No connection to the Net since last Saturday. I’m using my laptop at my sister’s to get in touch with … the world! I can’t blog regularly or use twitter but, at least, today I've  answered some mails. I wrote  these reviews during the weekend ,  unsure when I’d be able to post them. I’m doing it now and adding some caps. Fingers crossed they can fix my connection problem soon. If you do not hear from me much or at all… you know why!


Still reading (but almost finished!) Sharon Kay Penman’s stunning picture of royal medieval England , The Sunne in Splendour (1982), my mind is plesantly haunted by images of warfare, armours and spears, battlefields and political plots, knights and horses. In order to visualize the emotions I am experiencing reading this novel, I had a look at my TBS list and chose two films dealing with knights in armour. I watched them at the weekend.

1. Il Mestiere delle Armi – The Profession of Arms (2001)

It is not an easy film. If you are searching for the adventure ot the action we are used to watching American “kolossals", you don't find it here. But this is a beautiful movie by the artistic side, you need to watch it with calm and patience, like you have to watch a pecious painting , a work of art. With many different little touches of brush, Ermanno Olmi conveys the real story of Giovanni De Medici, “Giovanni dalle Bande Nere”(of the Black Bands), in his last weeks.

Giovanni de Medici (played very convincingly by Bulgarian actor Hristo Jivkov ) was Captain of the Pope's Army. He was truly fierce, ruthless and proud, but relentlessly audacious on the battlefield. Yet he was also aristocratic, charming, articulate, witty, urbane, and a libertine off the battlefield. Furthermore, as a soldier he was the antithesis of a Machiavellian, and rejected the idea that war was a politician's game. Giovanni Dè Medici may have been cruel, but no one could accuse him of cowardice. In the end, dying from a gun-shot wound at the youthful age of 28, he was also a victim of a very different, new and subtler form of warfare.

The story starts from the end, with Giovanni Dè Medici's funeral. It then goes back to the cause of his death, dating a few months earlier, in the autumn of 1526, when the Imperial Army of German Lutheran soldiers , the Landsknechts', led by von Frundsberg are travelling through Italy from the North. The narrator, Pietro Aretino, informs us that these "noble and beautiful people" are on their way to invade and punish Rome, following an act of betrayal on the Pope's part. Aware that the Germans are at a military disadvantage, Dè Medici uses quick, sudden ambushes with his fire-armed cavalry. But as an act of ultimate individualism, the Marquis of Mantua, Federico Gonzaga welcomes the Lutheran troops through his fortified gates at Curtatone. He thus allows them easy access to the papal states in order to save his own territory. Meanwhile, just a few hours later, Federico Gonzaga denies access to Giovanni and his Papal troops! This beautifully illustrates the way that the notion of national solidarity simply did not exist among different Italian Duchies and kingdoms.

The use of historic buildings and detailed costumes (burnished armor for night fighting) is one of its best outings and the military material is particularly imposing - the spear-men making a dangerous looking fog silhouette spike barrier that the cavalry charge, the foundry men producing artillery and the constant drawing of those long swords. The grim, damp, relentlessly cold weather, the extreme discomfort of constantly wearing an armour and the way that battles were often sudden, fast and deadly is perfectly conveyed but , Beside the many scenes dedicated to military life, many beautiful others, such as those of Renaissance aristocrats at social gatherings and at court. The language spoken by the characters in this movie is arcaic, poetic, beautiful, but none of the lines are delivered in a contrived or actory manner - you just simply get the impression that Renaissance aristocrats spoke in such a sublimely articulate way.

The bitter messageof all the tragic suffering you witness all through the story is summed – up by the narrator in the end. He tells us that after the calamity of Commander de Medici, the sixteenth century rulers declared that that weapon of mass destruction, the cannon, would be forever banned. This declaration could be lifted exactly as it is and be applied to our very own "weapons of mass destruction" - a bitter, disheartening paradox.

This film is totally different from the previous one. It is a box office success that gives a light, colourful,comedy overook to the world of knights and jousting. An American action-adventure film, it was directed, produced, and written by Brian Helgeland . The stellar cast includes Heath Ledger, Shannyn Sossamon, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Rufus Sewell, Paul Bettany , James Purefoy.

Who recommended me to watch this film? My 19-year-old son. It’s one of those films he loves to re-watch. He’s seen it tens of times. To convince me, he smartly told me that it takes its title from Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale" and that Chaucer was  a character in the story. Could I resist?

It is the story of William Thatcher, a peasant masquerading as a knight, along with his companions in the world of medieval jousting. William starts posing as a knight and competing in tournaments when his lord and protector, Sir Ector, dies in the middle of a tournament he was winning . With the fake name of Sir Ulrich , William becomes a champion and acquires friendships with such historical figures as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales (James Purefoy) and Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany). The fair blond knight William / Ulrich has to challenge the evil dark knight, Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell), both in jousts and in his wooing beautiful Lady Jocelyn.

This film is, indeed, a modern styled fairy-tale set in the Middle Ages,  with a very swift pace, comedy and romance, colourful costumes and popular rock songs, bizzare characters and language. Just an example, the noble lady William falls in love with, Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), wears quite extravant clothes, definitely non-medieval, and her hair- style reminds me of the 1970s .

It seems that Helgeland attempted to stylize the movie in such a way as to bring the Middle Ages to the audience, rather than force the audience into the Middle Ages. If I forget what I expected before watching, I can even understand his attempt to popularize such a distant time and culture and I must also admit that ...

watching this movie was fun!!!


lunarossa said...

Ciao bella, I'm sorry about your Internet connecttion. I had a lot problems last summer and it was a nighmare! Hope you're going to be back online soon. Il mestiere della armi seems to be a nice film, I suppose with Ermanno Olmi as the director you go for sure. I watched A Knight's Tale quite a long time ago. It was the first time I'd ever seen something with Heath Ledger and I really liked him. Best of luck with the Internet. Ciao. A.

Anonymous said...

Oh MG, if they don't sort you out technically, we shall all starve! Hope it gets sorted. A Knight's Tale is wonderful fun! It's fast-paced, funny and romantic in turn, great characters and I shall never think of Chaucer again as anything but a man with bare buttocks and a fantastic turn of phrase!
I like the way the director took the Middle Ages and bought it to the audience. And I've often wondered if the directors of Robin Hood (BBC) and Merlin were inspired by that approach. Good luck with the e-goblins!

Lua said...

Oh I love The Knight’s Tale! Such a fun, romantic movie :)
I’m sorry about your internet connection Maria- I can imagine how frustrating it must be! But on the plus side, you’ll have more time to read and watch movies ;)
Thank you for the great review of 'The Profession of Arms', I’ve never heard of it before but sounds like a very deep, artistic, wonderful movie.

JaneGS said...

My older daughter and I stumbled across what I now know (after reading your post) to be The Knight's Tale, and we laughed at the anachronistic hair and clothes before switching channels...sounds like we should've watched it! Will look for it on Netflix. Always interested in fun movies :)

Avalon said...

The Sunne in Splendour sounds interesting.

I have seen A Knight's Tale but did not really care for it.

Anonymous said...

I love this movie so much. Everytime I watched I go inside that world and dream about living there.