Kingdom of Heaven is a 2005 film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Ghassan Massoud, Liam Neeson, and Edward Norton.Set in the Middle Ages, our protagonist is a tormented blacksmith grieving after his wife's suicide. A baron from the holy lands rides by and asks him to go on a Crusade. He says no. Then, after being antagonized by a local priest whilst in the depths of his misery, he lashes out in rage and kills him, leaving him with the options of staying to face charges, or joining the baron to live in relative freedom.This film is loosely based on the historical Balian of Ibelin during the Fall of Jersualem.The movie has two versions: the theatrical version, and the substantially better received Director's Cut.
This work provides examples of:
Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Many, especially one-on-one scenes between Balian and, variously, Godfrey, the Hospitaller, King Baldwin, Sybilla, and Imad.
Ain't Too Proud to Beg: When King Baldwin arrives at Kerak to punish Reynauld de Chatillon for his raiding of Saracen caravans, he first demands that Reynauld give him "The Kiss of Peace" on his leprous, sore-ridden hand. Reynauld grabs it without a moment's hesitation and gives it a sloppy kiss because he thinks it will get him out of trouble. Baldwin responds by smacking the crap out of Reynauld with a riding crop before condemning him to be executed.
Subverted when Balian's father Godfrey is wounded by an arrow in the side. He shrugs off the wound, but it gradually poisons him to death. The same happens with one of Godfrey's warriors who is able to fight on competently with an arrow through his neck, but dies shortly after.
Aristocrats Are Evil: Guy looks down on Balian for his blacksmith background a couple of times throughout the film.
Averted with Godfrey and at least some of his allies, who see their position as a means to help others and more in line with the ideals of Chivalry.
Armor Is Useless: Subverted. Balian wears chainmail in the final battle and at one point a sword hits his (also chainmail-wearing) arm. While he doesn't get through it completely unscathed, he doesn't lose the arm either, which is what would have happened if he hadn't worn the mail in the first place.
Artistic License: The liberties the film takes with history are all done in service to the film's central message, which essentially boils down to "Can't we all just get along?"
Artistic License - Geography: However, when Baldwin IV recieves news that Saladin has crossed the Jordan, Tiberias immediately declares he will first make for Keraknote Kerak was the seat of the Lord of Outrejordain (i.e. Raynald de Chatillion) which, as the name implies, is across the Jordan from the perspective of the Crusaders. For Saladin to cross the Jordan to make for Kerak, he would already have been closer to Jerusalem.
Of course, given the It's Personal subtext between Reynald and Saladin, it's reasonable to think that he might have bypassed Jerusalem itself in favor of the smaller, more-hated target first.
Bittersweet Ending: Balian returns to his old home with the Queen of Jerusalem as his wife, and managed to keep the people and men under his command from being annihilated by the Saracens, but Richard the Lionheart starts another crusade that is doomed to fail, and as the ending text reminds us, it goes From Bad to Worse.
It is also worth noting that, whilst Saladin promises to escort the Christians safely back to Christian lands, Europe has been repeatedly emphasized to not be a nice place to live at this time.
Big Damn Heroes: The Cavalry Battle outside Kerak, twice. Balian and his knights hold back the Saracen cavalry long enough for the remaining peasants to get inside the castle, then after they're defeated, Baldwin arrives with the Jerusalem army and persuades Saladin to withdraw, rescuing Balian and his men in the process.
Black and Grey Morality: Saladin and the Saracens are no more "evil" than Baldwin, Balian, Tiberias and the majority of Jerusalem's army. Most of them fight for much the same ideal, although it is not portrayed as morally or ethically right for either side. The Templars however, epitomised by their leaders Guy de Lusignan and Reynauld de Chatillon, are morally bankrupt, bloodthirsty, warmongering monsters whose cruelty and depravity have no limits.
Break the Haughty: King Guy de Lusignan, after he is defeated by Saladin and paraded naked on a donkey. The director's cut reveals that it actually didn't work; Guy still tried to kill Balian, and was again defeated in a duel by Balian (who spares his life ).
Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted, since the hideous leper King Baldwin is a good guy and a competent ruler in spite of his disease-ravaged face. (And has a Cool Mask, which helps). Played completely straight with Balian (played by Orlando Bloom) and Sibylla (played by Eva Green) however.
Bullying a Dragon: The Templars do this constantly to the Saracens and are proud of it, confident that their army cannot be beaten because it is a Christian army.
California Doubling: Huesca, Spain stands for France, Seville stands for Jerusalem, and Morocco stands for any exterior shot in the Holy Land.
Chess Motifs: King Baldwin's introductory scene, with an echo by Balian later.
Cool Helmet: Ubiquitous. Makes sense given the time and place.
Cool Mask / Mask Power: King Baldwin's mask. Hey, if you have to hide your disease-ridden face, at least do it in style.
Corrupt Church: Almost all members of the Catholic hierarchy are villains or jerks. The one major aversion is the Hospitaller. The director's cut also featured a scene with a fairly sympathetic bishop who stated that "Much is done in Christendom of which Christ would be incapable," and reveals that the actions of the priest in France were all against explicit orders.
Curb-Stomp Battle: The battle of Hattin pitts the entire army of Jerusalem against the Saracen forces which number in the 200,000 range. The Christian troops are force-marched by Guy de Lusignan in the scorching desert away from water for several days to fight the Saracens. Saladin's army rolls right over them with barely any losses while on their way to retake Jerusalem.
Dull Surprise: Orlando Bloom as Balian. Even when murdering a priest in the heat of the moment, his facial expression is best described as "mild curiosity". It works, however, since Balian was so beaten down at that point that he just didn't give a damn anymore.
Entitled Bastard: Reynauld de Chatillon genuinely thinks he is free from any consequences of his raiding and warmongering by virtue of his title alone. He even stands tall, looking smug and cheerful while at the complete mercy of Saladin, whose sister Reynauld had brutally raped and murdered.
Epic Movie: Cast of thousands, enormous siege, Crusader epic...
Executive Meddling: The reason the theatrical cut was so much shorter than the Director's Cut. The theater-released version was panned, yet the Director's Cut was critically acclaimed as one of the best movies of the year.
Extreme Melee Revenge: After all the cruelty Reynauld inflicts upon the Saracens (including the rape and murder of Saladin's sister), he is finally captured after the battle of Hattin and stands smugly before the Saracen king with no sign of remorse or humility. Saladin whips out a dagger and slashes open Reynauld's throat, before grabbing a scimitar and cutting his head off completely while his men hold Reynauld down.
Fat Bastard: Reynauld is an utter Jerkass and also happens to be one of the only overweight characters. Given the way he wolfs down a roast chicken offered by Guy after being starved in a prison cell, he is probably a Big Eater too, having lived in luxury at Kerak, compared with all the other knights who are lean and mean.
Freakier Than Fiction: Reynauld de Chatillon's barbarism and exploits were actually toned down for the movie. See Reality Is Unrealistic, below.
General Failure: Guy de Lusignan is a skilled swordsman, competent in battle and probably has some knowledge of tactics. But when he is given command of an entire army, his only strategy is to force march his troops for days away from water in the scorching desert in order to Attack! Attack! Attack! the Saracen forces. Predictably, his army is utterly wiped out in the first battle.
Handicapped Badass: Baldwin IV certainly qualifies. As a leper, he defeated Saladin in battle at 16. Later while much closer to death, he beats the snot out of Reynauld for defying him, using nothing more than a riding crop and his own leprous hand.
Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Subverted with Balian, Godfrey and the Hospitaller who do wear helmets but not ones that cover their faces. Inverted with Reynauld and Guy; Reynauld wears a helmet that leaves his face exposed and Guy wears no helmet at all in battle. Played straight when Balian is attacked by knights late in the film who are sent by Guy to assassinate him and they have full face covering helmets.
Godfrey went from being a minor French Lord to a Baron in the Holy Land, gathering such a reputation that his son's mere existence merits an audience with kings. He also somehow gathers a party including a German, a Hospitaller, and a Moor. All we ever hear of how he achieved this is that he almost killed Saladin in Damscus.
The King of England at the film's end is of course Richard The Lion Heart, who had his own war with Saladin in the holy land.
Historical Hero Upgrade: Like most of the other characters, the historical Balian of Ibelin wasn't above political maneuvering for power (also, he wasn't a bastard whose father happened to be important, but rather a prominent nobleman of the time and part of one of the most important families in the Kingdom of Jerusalem). That said, Balian and the Ibelins were one of the more moderate factions in the Kingdom, and along with Saladin and Patriarch Heraclius used a sizable amount of his personal fortune to pay the ransom for many of the citizens of Jerusalem after surrendering it to Saladin. Balian would also go on to mediate the peace accord between Richard and Saladin to end the Third Crusade.
The historical Sybilla was actually part of the extremist camp within the Haute Cour, while the film places her squarely on the moderate side. The moderates, such as the Ibelins, attempted to blunt the ambitions of Lusignan and his supporters by refusing to allow her to take the throne after the death of her son (Baldwin V) unless she first divorced him. As a concession they allowed her to marry any man of her choosing afterwards, but unfortunately neglected to add "Except Lusignan," who she then turned around and picked as her consort. Not because she was in desperate need of his military support as the film depicts, but entirely because of her devotion to him, and because she sided with him and the other extremists politically.
Historical Villain Upgrade: Inverted, surprisingly. As mentioned above, Reynauld's atrocities were toned down in the film, or at the very least, censored.
Played Straight with the Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, who is based on Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem. According to historical texts, he had something of a bad reputation, but this must be taken with a grain of salt as this information comes from his rival for the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and so is almost definitely biased.For Details
He was accused by his rival of sleeping with the woman who was to choose the new patriarch to get her to choose him, a claim whose validity is suspect. One claim, that he excommunicated said rival, has been proven entirely false.
In the film, he is depicted as a bigoted, self-centered, and cowardly Smug Snake. Historically, while he may have been a tad bit corrupt (but then again, who wasn't in those days?), he was actually quite selfless. He stripped the silver and gold from the Church of The Holy Sepulchre to pay the city's defenders, knowing it would likely get him in big trouble. He was also active in the defense of Jerusalem where in the film, he tried to urge Balian to help him flee. And when Jerusalem finally fell, not only did he pay for the freedom of many of the common people out of his own pocket, but he was even the one to advise Balian to seek terms instead of fight to the death.
And of course, there's Guy de Lusignon. In the film, he's an utter bastard who would do anything for power and who thought the idea of a War for Fun and Profitwas a great idea. Historically, while he may have been ambitious, he was no more so than the next noble, and his decision to go to war was less a matter of Ax Craziness and more a matter of "Saladin's already attacking, we need to do something about it." While he was a bad king, it was not because he was nuts and evil, but because he was incompetent: He could listen to reason, and he even did so when Tiberius cautioned him to stay near a source of water and let Saladin come to him, but he allowed himself to be swayed by the over-zealous elements among the nobles and made the decision to march across the desert, exhausting his army and causing its downfall. He was also much better to his wife than in the film: historically, he treated her well enough that when she was given the chance to keep the throne and choose any husband for herself and make him King, she went right back to Guy.
"You go to certain death!" - "All death is certain."
Also Balian gave up a chance to marry his love interest, become leader of the army, and so in effect defeat the evil Guy de Lusignan and stop the war from occurring. However since the only way to bring this about would be a coup that's just "not honorable" according to Balian's limited world view, he doesn't take the offer and so the rest of the movie is constant warfare bringing about the suffering of everybody. Nice job.
The expectation of nobles is that you go all out to brutally kill each other, dirty fighting and ambushing included, right until someone is captured, at which point they get hospitality and ransom. Godfrey of Ibelin and Saladin have their limits with this.
What little bit of honor Guy possesses compels him to challenge Balian to a revenge duel instead of literally backstabbing him.
Improbable Age: Truth in Television, modern expectations aside. While the real Balain was much older, it's not at all implausible for someone in their mid-twenties to be highly experienced and competent in war in the the 12th Century. Baldwin IV did assume the throne at the age of 13 - and almost immediately went off to raid around Damascus and otherwise fight Saladin.
It's Up to You: There were only three knights left in the city, hence it fell to Balian to defend Jerusalem. This is true, although the mass knighting never happened this way.
Jerk Justifications: Reynauld de Chatilllon has the Type 3 mentality. Guy de Lusignan is Type 2.
Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Reynauld de Chatillon and Guy de Lusignon's first on-screen raid of a Saracen caravan is this; they breach the peace by brutally murdering innocent civilians using the flimsiest of excuses - that the caravan guards are armed (which was only in response to Reynauld's predation against Saracen caravans in the first place).
Brendan Gleeson has quite a few hammy moments of his own as Reynauld. Especially the scene of him marching around his prison cell screaming his name at the top of his lungs.
Laser-Guided Karma: Reynauld's final insult and utter lack of humility towards Saladin (especially after raping and murdering his sister) earns him a vicious beheading at the hands of the Saracen king.
Knighting Ceremony: When the bishop complains that they have no knights to defend Jerusalem, Balian knights every soldier in the walls. This is loosely based on the fact that Balian speed-knighted select citizens of Jerusalem.
The mass knighting. There is subtle screen evidence of this. Once Balian declares the men at arms to be knights, they all stand up a little straighter, raise their heads a little higher. It goes unsaid, but what Balian does is give them pride in themselves for the coming battle: They have something to fight for, other than fighting for someone else's reason.
Patriarch: Will you alter the world!? Does... making a man a knight... make him a better fighter?
Godfrey of Ibelin might be named after Godfrey of Bouillon, a famous leader of the First Crusade who was also the complete oppositesort of character. A seemingly contradictory interpretation is that he was named Godfrey because that sounds like "God-free", tentatively hinting that he's an atheist.
Mighty Whitey: The scene where Balian, fresh from Europe, has to teach a bunch of lifelong desert-dwellers how to dig a well. The scene could also be read as him upgrading an existing system with his engineering skills, the only dialog is that they need more water.
Mr. Fanservice: While there are a fair number of fairly attractive male examples from the mostly male cast who run the gambit of young to old, Balian who appears shirtless in at least one scene is a shoe-in as an example because after all he is Legolas and Will Turner.
Necessarily Evil: Raynald seems to think of himself this way. "I am what I am. Someone has to be."
Pop Cultural Osmosis: Salah-ad-Din's popularity was renewed through boomerang association from Western media and film, since Saladin was more famous in Europe for centuries than he was at home. Now, all sorts of people view him as an archetypal Muslim leader.
Pretext For War: Saladin reveals in his private moments that he has to find one soon or he might be deposed by the Saracen princes who gave him his authority. Imad, his second in command reassures him that the Christians will lose all restraint against raiding Muslim civilians once Baldwin is dead and will give them the pretext they need.
Rape Discretion Shot: Reynauld's rape and murder of Saladin's sister is presented this way. To wit: he approaches her from a distance. She asks him if he knows who she is, and he replies 'yes' before ripping the veil from her face before the scene cuts away.
Reality Is Unrealistic: While the real Balian, unsurprisingly, was not an upwardly-mobile blacksmith, this trope certainly applies by the sheer number of critics of the film who thought the whole tale was made up, and that the various characters did not exist! note They do, however, turn out to be the usual wealthy and conniving nobles, just like every other named figure who has survived mention from that era. In fact, others have criticized the movie for not telling the real life version of events on the grounds that it is more interesting, unusual and dramatic than the plot we see in the film. The movie makes no mention or use of, for example, Reynauld commanding a fleet of pirate ships that threatened to burn Mecca; or the prior relationship between Balian and Saladin when Balian was captured in the Battle of Hattin and then released on condition he would promise not to defend Jerusalem; but, upon seeing how how defenseless the city was, Balian sent a letter to Saladin and asked him to relieve him of his promise, to which Saladin complied.
Rousing Speech: The mass-knighting certainly serves as one. Before the knighting, the defenders of the wall (who are mostly peasant leavies, with only a handful of men-at-arms and only three actual knights) look scared. Deeply scared.
The Patriarch of Jerusalem: (almost crying) "Who do you think you are? Will you alter the world? Does making a man a knight make him a better fighter?"
(Balian looks around into the eyes of the newly made knights, all of whom are blazing with new confidence)
Scenery Porn: Ridley Scott had an admitted fetish for fluttering flags in this film. Thousands of them.
Screw the Rules I'm a nobleman!: Reynauld de Chatillon and Guy de Lusignan think they're utterly above accountability for their horrible acts because they're men of noble birth who possess wealth and power.
Tiberias: There will come a time, Reynauld when you will not be protected by your title!
Symbolic Blood: At one point during the climactic siege, shots of Balian hacking and slicing atop the walls are intercut with shots of oil being tossed onto the attackers.
Too Dumb to Live: When Guy becomes king of Jerusalem, he rides out with the entire army to meet Saladin on a forced march away from water and the entire Christian army is on its last legs by the time they arrive to do battle, with historically accurate results.
Twenty Four Hour Armor: Typical case. Knights variously treat their armor as normal streetwear, business suit, or evening attire. Tiberias even wears it during office hours.
Averted with Balian and the Saracen generals Saladin and Imad, who are only seen wearing full armor when they're ready to do serious battle.
Tyrant Takes The Helm: Guy de Lusignan becomes king of Jerusalemnote via his wife Sibylla, sister of King Baldwin after Baldwin's deathnote and Sibylla's son's death in the extended cut. It doesn't last for long, due to Guy also being a General Failure.
War for Fun and Profit: Tiberias laments this before leaving for Cyprus after the battle of Hattin; that the real reason the Christians came to the holy land was for money and power.
Baldwin: When I was sixteen I won a great victory and thought that I would live to be a hundred... now I know I shall not see thirty. None of us know our end really... A King may move a man... but remember that your soul is in your keeping alone. Even though those who move you be kings or men of power... When you stand before God, you cannot say "but I was told by others to do thus" or that "virtue was not convenient at the time." This will not suffice.