Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Crusade Cuffer ..... Truly told

Part-I ( In a three part series)

Sir Ridley Scott's dazzling epic of the Crusades has attracted flak from Cristian and Islamic scholars, but will its combination of spiritual devotion and gore draw audiences into the fold?

Set in 1185, it follows Balian (Orlando Bloom looking at his most Christ-like), a blacksmith in rural France, who is claimed as his illegitimate son by a Crusader knight, Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson) and taken to Jerusalem. Balian has lost his faith after the suicide of his wife, but slowly regains it at the court of saintly Baldwin IV (Edward Norton), the King of Jerusalem, who practices and preaches tolerance between Christians and Muslims. However, zealots on both sides destroy Baldwin's 'kingdom of heaven' and when his power-hungry son-in-law Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas) succeeds him, the scene is set for a confrontation with the Saracen General Saladin (Ghassan Massound) which leads to Balian's heroic leadership of the siege of Jerusalem.

The film chooses unambiguously to place the blame for the Crusader-Saracen conflict, which causes the eventual downfall of Baldwin's kingdom, squarely at the door of fundamentalists in both camps, but overall it is the Christian fundamentalists who come off worst of all. At a time when the Catholic church has just elected as its leader a cardinal who has previously described other faiths as 'gravely deficient', Kingdom of Heaven presents a deeply unappealing picture of all those who feel their religious belief is superior to any other. Lusignan, the new king of Jerusalem, is egged on to battle by the Knights Templar, brandishing their crosses and talking of 'killing a Muslim to get to heaven'.

Chronology: Nine crusades - wars over the Holy Land sanctioned by the Pope - took place from the 11th to the 13th century.

1095 First Crusade begins after Pope Urban II urges Christian Europe to reclaim Jerusalem. They succeed in doing so.
1137 Revered Muslim leader Saladin is born in Tikrit.{ Modern day Iraq } By 1169 he is Sultan of Egypt.
1147 Second Crusade begins.
1174 Baldwin, 13, takes throne of Jerusalem. He wants to create a place where all faiths can coexist.
1180 Saladin and King Baldwin sign a truce, but it is broken within a year.
1185-86 Kingdom of Heaven begins in fragile peace. Baldwin dies 1185. Guy de Lusignan succeeds him.
1187 Battle of Hattin. Saladin conquers the Christian army and recaptures Jerusalem.
1189-92 Third Crusade. Richard the Lionheart attempts to retake the city but is forced to abandon plan. Saladin agrees a treaty giving Christian pilgrims special rights.
1193 Saladin dies.

(With thanks The Guardain)

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