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A SWORD AND SAND EPIC
on 16 September 2010
I was almost put off watching this film by the very fact that it seems to have appeared from nowhere. I hadn't read anything about it and had not heard any rumours about it being made. Like a US stealth bomber it seems to have slipped under the radar. But I have to say, when it finally arrived, just like a stealth bomber, it delivered an unexpected bang.
This is a gem of a film. True, at heart, it's one of those soppy love stories. But like Tristan & Isolde before it (2005 20th Century Fox / Scott Free) it is a magical tale that transports you with ease into a world of rich textures, and just like the myriad facets of a gem, mesmerizes you with its tones and depth.
The cinematography is magical and owes I think not a little to Ridley Scott's Kingdom Of Heaven. In fact many of the scenes shot in the Holy Land could easily have been lifted wholesale from that blockbuster of a movie. I don't mean here to suggest that Arn is in anyway a copy of the former, but like Kingdom, this film is a visual feast all be it on a much smaller, cosier scale.
The film skips constantly back and forth between a snow-laden Northern Europe and a sun-scorched Holy Land, and whilst this gets a little disorientating at times, and one often wishes the film would slow down to ponder a little longer on a particular storyline, it does mean that there is very little padding throughout the length of the film. If I have a complaint at all, it is that this two hour ten minute film feels rushed - there is too much story and just not enough time, which is to be expected when a film tries to deal with three novels in one go. This is a big budget movie that works well on so many levels, but would have been so much better had it been two or even three films. But that is a minor quibble. If you like your historic dramas to be rich in detail, beautifully filmed and impeccably acted, then this film is worth a watch.
EXTENDED EDITION UPDATE:
I have since treated myself to the Special Extended Edition of this film that contains the original, two-part TV series in its entirety. With this edition you get a more detailed look at Arn's childhood and his adolescent friendship with the young Knut, which goes a long way to explain Arn's later devotion the the man who became king, and which was sorely missing in the original release. Also included are some nice and necessary scenes of Arn's married life, which extends the story quite considerably after his eventual return from the Holy Land. All in all it is definitely worth getting the extended version.