February 18th, 2008

Kingdom Of Heaven

There seems to be a lot of animosity towards Orlando Bloom. I think it's unfair.  He's like Terence Stamp or Keanu Reeves; when a guy is as beautiful as these guys are he doesn't need to act. It's the Garbo thing. She couldn't act either but she's beautiful and stately and the camera reads this as a rich inner life.  Somehow we can accept that in a woman but not in a man.

Actually we accept it in a man too or Bloom wouldn't be all rich and famous. It's just that we have to make a big fuss about it and pretend we don't.  I put it down to male film critics wanting to prove they're not gay. "Hey look at that girly-boy- lets kick his head in!"

Bloom's character in Kingdom of Heaven is called Balian but is really Sir Galahad- and gazing soulfully into the middle distance will do just fine- because soul is what it's all about.  This character isn't a character at all; he's a figure in a stained glass window by Burne-Jones. 

And if you want colourful acting you've got a whole lot of (mainly British and Irish) thesps giving great value for money in supporting roles- Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McKidd (who I'm always mistaking for Daniel Craig), Michael Sheen, Alexander Siddig, Jon Finch.

I liked the movie better than I thought I would. Watching anything by Ridley Scott is like leafing through a glossy magazine- glorious set-up after glorious set-up (love the swirling snow in the opening sequence!)- and sometimes the highly decorated style suits the story and sometimes it doesn't. Here it's a pretty good match.  There are better (more deeply committed) visions of the Middle Ages- the Seventh Seal, Marketa Lazarova, Chimes at Midnight, El Cid, Monty Python and the Holy Grail- but Scott's will do. It has grandeur.  His battle scenes are similar to but better than those in The Two Towers and Return of the King- with more discretion in the use of CGI. And there's a terrific  "I am Spartacus" moment where- the city having run out of knights to defend it- Bloom ennobles all the servants and altar boys.

Did the medieval city of Jerusalem really boast such sky-scraping minarets? Were siege weapons really that huge? Could they really lob missiles that far? Did the leper king of Jerusalem really wear a silver face-mask? Were the Templars really so moustachio-twirlingly wicked? Oh, what the hell; think Burne-Jones and enjoy!