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An unusual Scandi drama
on 2 June 2016
This is an English-subtitled, spliced-together historical epic which runs to over two hours. It depicts the fate of two star-crossed young lovers at the time of the Crusades, when Sweden's feudal ruling families were in constant conflict and -- in the holy land -- Christians and Muslims fought bitter battles to secure Jerusalem.
It's richly detailed and was originally filmed in two episodes which have been stitched together for the international audience. The plotting is at times rather more 'Hollywood' than 'Scandinavian', with the evil-doers hamming it up somewhat while they do their worst to Arn - the knight templar - and his beloved, Cecilia. if you're at all familiar with recent Swedish / Scandi tv series then you'll recognise many of the actors - Stellan Skarsgard does not have a particularly massive role, nor does Simon Callow, but Sofia Helin (Saga from the Bridge) is the film's linchpin.
There are some excellent fight sequences, superb horsemanship, atmospheric battle scenes set in the desert and a fair dollop of romance. The interplay between Arn and Saladin is particularly well handled - a delicately nuanced relationship in which deathly enemies can accord each other great respect.
It may be a little long and slowly-paced for some - but it's an interesting angle on this historical era which not only explores what happened in the desert, but also illuminates Sweden's struggle towards peaceful unity.