Thursday 24 July 2008

Revising History

I watched a film at the weekend called Kingdom of Heaven: the Director's Cut. This marathon of a film was so long, it actually contained an interlude - apparently Ridley Scott added 45 minutes into his cut, and the result was three and a half hours long.

Mr Z thinks I should know better than to watch any epic which claims to be historical, as it's a bit like him watching anything computery - it's too easy to find fault with it. Fair point. However, I have a penchant for historical fiction, so surely films can't be that different, right?

I'll gloss over the painful anachronisms and ambiguities and skip straight to the bit which irritates me the most. And I should also add that Kingdom of Heaven is not alone in this fault - Robin Hood, both the Kevin Costner version and the BBC version, is also guilty. It's this idea that crusaders did not agree with the Crusade. It's popping up more and more. They go and fight in the holy land, but they don't believe in it, and they think it's a waste of life, and pointless, and so on and so forth.

I don't think I subscribe to this. For a start, I don't think many people at the time would have suggested that the Pope was encouraging mass suicide for no good reason. For another thing, they had a completely different belief system and the Crusade was the way to heaven (something KoH made a point of repeating, but then seemed to forget) and God was calling people to the holy land. They didn't have an understanding of the Muslims. They didn't think the holy places should be shared for the good of the people. They certainly didn't recognise that the holy places had originally been Jewish and therefore they belonged to neither the Christians or the Muslims based on that logic.

I suppose I am being quite subjective. I can't know that none of the Crusaders felt like this. But I can't believe that the vast majority did - how would they have scraped together enough men for half a dozen different crusades? - and the stories of returning Crusaders that are coming out of Hollywood all reflect this view.

"Yes, I had to go and fight the Muslims. But I didn't want to. It's a vanity thing. I hate killing. We're all the same really, no matter what our religion is. I don't care who's wrong or right, I don't really want to fight, no more."

Hmmm. KoH further pissed me off by having a final say about how the Crusades went on for x number of years, and the conflict in the Middle East continues today, as if the 400 years of relative peace in between never happened, and the current issues all stem from the Holy Roman Empire claiming its holy places.

This, then, appears to go some way to explain where this revision of the history has come from.

"Look! We've been fighting over this land for 1000 years! Can't we all just get along? None of the Crusaders really meant it, you know. They all felt really bad, but it was the Pope's idea, and he was so powerful back then that nobody could say no. We can tell the truth now because he's losing parishioners faster than rats can jump off a sinking ship. Did you see he even had to apologise for kiddy-fiddling clergymen last week? Advocating contraception in the developing world can't be far behind. But anyway, the point is that nobody ever thought the holy land was worth fighting for except some loony in a mitre, so the land is OBVIOUSLY not worth fighting over. So, stop strapping that bomb to your body, get out of that tank, let's melt down those missiles and make them into see saws and put Palestinian children on one end and Israeli children on the other. More importantly, stop bombing us, because we might be giving huge amounts of money to Israel but it's not OUR fault they're using it to buy weapons - as we've already said, we don't agree with fighting over it at all."

This is all just my opinion, you know. And term finishes tomorrow and I might be slightly brain dead. It does get on my tits when people skew history for their own agendas, though. That said, I suppose a crusader coming back covered in the blood of Muslims and screaming about how much he loves killing the infidel and can't wait to get back out there, farm pigs named after the prophet in a Meccan mosque and have a pop at Saladin is not particulaly PC.

More historically correct, perhaps, but more likely to attract a fatwah.

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