Steered by Ridley Scott and composed by William Monahan, the 2005 celluloid, Kingdom of Heaven, is A ‘must watch’ chef-d’oeuvre, set in the 12th century and relatable to those who claim to be devotees of the history of religion. Kingdom of Heaven brings out two religions viz. Christianity and Islam. Ridley, in this captivating masterpiece, takes the viewer through a historical voyage of these religions, showing the events preceding the relationship between them.
Of worth noting is that, all the film characters once existed as history unfolds. The director pictures their respective contributions in the making of the present ‘history of religions.’ A good number of instances in the film appear historically accurate. However, Ridley intentionally infixes scenarios, which contradicts the reality as unfolded by history, to meet dramatic effects as well as to imprison the attention of the viewers, although other historically inaccurate episodes arise from Ridley’s sloppiness
Historically Accurate and Inaccurate Instances
Godfrey’s advice to Balian concurs with history. He reminds him that he must employ powerful defense mechanisms whenever he encounters a sword fight. He suggests to him the posta di Falcone, a guard, particularly of the hawk. Historically, this was the then mechanism, usually applied by the taller knights following the powerful and fast defense it offered. In addition, the way Baldwin IV is pictured is historically accurate.
According to Ridley, he was actually leprosy-stricken and out of terms with Guy de Lusignan, who in turn was not in good terms with Raynald. In fact, Guy says, “You’re a dangerous man, Raynald” (Ridley), showing how his dreams of becoming a king were far from a reality. In concordance with history, he did not pass for a king. As history points out, “Baldwin crowned Sibylla’s son from her previous marriage to William Longsword of Montferrat (unnamed in the movie), as his successor, much to Guy’s disgust” (Cathy 25).
Moreover, the movie pictures three times a conflict between the 16-year Baldwin IV and Saladin, where Baldwin is crowned with victory at last with Saladin narrowly escaping death. Charlotte clarifies that, historically, this was the 1177 Battle of Montgisard (Para. 4). However, Ridley infixes some historically inaccurate scenes in this film.
Balian of Ibelin, as the film figures out, was Raymond’s close friend. However, the real age gap between them is not as Ridley pictures. Their age difference was approximately two years with Raymond in the lead. In addition, as the movie begins in 1184, Balian is not a French blacksmith but a paramount lord in Jerusalem and neither does suicide nor miscarriage happen to his wife.
In fact, Monahan admits that “changes to the character’s background were not the results of errors or inadequate research” (Ridley). They had to be included in order to meet the movie’s objectives.
For instance, Balian real history had to be modified for the purpose of ‘narrative expediency.’ In addition, the terms ‘crusade’ and ‘crusaders’ appear much in the celluloid yet they are not known to the then century’s people, who rather used the word ‘Pilgrimage’ instead. Though historically inaccurate, the film makers aim at making it relevant to the present viewers, who know nothing to do with pilgrimage.
Still on historical inaccuracies, many a times the flag of the Castilla Leon kingdom appear raised. Reality has it that, by the time of composition of the film (1184-1187), the two kingdoms were not united as the movie suggests. This has often been attributed to carelessness and poor research of the film makers. Based on the specific period of history when the movie kicks off, a lot can be learned as the next paragraph explains.
Lessons from the Specific Period
It is worth learning that the movie brings to present a specific historical period when religious disputes were at their peak, for both Muslims and Christians. It is inferable that, Muslims during this period had entered and abused the then rights of their Christians counterparts. In fact, when Richard’s Knight says, “We crusade to recover the kingdom of Jerusalem” (Ridley), he implies that Muslims had actually grabbed it and they (Christians) needed it back, hence the reason behind the film title.
But how does this come about? The Prevailing 100-year harmony in Jerusalem is the root fuel of the prevailing Christian-Muslim conflicts. I have learned that, it is the then piece that attracted all sorts of people to Jerusalem. Muslims, Jews, Christians, among others, were free to enter through the open gates of Jerusalem but as history unfolds, this period ended about 1184, when the film begins, as a reflector of what follows as a result.
In addition, this period turns out to be conflict dominated. Soon after the opening of the movie, Godfrey is seen in a discourse with Balian. From their dialogue, the deteriorating peaceful atmosphere of Jerusalem can be insinuated.
This on the other hand, pictures the very real state of peace in Jerusalem where people have set out to defend their respective religions, cities, and/or people. For instance, Balian says”…We defend this city, not to protect these stones, but the people living within these walls.” (Ridley), to show how the city has run short of peace, as the case is on the ground.
Moreover, it is deducible that there is an ongoing Christian-Muslim conflict during this specific period. The movie, through its characters, pictures out a good number of scenes where the two religions are not in good terms, and so is the real external religious world. Hospitaller says, “…The reckoning is to come for what were…the Muslims will never forget” (Ridley).The Kingdom of Heaven is a propaganda film.
A Propaganda Film
Critics and adherents alike have set out to declare the film a propaganda that speaks in favor of Muslim at the expense of Christianity. Ridley’s depiction of the entry of the notorious Muslims into the peaceful Christian Jerusalem, where they cause chaos and unnecessary shading of bloods and deaths of the innocent Christians, which can otherwise be annulled, is wanting.
It is like securing a mandate for the Muslims to announce judgments to people, not on the basis of the content of their character, but the nature of their religions. People have expressed their takes on the film. Among them are the historians, who claim that the movie favor the works of Osama Bin Laden, a Muslim. Even as the movie ends, Saladin, a Muslim, emerges the hero, a case that depicts them as a powerful lot.
Therefore, building on this revelation, Ridley seems to be swaying Christian family towards Muslims. He offers enough to show how powerful the Muslims are and how they will turn to be the owners of the Kingdom of heaven which Christians claim to be theirs. Though it is not the beginning of the race which matters, the ends thereof justifies the means for Muslims.
In the movie, Jerusalem is initially owned by the Christians like Godfrey, but through fights and killings, it is finally in the hands of the Muslims like Saladin. It is therefore deducible that the film maker’s agenda on this was to technically pull Christians out the way to heaven as they have been maintaining, while on the other side pulling Muslims into it, leaving them with the kingdom.
The issue of stereotyping comes in handy in the film. These stereotypes range from religious to ethnic. For instance, Ridley depicts Muslims as terrorists, who employ religion as their cover of terror activities. This activity stands out when Godfrey’s nephew plans an attack to Godfrey together with his men.
As a result, three men are deprived of their lives. In addition, the event succeeding Balian’s ship wreckage depicts Muslims as terrorists. Balian, on his way through the desert is attacked by the Muslim Chevalier he encounters, who bases their fight on Balian’s possession of the horse.
In addition, the Islam-Muslim stereotypes, pictured in the film during the rallying of the crusaders, are still evident today. The primitive stereotyping of crusades is quite dissipating in terms of Christian-Muslim relationship.
Moreover, stereotypes based on ethnic minorities stand clear in the film. Ridley pictures the Arab family as the home for terrorists and hardly do film makers sympathize with them. It is worth noting that, the pictured stereotypes are damaging. This is because the evident Christian-Muslim disputes arise as a result of these misconceptions. Arabs, to a larger extent, involve themselves in killings and attacks as a result and thus the stereotypes are damaging and ought to be eliminated.
In conclusion, building on the day-to-day happenings, there stands out events parallel to what Ridley portrays in his characters. For instance, just as the movie depicts the issue of Muslim-Christian conflicts, so is what history has. The issue of the yearly burning the Quran by the famous Christian church in America continues to be a debate.
Its weird actions are no more than what is founded on the deep rooted religious differences. This scenario was still evident early this year (2010). Massive killings form the subject of today’s discussions. Just as the film pictures various Muslim attacks, Iraq, a Muslim dominated country was attacked in 2003 and so was Afghanistan. All these, among others, are in accord with what Ridley brings out in his masterpiece.
Cathy, Jin. Historical Inaccuracies of Kingdom of Heaven Film. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Charlotte, Edwards. “Ridley Scott’s new Crusades film ‘panders to Osama bin Laden.” The Daily Telegraph, January 17, 2004.
Kingdom of Heaven. Dir. Ridley, Scott. 12th Century Washington Post, 2005. Film.