on 3 June 2009
As a docu-drama about the battles of 1066 this is not perfect, but it is great fun.
There were a few minor historical gripes I could make. The costumes are mostly excellent (not surprising given the reputation which the reenactment group used as extras enjoy) although those worn by a few major characters were a bit flawed. The production emphasises the role of a few saxons from crowhurst out of proportion, ignores Tostig (who was lost to the cutting room floor) and disregards the fact that only the huscarls marched the length of the country, gathering the fyrd locally.
What it does do is shift the focus from the rulers to the little people and give a sense of what life may have been like at that time. The action was fast and bloody, without being over the top and the Normans were a thoroughly rotten bunch.
A good historical yarn. Entertaining, informative. Not perfect but well worth watching.
on 11 November 2009
Those wanting a film, you should turn away. This is a docu-drama. A documentary useing drama to tell history rather than a historian.
I love the layout of this show, with the focus being on the actual people who fight the battles. Whether it be the Saxon farmers, the Norman soliders or the Viking men you see the perspective and POV of each. This, like all documentaries should do, doesn't label one as 'the bad guys' or 'the good guys'. The narrator is very good, definging saxon/norman/viking words and phrases...so much of our language comes from this year! And its clear, also, that Tolkien himself based his stories on this: Middle-Earth, shire, orc, elves, beserker are all Saxon/norse words!!!!
So in all, if you're looking for a film...you may be disappointed, but if you are looking for a dramatical repersentaive of the darkest year in English history - this is for you
PS: At the time of this review, 1066 was avaible on 4OD (search for '4OD' then on channel 4s site search for '1066')
At long last an Anglo-Saxon perspective on 1066 that is unashamedly English. We did exist after all-I was beginning to wonder frankly! So often the Celtic fringe (Braveheart) and Viking nations (too many to mention) are given the Hollywood treatment that I was beginning to wonder if this searing epic of a story would ever be dramatized. I was despairing at the half-baked mish mash Viking stories masquerading as Beowulf. The Times savaged this when it went out on Channel 4 and missed the point entirely in my view. True, they perhaps over-use Anglo-Saxon style compound words like 'Whales-road' meaning sea to convey a sense of 11th century discourse and I dropped one star because of one or two historical inaccuracies(the English wore moustaches for one-the Housecarl's would've been much more impressive visually being the other) but these are small gripes. It was great to see this micro-historical tale of the men of Crowhurst being used as a platform for the 1066 'English' story. After all, the Thanes and Fyrdsmen that fell at Hastings called themselves 'Englishmanna' not Saxons or Anglo-Saxons-'English' and the Normans called them 'Anglais'. It's our story and long overdue in the telling. It is now for someone to provide a 'big screen' macro-history re-telling of the story from Harold's perspective-, the oath in Normandy, Tostig's betrayal, Hardrada, the Comet and Hastings-surely one of the greatest narratives in the canon of European story-telling. Well done Channel 4, thoroughly enjoyed watching it.
on 20 May 2009
Definitely a long overdue dramatic representation (there are several hollywood films in the pipeline too btw) But this Ch4 version has beat them all to it.
I was seriously worried that this would be a letdown but it was awesome.
Loved watching Leofric developing from a cowardly farmer to a heroic warrior & also the Tolkienesque angle & LOTR-style score. Didn't realise that "ORC" was an actual Anglo-Saxon word !
This dramatisation stayed true to the story we know & clearly the production team took advice from proper historians as the detail was perfect.
I've got it recorded on my hard-drive but shall be buying the DVD as it's one i want in my collection.
A must for any fan of Dark-Age/Medieval history.
on 1 June 2009
The angle of telling the historical story from the fighting man's
perspective, was suspensefully implemented. I witnessed the view of the
invading Vikings, shared their long journey via the North Atlantic ,
the excitement of pillaging the anglo -saxon villages, and their thirst
for a adventures battles. The main focus however was on the anglo -
saxon peasants, who had to leave their homesteads and their loved ones
behind, to fight the invaders. Expecting an attack from William the
Conquerer from Normandy they had to guard the Sussex Coast. When News
arrived, that a mighty Viking force was attacking the Midlands, 200
miles north. Imagine untrained farmers turned soldiers with few
professional soldiers (the Kings Guard)commanding them, it was quite an
archivement to cover that distance in 4 days, with only dirt path's in
that direction. The old roman cobblestone streets run mostly east -
west. The hardship of it, is illustrated in great detail, specially
when you have watched the extras of the DVD, before you have watched
the movie series. This is what I recommend to all viewers. After having
seen the extra features, you will appreciate the movie more. Footwear,
food, clothing and weaponry really round up the " you have been there "
feeling. No Superheroes, or corny over-dramatized characters, just real
people trying to survive. The battles however are graphic, nothing for
the fainthearted. With fear, panic, cut of limbs, the movie is also not
without humor. I remember the Stamford Bridge Battle scene, where eager
soldiers from the rear ranks and file pushing the frontline without
caution, where an "ole battle hand" in front kept swearing at them,
going into certain slaughter. I haven't seen anything like that, so
authentic in a period peace battle. King Herold,King Harald and William
the Conquerer, take a backstage in this film, it's all about the common
fighting man. A very interesting approach, that worked very well in
this movie. A refreshing detour from the "300" type of making history
movies. The movie is 4 hours short, more than 2 hours are of it spend
for the 3 great battles: Midland, Stamford Bridge and Hastings. Yes,
the anglo - saxons had to march all the 200 miles back to meet another
enemy at Hastings, telling more would spoil the movie. I feel fortunate
to own a region free DVD player, otherwise I couldn't see all the great
historical movies from europe. There is nothing like this movie here in
on 8 December 2013
I watched this originally over 3 nights on Ch4 and bought the DVD ASAP. Yes, I was impressed, big time. I will not comment on its historical truth, as I believe that our understanding and perspective on (a series of) events from nearly a thousand years ago, is subject to well-intentioned interpretation of evidence and writings. As has been proven in many trials, the only way to know the truth is to have actually witnessed it and even then different people see things differently. Yet our subjectiveness may be flawed, our memories skewed. Was Harold killed by an arrow in the eye? The only witnesses are long dead. For how many centuries were we taught that all Vikings had horns in their helmets, yet those who study such things now tell us, no they did not?
Anyway, I knew what to likely expect from this offering having read some preview material (paper-based!) about it. No, it is not a film, it was never intended to be. Part documentary, part re-enactment with a thick vein of ironic humour coursing through it, 1066 is an unpretentious re-telling of arguably the most famous battle fought on these islands. The three groups, Viking, English and Norman are portrayed distinctively from each other, with William and his men depicted as the irresistible war-machine, whose tactics and steadfastness won the day.
The Battle on the Bridge is one of the most memorable set-pieces I have ever seen and has lived in my mind since the first night I watched it. It has an almost Grendel-like air, with the one-sided slaughter continuing until someone thinks outside the box to 'kill the beast'. All the main actors deserve praise, portraying their varied characters with humility and a serious lack of type-cast. I must admit at moments when watching Tim Plester I lapsed into seeing Rick from The Young Ones, but you see, that's how our memories twist things.
Francis Magee is the trusty old hand and how well he does it. Soren Byder portrays one of the greatest-ever soldiers never to be spoken of, a man who changed sides and fought with utmost courage because that was all he could do.
Of course there are weaknesses in this, but they should in no way detract from your viewing experience as this is a superbly-crafted piece of re-enactment from a different perspective. Even though King Harold is not a main character in re-telling, the scene of and after his death is truly moving, one of the few pieces of visual and emotive unpleasantness, but completely necessary.
Of note on the DVD are the extras, which give a lot of insight into the tireless efforts of the production team and the physical difficulties of living and fighting in those times.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Jackson's LOTR trilogy and The 300, but this is just something so, so different.
Extremely highly recommended, except to those who want a perfect recreation of the Bayeux Tapestry.
I've just finished watching the second part of this marvelous epic on Channel 4. It's now about 23:45 and I've got work in the morning, so I'll keep this brief. The Battle of Hastings has been long overdue a dramatic makeover and Channel 4 has done us all proud. Never before has a historical drama quite fired my imagination like this. 1066: The Battle for Middle Earth (OK perhaps a bit of a cheap hat tip to Lord of the Rings, but valid all the same!) had everything - love, loss, revenge, heroism, poignancy and some very spectacular and incredibly vivid combat. By focusing on the little guys - dragged from their farms and villages to yomp from one end of the land to fight pillaging Vikings and then obliged to stagger back to the South Coast to meet the blood-lusting Normans, it brought history to life and invoked empathy in the viewer like nothing before. A few pedants may quibble about minor inaccuracies but there was nothing to diminish the enjoyment of this Anglo-Saxon layman. This is streets ahead of pseudo-historical dross like BBC's woeful Robin Hood! If English history had been so vividly and evocatively portrayed when I was younger, I'm sure I would have done better at school!
This is a must-own DVD, which will make you ponder how different our country's development may have been if the good guys instead of the Normans had won at Hastings in 1066.
Just buy it!
on 27 December 2013
I love learning about Anglo Saxons & the Battle of Hastings as I feel it's not properly covered in schools. This DVD takes us behind the shieldwall as we learn about the struggles of our ancestors in the darkest year of our country's history. It instilled such patriotism as an Englishman who is proud of where he comes from. I shown it to my girlfriend who had not studied about the Battle of Hastings & the Anglo Saxons, it has now become her favourite film & has made her want to study more about it. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in that time period.
on 3 November 2013
Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, even given budget restraints but overall, it shows our Anglo Saxon English ancestors in a good light which is a welcome change.
Bad points - Deliberate ploy to make the Anglo Saxon English sound primitive at the wedding near the start (England was the most advanced nation is Europe, with a localised government and effective national authority based on a truly democratic system - that's why the Normans invaded in the first place).
Small, unrealistic battles (a young lad running though the Viking ranks to take Hardrada's banner).
Vikings, as ever are portrayed as superhuman fighters (they were mostly raiders and pirates who avoided pitched battles).
Good points - the LOTR tie-ins which show how heavily influenced Tolkien was by Anglo Saxon culture, and where many of the phrases used in the books come from such as 'Orc' (old English for a demon-foreigner) and elves (woodland beings, not to be trusted).
It shows the human side to a genocide that happened in England and is rarely mentioned.
King Harold is portrayed very well and his death scenes with Edith Swan-necked were touching.
A timely reminder at the end of how much English land still belongs to the descendants of the Norman elite who imposed their wicked feudalism on a previously free people after 1066.
For all those that love historical battles and especially those who enjoy learning of Anglo Saxon England, this is a must.
on 25 January 2013
This is a good historic dvd for those who are a bit hazy about all the events surrounding the Norman conquest. We found it very interesting and the acting was good too.