A good film by George Clooney about an interesting part of history.
Towards the end of World War II it dawned upon the allied forced that the Nazis had been collecting and destroying art. Now even on their retreat, they take the art that they price highest with them with the idea of creating a museum. “Entartete Kunst” (“degenerate art”) such as modern are is frequently destroyed.
The American army assembles a small group of art historians to try to prevent culture from being destroyed while fighting and to retrieve what the Nazis have already stolen.
Initially travelling to areas of Europe that have been freed by occupied forces, the group slowly works itself closer to the frontline to be present more rapidly. This is especially necessary as Hitler starts to shout that should he perish, all collected art should be destroyed.
Clooney gathered quite a cast. Himself, of course, but also Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and John Goodman. He made a relatively light film about the heavy subject of WWII, but one with a message. Mankind’s achievements should not be filtered by the people who happen to be in charge.
Oxford University has a long time wish to make a dictionary of the English language, but the project keeps stranding. At last they hire the outsider James Murray played by Mel Gibson.
Murray has no university degree. He is a self-taught expert in a stunning amount of languages. After some doubt, he can start is the project. He has some unconventional ideas. Instead of reading everything available in the English language to distill words, definitions and thus the development of the meaning of the word, he wants to use the general public to mail cards with words, meaning and sources so they can catalogue and cross-check them.
One of the volunteers is William Minor (Sean Penn), convicted for shooting a man, a mad, but otherwise brilliant man, with a lot of time on his hands.
The story may sound a bit dull, but actually the film is a very well done drama with an interesting story and good acting.
There is not often a production this size in the Netherlands and this film is about the national ‘heathen hero, so it was hard to miss when the film came out. Still I had to wait before the DVD price dropped before I watched it.
Even though the 160 minute length, a lot of story is crammed into the first 15 minutes. In Frisia harvest has been bad for four years so the people demand human sacrifice to “Freyja”. Of course it is the girl that Redbad, the son of the king, is in love with, whom is chosen by lot. When she is to be burned, the Christian Franks raid Dorestad and in his effort to rescue his girl, Redbad causes his father to be killed.
Again lots have to be drawn and Redbad is found guilty by “Wodan” and is offered to the God of the sea. Instead of dying, he washes up on the shores of Denmark where he stays with a local tribe, marries and becomes a father.
When he hears that his own people have given in to the Franks and that his sister has an arranged marriage with the son of the Frankish king, Redbad decides to go back and help his people.
Then follows a adventure film with large fights between the freedom loving Frisians and the brutal Franks. Also Wilibrord and his young pupil Boniface are shown Christianizing.
The Frisians speak strangely contemporary Dutch. Of some actors you can even hear from what city they are. The two English missionaries speak Dutch too. The Franks and Danes speak English. A bit weird, but I can understand the director had to make choices.
The camera work looks good. The big fights look good too. The acting is not too bad, but mostly scenes that are supposed to be dramatic are not too strong, especially not when a dramatic interlude in a fighting scene is filmed.
It is a long wait until the scene which Redbad is most famous for. About to be baptized he asks if he will meet his ancestors in heaven and when the answer is ‘no’ he declines. Yet his Danish wife has been Christian (and fiercely fighting Christians too) for a long time. A bit of an odd variation to history too. Both the Christians and the heathens are shown to be brutal too.
The film is rather long but I did not really find it too long. Like I said, it looks quite well, but is certainly no big Hollywood production. Just a film to watch some time if you are curious about Dutch film making and (not too correct) history.
The film begins with a peace treatment between Scottish clan leaders and King Edward of England. The Scots are not enthusiastic, but most are done with war.
Soon the English kill William Wallace (remember the “Braveheart” film?) and the Scottish people, already unhappy with the situation, start to stir for riot. Robert Bruce throws himself up to try to unite Scotland and throw out the English.
Since the Scots are divided, Bruce found for himself a virtually impossible task. The film is mostly about the English trying to take back control before Bruce can come to real power. As counter measure, Bruce starts to fight a guerilla war and to think of means to withstand the must bigger army from the south.
In an alright film the focus seems to lay on the cruelties of war, interwoven with a bit of history.
I thought I noticed the title being “Outlaw / King” which may indeed be a more appropriate title than without the slash, yet we do not really see Bruce being king.
A while ago I saw a film about Neil Armstrong as the first man on the moon. That was Apollo 11 about which recently a documentary has been made too. As you can guess, Apollo 13 was a later mission.
Bound for the moon too, we mostly follow Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks). Preparations, practising, etc., but also family life is shown, quite like in “First Man”. The launch is pretty far in the beginning of the film. This -of course- is because Apollo 13 was a troubled mission. Still on its way to the moon, there are major problems, so big even that it is doubtful that the crew can return safely.
With the moon landing abandoned quickly, a new mission arises. There is not enough air and most importantly, not enough power and fuel to complete the return flight. In a gripping and realistic way, Howard tells the story of three man living in a small craft with no power and hence, no heating. They have to repair their CO2 filter with duct tape and a sock, the people below are practising return scenarios and try to come up with ways to have just enough power for the return. Where there initially was little interest from the media in the first mission to the moon, when things went bad, the media was all over it. Specialists talking about the unlikelines of a safe return while the family is watching. All is well-done.
Also well-done are the space scenes with for example weightlessness, the -in our contemporary eyes- amateurish equipment and the hardship of the crews above and below. I am quite surprised that the film is as old as it is.
On the outbreak of WWII the British prime minister Chamberlain is replaced by Winston Churchill, without much enthusiasm of his own party. Especially when Churchill’s rhetoric is about fighting rather than trying to make peace, ways to get rid off him are soon thought of.
Starting optimistically it soon becomes clear that Churchill has to admit that he cannot overpower Germany and when 300.000 of his troops get trapped at the French border, an unpopular way of evacuating them is started (this evacuation is what the film Dunkirk is about).
Some of his ministers want to make peace with (meaning: surrender to) the Germans, but as the people seem to prefer fighting over flying, Churchill pushes his old tactics again.
The film makes a nice history lesson showing a hard politician who was also but a man.
The next film in my rewatching of classics is this famous film based on the famous book of Umberto Eco. I have no idea when I last saw this film, but it can never have been longer after it came out. I did not remember a whole lot of it for sure.
William of Baskerville (Sean Connery), a Fransican friar, together with his student Adso of Melk (Christian Slater) travel to a Benedectine abbey in Italy where a papal convent will take place during which will be decided if the Fransiscan order will be declared a heresy. William is obviously on good terms with the Benedictine abbot, because the latter not only asks William to investigate a mysterious death on his abbey, but also hides an outlawed Fransiscan monk.
But perhaps it is not the abbot who is tolerant towards William, but rather other monks of the abbey who, during the investigation of the murder, turn out to be not Benedictines, but Dulcinians, a branch of Christianity that has been declared heretical before. When the abbot announces the arrival of William’s foe, the inquisitor Bernardo Gui, William and Adso speed up their investigation, running into a massive labyrinth-like tower-library.
The 1980 book of Eco obviously foreshadows the popularity of the genre that was to rise with the books of Dan Brown with a few decades, but also popular-science works like that of Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh with a few years.
For quite a while during watching the film, I wondered why the film is so highly-regarded, but indeed, when the story starts to unfold, it becomes an enjoyable film.
Ron Perlman has a very amusing part that is heavily sampled by Kreuzweg Ost for the “Oh No Lo So, Magnifico” track on the 2000 album “Iron Avantgarde” by the way.
Amazing how many films have been made about this part of British history. In “The Other Boleyn Girl” we follow the Boleyn family and mostly the two daughters who are played by Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson (two reasons I picked this film). The Boleyn family want to raise on the ladder and when King Henry (Tudor / VIII, played by Eric Bana, reason number three to watch this film) proves unable to have a son with his wife, the Boleyns set out to try to turn one of the daughters to become the Kings misstress and give him the son that he needs. Anne is ‘suggested’, but the kind fancies the recently married Mary. Anne has her own plans and the sisters that used to be very close are teared apart.
The story is that of the mini series “Henry VIII“, but then from the point of view of the Boleyns. An element not touched upon in the series, for example, is how exactly Henry got to marry Anne.
The film makes a nice costume drama and maybe even a bit of a history lesson.
It has been a point of controversy for some time, did William Shakespeare write the things that made fame with his name? Emmerich (the director of several blockbusters) took one theory that he did not and worked this out into “Anonymous”. It is hard to say anything about the film without giving away that theory, but the box already does give it away. In any case, Shakespeare’s name appeared quite by accident according to Emmerich. It had been a while since I saw a costume film and I must say that I like the genre, especially when it looks as elaborate as this film. Queen Elizabeth is old, the intrigues around her follow-up are in full swing so you also get a bit of history. You also get a pick into the earliest form of mass-media, theatre, and the way the authorities try to keep grip on the thoughts of the common man. The film jumps back and forth in time and I sometimes had troubles telling who was who, but the film is very well done and the whole Shakespeare controversy is only a part of an interesting historical film.
About a year ago we were in Bingen, Germany and of course we visited the local museum with its Hildegard von Bingen exposition. Now there is a film about the life of Hildegard. “Vision” is a rather dull film showing fragments of Hildegard’s life. As a child, Hildegard was admitted to a mixed monastry, in the next fragment she is elected abbess. From an early age, Hilegard had visions, but it takes a long time before she tells monk Volmar, one of the few persons she trusts. Volmar persuades Hildegard to seek recognition for her gift, a request that is agreed upon for worldly reasons only (more pilgrims and more donations that would come with the fame of the cloister). As the years pass, Hildegard develops ideas of her own on varries points and she collides with her abbot, especially when she wants a cloister of her own. Gaining the attention of Berhard of Clairvaux (a mystic himself), the bishop of Mainz and the wealthy mother of her favourite nun Richardis, Hildegard can proceed with her plans. Also she can spend 10 years working on her book with visions.
“Vision” is a fragmented biography of an interesting person. Hildegard is portrayed as a modern woman with broad interests in medicine, philosophy and the like, we hear a few fragments of her visions. Also Hildegard is shown as not completely devoid of earthly emotion. As a film, “Vision” is not very exciting, as a lesson in history, it is alright.