest of the world, with the worldwide box office earnings totaling at $211,643,158. It was also a big success in Arabic-speaking countries, especially Egypt. Scott insinuated that the U.S. disaster of the film was the result of bad advertising, which presented the film as an adventure with a love story rather than as an examination of religious conflict. It's also been noted that the film was altered from its original version to be shorter and follow a simpler plot line. This "less sophisticated" version is what hit theaters, although Scott and some of his crew felt it was watered down, explaining that by editing, "You've gone in there and taken little bits from everything".
Like some other Scott films, Kingdom of Heaven found success on DVD in the U.S., and the release of the Director's Cut has reinvigorated interest in the film. Nearly all reviews of the 2006 Director's Cut have been positive, including a four-star review in the British magazine Total Film (five star being the publication's highest rating) and a perfect ten out of ten from IGN DVD.  
Orlando Bloom's character, Balian of Ibelin, was a close ally of Raymond; however, he was a mature gentleman, just a year or two younger than Raymond, and one of the most important nobles in the kingdom, not a French blacksmith. His father Barisan (which was originally his own name, modified into French as 'Balian') founded the Ibelin family in the east, and probably came from Italy. Balian and Sibylla were indeed united in the defense of Jerusalem; however, no romantic relationship existed between the two. Balian married Sibylla's stepmother Maria Comnena, Dowager Queen of Jerusalem and Lady of Nablus. The Old French Continuation of William of Tyre (the so-called Chronicle of Ernoul) claimed that Sibylla had been infatuated with Balian's older brother Baldwin of Ibelin, a widower over twice her age, but this is doubtful; instead, it seems that Raymond of Tripoli attempted a coup to marry her off to him to strengthen the position of his faction; however, this legend seems to have been behind the film's creation of a romance between Sibylla and a member of the Ibelin family.
King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, who reigned from 1174 to 1185, was a leper, and his sister Sibylla did marry Guy of Lusignan. Also, Baldwin IV had a falling out with Guy before his death, and so Guy did not succeed Baldwin IV immediately. Baldwin crowned Sibylla's son from her previous marriage to William of Montferrat, five-year-old Baldwin V co-king in his own lifetime, in 1183. The little boy reigned as sole king for one year, dying in 1186 at nine years of age. After her son's death, Sibylla and Guy (to whom she was devoted) garrisoned the city, and she claimed the throne. The coronation scene in the movie was, in real life, more of a shock: Sibylla had been forced to promise to divorce Guy before becoming queen, with the assurance that she would be permitted to pick her own consort. After being crowned by Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem (who is unnamed in the movie), she chose to crown Guy as her consort. Raymond III of Tripoli, the film's Tiberias, was not present, but was in Nablus attempting a coup, with Balian of Ibelin, to raise her half-sister (Balian's stepdaughter), princess Isabella of Jerusalem, to the throne; however, Isabella's husband, Humphrey IV of Toron, refusing to precipitate a civil war, swore allegiance to Guy.
Raymond of Tripoli was a cousin of Amalric I of Jerusalem, and one of the Kingdom's most powerful nobles, as well as sometime regent. He had a claim to the throne himself, but, being childless, instead tried to advance his allies the Ibelin family. He was often in conflict with Guy and Raynald, who had risen to their positions by marrying wealthy heiresses and through the king's favor. Guy and Raynald did harass Saladin's caravans, and the claim that Raynald captured Saladin's sister is based on the account given in the Old French Continuation of William of Tyre. This claim is not supported by any other accounts, and is generally believed to be false. In actuality, after Raynald's attack on one caravan, Saladin made sure that the next one, in which his sister was traveling, was properly guarded: the lady came to no harm.
Balian's relations with Richard were far from amicable, because he supported Conrad against Richard's vassal Guy. He and his wife Maria arranged her daughter Isabella's forcible divorce from Humphrey of Toron so she could marry Conrad. Ambroise, who wrote a poetic account of the crusade, called Balian "more false than a goblin" and said he "should be hunted with dogs".
An episode of The History Channel's series History vs. Hollywood analyzed the historical accuracy of the film. This program and a Movie Real (a series by A&E Network) episode about Kingdom of Heaven were both included on the DVD version of the movie.
An extended director's cut of the movie was released on December 23, 2005, at the Laemmle Fairfax Theatre in Los Angeles, unsupported by advertising from 20th Century Fox. This version has been widely praised; at approximately 45 minutes longer than the original theatrical cut, it is purportedly the version Ridley Scott originally wanted released to theaters. The DVD of the extended Director's Cut was released on May 23, 2006. It comprises a four-disc box set with a runtime of 194 minutes, and is shown as a road show presentation with an overture, intermission and entr'acte; the Blu-ray Disc release omits the roadshow elements, running for 189 minutes. Scott gave an interview to STV on the occasion of the extended edition's UK release, when he discussed the motives and thinking behind the new version.
After the pitching of this film, studio marketing executives took it to be an action-adventure hybrid rather than what Ridley Scott and William Monahan intended it to be: a historical epic examining religious conflict. 20th Century Fox promoted the film as an action movie with heavy elements of romance and, in their advertising campaign, made much of the "From the Director of Gladiator" slogan. When Scott presented the 194 minute version of the film to the studio, they balked at the length. Studio head Tom Rothman ordered the film to be trimmed down to only two hours, as he did not believe that a modern audience would go to see a three hour and fifteen minute movie. Ultimately, Rothman's decision backfired as the film gained mixed reviews (with many commenting that the film seemed "incomplete") and severely under-performed at the US box office.
The Director's Cut (DC) has received a distinctly more positive reception from film critics than the theatrical release, with some reviewers suggesting that it is the most substantial Director's Cut of all time and a title to equal any of Scott's other works., offering a much greater insight into the motivations of individual characters. Scott and his crew have all stated that they consider the Director's Cut to be the true version of the film and the theatrical cut more of an action movie trailer for the real film. Alexander Siddig, the Sudanese-born actor who played Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani, in particular agitated for the release of an extended cut.
As well as including more shots depicting violence and bloodshed, the later director's cut provides several details not present in the original theatrical release:
. Ridley Scott. Kingdom of Heaven: The Making of the Ridley Scott Epic. 2005. Newmarket Press. New York. 1-55704-661-1.
. Steven Runciman. A History of the Crusades (Vol 2) The Kingdom of Jerusalem. 1987. 403–469. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. 2006-07-08. 0-521-34771-8.