Kingdom of Heaven is a 2005 epic 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 defense against the Muslim leader Saladin, who is battling to reclaim the city from the Christians. The film script is a heavily fictionalized portrayal of Balian of Ibelin.
Hamid Dabashi, a professor who specializes in a number of fields including Iranian and Islamic Studies as well as Comparative Literature at Columbia University, was the film's chief academic consultant regarding the Crusades.
Most filming took place in Ouarzazate in Morocco, where Scott had filmed Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. A replica of the ancient city of 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 France in 1184, Balian (Orlando Bloom), a blacksmith, is haunted by his wife's (Nathalie Cox) recent suicide, following the stillbirth of their child. A group of Crusaders arrive at the small village and one of them approaches Balian, introducing himself as his out-of-wedlock father, Baron Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson). Godfrey, having learned of Balian's recent losses, attempts to persuade Balian to join him as they travel to Jerusalem, in the hope he will eventually take his place as Godfrey's heir. Balian quickly refuses and, after resupplying and resting, the crusaders ride on. The corrupt town priest soon resorts to reveal that Balian is no longer needed at the village, seeing his wife's cross on the priest - Balian takes revenge by killing the town priest. Balian then rides off to meet with the crusaders.
Balian soon find's Baron of Godfrey and his crusaders in which they decide to take him in. Godfrey teaches Balian in basic of swordplay before soldiers ostensibly try to arrest Balian. Godfrey refuses to hand him over and, though they win the ensuing fight, most of Godfrey's band is killed. Godfrey himself is wounded by an arrow and, though he is not killed outright, it becomes clear as their journey continues that he will soon die.
In Messina, Godfrey, on the brink of death, knights Balian and orders him to serve the King of Jerusalem and protect the helpless. He ultimately shares with him his vision of "a kingdom of conscience, morality, and righteousness in the Holy Land", where Muslims and Christians can peacefully coexist, before finally succumbing to his injuries. On Balian's subsequent journey to Jerusalem, his ship is hit by a storm, leaving Balian and a horse as the sole survivors of the wreck. However, the horse then runs away as Balian attempts to mount it. Tracking the horse into the desert, Balian soon finds himself confronting a Muslim cavalier, and his servant, over possession of the horse. Balian slays the horseman in single combat, but spares the servant, asking him to guide him to Jerusalem. Upon their arrival in Jerusalem, Balian releases his prisoner who then tells him his slain master was an important knight amongst the Saracens, and Balian says that he will pray for his soul. As his prisoner departs, he remarks, "Your qualities will be known among your enemies before ever you meet them". Balian goes to Golgotha, where Christ was crucified hoping to hear what God wishes of him. After a night of waiting Balian buries his wife's necklace. After being accepted as the new Lord of Ibelin by Godfrey's retainers, Balian soon becomes acquainted with the main players in Jerusalem's political arena: King Baldwin IV, stricken by leprosy yet nevertheless a wise and most sensible ruler, Tiberias, the noble but cynical Marshall of Jerusalem, Princess Sibylla, King Baldwin IV's sister, and Guy de Lusignan, Sibylla's scheming, bloodthirsty, and intolerant husband, who supports the anti-Muslim activities of brutal factions like the Knights Templar. Despite the respect Baldwin engenders from the combined Christian and Muslim population of Jerusalem, Guy, who is determined to rule after Baldwin's inevitable early death, seeks to precipitate a war that will allow him to dispose of the Muslims and claim the Kingdom for Christians alone. He is also threatened by Balian, who he sees as a rival, especially after he learns Balian and Sibylla are having an affair.
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 seeking to retake Jerusalem, attacks Kerak, Raynald's castle, to bring him to account for his crime. Balian decides to defend Kerak Castle from Saladin's cavalry, in order to protect the innocent villagers surrounding the castle. Though outnumbered, Balian and his knights charge Saladin's cavalry, allowing the villagers time to flee to the castle; Balian's cavalry is soon routed resulting in the capture of him and his men. In captivity, Balian encounters the 'servant' he freed, Imad ad-Din, learning he is actually one of Saladin's Generals, who then returns the favor, freeing Balian to Kerak as Saladin arrives with his infantry to besiege Kerak. King Baldwin IV then arrives with his main army, successfully negotiates a Muslim retreat with Saladin and averts a potential bloodbath. At Saladin's camp, several of his Generals are angry that he made a truce, but Saladin dismisses these complaints as a foolhardy rush to war; he will only launch an attack against Jerusalem after ample preparation, when he feels he is strategically strong enough. Baldwin beats Raynald and orders his arrest, but the stress of the events causes him to collapse, and his physicians discover he will die shortly.
Baldwin asks Balian to marry Sybilla (Eva Green), knowing that the pair have affection for each other, but Balian does not accept as he refuses to be associated with the necessary murder of Guy; such political intrigue being counter to Balian's morality. After Baldwin finally dies, Guy goes to Raynald for advice and realizes that even though Balian is not King, he can still become the General of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Aware of this threat, and infuriated by the knowledge of his wife's affair with Balian, Guy sends several Templars to murder him, but they fail, with Balian narrowly managing to defeat the assassins. Sibylla names Guy as her King Consort of Jerusalem. Guy, now free to do as he pleases, releases Raynald, and has Raynald and his Templar lackeys provoke Saladin to war by murdering innocent Saracens, among them Saladin's sister. When Saladin sends an emissary to demand the return of his sister's body, the heads of those responsible, and the surrender of Jerusalem, Guy answers by cutting the emissary's throat, nearly causing a fight between Tiberias's knights, the Knights Hospitaler, and the Knights Templar. As the emissary's body is towed away, Guy arrogantly whispers "I am Jerusalem" and orders Jerusalem's army to be assembled for war.
Subsequently, in their arrogance, they march to the desert without adequate food and water to fight Saladin, leaving Jerusalem unguarded except for Balian, his personal knights, and the townspeople. Saladin's army ambushes Guy and Raynald, and the Crusader army is annihilated. Guy and Raynald themselves are captured; Saladin executes Raynald, and then marches on Jerusalem, sparing Guy out of tradition but stating that he is not worthy of this. Balian prepares the defences, challenging the Patriarch's advice to flee, and then makes a symbolic gesture by knighting a number of men-at-arms to raise morale, even knighting the man who buried his wife in France. Balian insists that their goal is to defend Jerusalem's population, not the city itself. Knowing full well they cannot defeat the Saracens, the defenders' only hope is to delay their enemies long enough for them to negotiate.
Saladin's siege of Jerusalem is three days of battle wherein Balian demonstrates tactical skill in knocking down siege towers, before inspiring the defenders to hold the line when a section of city wall is opened. Having proven their resolve, Saladin offers terms: Balian surrenders Jerusalem to Saladin when Saladin offers the inhabitants safe passage to Christian lands. Balian points out that when the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem a hundred years previously, they massacred the Muslim inhabitants, but Saladin assures him that he is a man of honor, and, keeping his word, allows Balian and his people to leave: Balian also asks Saladin what Jerusalem means to him, to which he replies "Nothing. Everything".
In the marching column of citizens, he finds Sibylla, and convinces her to come with him. Saladin's forces destroy many of the Christian books and removed the cross placed on the dome of the rock, returning the crescent that was removed by the crusaders. Privately, Saladin picks up a cross that was thrown off and puts it back on the table as well as refusing to step on the stones carved with crucifixes.
Later, Balian has returned to his village in France. A column of English knights rides through, led by King Richard I of England, who tells Balian that they are commencing a new Crusade to retake Jerusalem from Saladin. King Richard states that he is looking for Balian, who, in essence, says that his time in the Holy Land is finished, and refuses to go with them. Having been rebuffed, Richard and his knights ride off. Balian is met by Sybilla, and after a brief stop at the grave of Balian's wife, they ride off into the sunset.
An epilogue states that King Richard failed in his Crusade, negotiated an uneasy truce with Saladin after three years of war, and that "nearly a thousand years later, peace in the Kingdom of Heaven remains elusive."
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.
- Main article: Kingdom of Heaven (Score)
The music to the movie is quite different 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. Gregson-Williams chose to move away from the "battle waltz" and the "wailing woman" that had been introduced by Hans Zimmer in Gladiator and would then find excessive use (particularly the latter) in more and more other movies, such as Alexander, The Passion of the Christ, 300, and Troy. During the climactic final battle scene, a piece of Jerry Goldsmith's "Valhalla" theme from The 13th Warrior is used. "Vide Cor Meum" sung by Katherine Jenkins is also used during the funeral of the King.
Upon its release, the film was met with mixed opinions. Critics such as Roger Ebert, however, found the film's message to be deeper than Scott's previous Gladiator. Several actors/actresses were praised for their performances. The unanimously praised performance was that of actor Edward Norton, who played the leper king of Jerusalem, Baldwin IV. Critics have described his acting as near "phenomenal", "eerie", 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". Although the medieval character of Balian of Ibelin is not well known to U.S. culture, many critics had strong notions of how Balian should be acted, as an "epic hero" with a strong presence. One critic conceded that Balian was more of a "brave and principled thinker-warrior" rather than a large, strong commander, and Balian used brains-over-brawn to gain advantage in battle.
Bloom had gained 20 pounds for the part, and the Extended Director's Cut 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 our society today 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 our 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.
- Main article: Kingdom of Heaven Director's Cut
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. In several screenings in Beirut, Robert Fisk reported that Muslim audiences 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, mainly because of the Egyptian actor Khaled El Nabawy. 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 Britain's Total Film magazine (five star being the publication's highest rating) and a perfect ten out of ten from IGN DVD.
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, betrayed them by swearing 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.
The discord between the rival factions in the kingdom gave Saladin the opportunity to pursue his long-term goal of conquering it. The kingdom's army was defeated at the Battle of Hattin, partly due to the conflict between Guy and Raymond. As already stated, the battle itself is not shown in the movie, but its aftermath is depicted. The Muslims captured Guy and Raynald, and according to al-Safadi in al-Wafi bi'l-wafayat, executed Raynald after he drank from the goblet offered to Guy, as the sultan had once made a promise never to give anything to Raynald. Guy was imprisoned, but later freed. He attempted to retain the kingship even after the deaths of Sibylla and their daughters during his siege of Acre in 1190, but lost in an election to Conrad of Montferrat in 1192. Richard I of England, his only supporter, sold him the lordship of Cyprus, where he died c. 1194. There was a Haute Cour, a "high court", a sort of medieval parliament, in which Jeremy Irons' character Tiberias is seen arguing with Guy for or against war, in front of Baldwin IV as the final judge.
The movie alludes to the Battle of Montgisard in 1177, in which 16-year-old Baldwin IV defeated Saladin, with Saladin narrowly escaping. The Knights Hospitaller and Knights Templar were the most enthusiastic about fighting Saladin and the Muslims. They were monastic military orders, committed to celibacy. Neither Guy nor Raynald was a Templar, as the movie implies by costuming them both in Templar surcoats: they were secular nobles with wives and families, simply supported by the Templars. During one scene in the movie, shortly before Hattin, three soldiers referred to as "Templars" attack Balian; however, they clearly wear the white surcoats with black crosses of Teutonic Knights, rather than the white and red of the Knights Templar.
The historical origin of 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 love-relationship between Sibylla and a member of the Ibelin family.
The events of the siege of Jerusalem are based on the Old French Continuation of William of Tyre, a favorable account partly written by Ernoul, one of Balian's officers, and other contemporary documents. Saladin did besiege Jerusalem for almost a month, and was able to knock down a portion of the wall. In the film Balian knighted everyone who could carry a sword, but historical accounts say he only knighted some burgesses. The exact number varies in different accounts, but it is probably less than one hundred in a city which had tens of thousands of male inhabitants and refugees. Balian personally negotiated the surrender of the city with Saladin, after threatening to destroy every building and kill the 3000-5000 Muslim inhabitants of the city. Saladin allowed Balian and his family to leave in peace, along with everyone else who could arrange to pay a ransom.
The "uneasy truce" referred to in the closing scene refers to the Treaty of Ramla, negotiated, with Balian's help, at the end of the Third Crusade. The Third Crusade is alluded to at the end of the movie, when Richard I of England visits Balian in France. Balian, of course, was not from France and did not return there with Sibylla; she and her two daughters died of fever in camp during the siege of Acre. Conrad of Montferrat had denied her and Guy entry to the remaining stronghold of Tyre, and thus Guy was attempting to take another city for himself. 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". The anonymous author of the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi wrote that Balian was a member of a "council of consummate iniquity", and described him as cruel, fickle, and faithless, and accused him of taking bribes from Conrad.
The young Balian of the movie thus did not exist in reality. The historical Balian had descendants by Maria Comnena. Thanks to their close relationship to Sibylla's half-sister and successor, Maria's daughter Queen Isabella (not shown in the movie), the Ibelins became the most powerful noble family in the rump Kingdom of Jerusalem as well as in Cyprus in the thirteenth century. Most notably, Maria and Balian's son John, the Lord of Beirut, was a dominant force in the politics of Outremer for the first third of the thirteenth century. Near the end of the film and after Saladin has entered the city; he is seen watching as a crescent ornament is being raised on top of a building presumably a mosque. This is historically incorrect as at that time mosques did not bear any kind of symbols on the minarets. The crescent was introduced many centuries later when the Turkish Ottoman empire invaded eastern Europe and adopted the crescent as an Islamic symbol from traditional Greek symbols which was widely used in the city of Byzantium.
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.
- Kindgom of Heaven at Internet Movie Database