A Knight’s Tale Movie Review if What happens when Camelot mixes with Queen (not Guinevere….Mercury)?
A Knight’s Tale, that’s what.
What is the Story of A Knight’s Tale?
That’s exactly what you see in the opening scene of this movie that is classified as an Action/Adventure by some, action comedy by others, and even one place I found a new grouping of “comedic-action-romance”.
Let’s say it’s a hodgepodge of genres and move forward. This film stars a young Heath Ledger in 2001 in his 3rd American film as William Thatcher.
The start of the movie is a joust and the crowd begins to bangs goblets and gauntlets and even poor people their fists and proceed to pound out the well know rhythmic sound to Queen’s We Will Rock You. (At this point, if you are a history buff and you can’t handle entertainment that is not presented to be a historical piece, don’t watch it.) The joust crashes and you see then the “sleeping” knight being waited for by William (Heath Ledger), Roland (Mark Addy), and Wat (Alan Tudyk); his servants.
They are famished and know that their knight simply has to stay on the horse this next round, win the round or not, and he wins the tournament, gets paid, and they get food. They go to wake him… he’s not sleeping. What are 3 famished servants to do then? Williams breaks the law then, puts on the armor, gets on the horse, and hangs on for dear life.
This decision, though one that can cause him his life in two ways, changes his life journey; changes his stars. Only nobles were allowed to be knights. Nobility was proven was papers of authenticity of ancestry. If you pretended to be a knight and weren’t noble, you could lose your life. Of course in competitions with sword or joust you could lose your life also. However, when a young child, the only child of a widower, William was told by his father during a parade of knights that if he worked hard enough he could change his stars; change his future. His father then allowed his young son to leave with a knight, to serve him, and to have a chance at something more than what he could offer him; knowing he may never see him again.
William stays on the horse, wins, and passes out the gold to Roland and Wat… but…what if? Well, they quickly hand the money back over to William… at least William gets it back… and the training begins.
Once they are settled and ready to be in the tournaments they head on the road and pass a naked man. (Yes a naked man.) Geoffrey Chaucer’s (Paul Bettany) entire backside is exposed [so caution watching with children]. He has a gambling addiction and loses everything; including his clothing. William stops him.
William introduces himself at which Chaucer does not believe them for an instant,
William: I’m Ulrich von Leichtenstein (footnote 1), from Gelderland, and these are my faithful squires.
However, he sees an opportunity, and asks how they will get into the competition. They required papers of authenticity; genealogy… 7 generations back. Chaucer happens to be a writer… and producer of documents. One Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein of Gelderland enters the competition.
Here we have 2 more characters enter out story: love interest for Will… Sir Ulrich; Lady Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon). He is smitten with her from the beginning. He follows her throughout the town as he rides his horse, even into the church building… which doesn’t go over well with the priest. What I do appreciate about the relationship portrayal between Ulrich and Jocelyn is that you see just how different man and woman truly are.
It’s such a Godly thing. The Bible even says that Jesus shows God respect. So it is truly a Godly thing!] The problem is, William/Ulrich has NO IDEA how to show her love. Finally, the rest of them, Chaucer, Roland, Wat, and Kate, who have all experienced love and understand how a woman understands love, help him communicate with Jocelyn through written word. He has a miss in person the first time after this, but he learns to speak to her heart.
The second character is then the “evil villain”, Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell).
He has his eyes set on Lady Jocelyn as well, and makes it personal with Sir Ulrich. He goes out of his way to try to intimidate him. He humiliates him when he can. He makes fun of his armor (the one he inherited from his former knight) referring to his own grandfather’s armor.
The more he pushes, the more Ulrich wants to defeat him. However, it seems like the only loss that Count Adhemar ever has is to the Black Knight, whom he forfeits to when his number is drawn. At times Ulrich does get the best of him, such as the knights’ dance when he challenges Ulrich to teach the people a dance of Gelderland. Ulrich, nervous, but unwilling to turn down a challenge, stands, with Jocelyn joining him and proceeds to teach what would be obviously a modern styled dance today.
This is a typical good versus evil movie. However, there are a few extra touches in there that I really like. The humor is a nice touch. Wat simply makes me laugh out loud. Chaucer gives some speeches that could send the Wizard to OZ. Roland supports and encourages William when he’s down, stands with a club to protect him, but also shows that he can do simple things like sewing which doesn’t change the fact that he is indeed a man’s man, William/Ulrich has a determination to seek something out and to work hard to obtain it.
However, there are a few scenes that I think are quickly dismissed; one deals with Kate ( Laura Fraser). Kate is a Smithy. Yes, that is questionable. Her position is explained, her smithy husband dies, and everything they had was taken and all she was left with was his tools. No one will give her the time of day. She was a woman is a man’s world. The other smithies wouldn’t even speak to her. Even Ulrich wasn’t sure at first… but he was willing to listen to her story and her compassion. making a connection to himself, he put trust in her. A new suit of armor he had, one stronger and lighter than anyone else had. [And one with a comical trademark stamp.]
The other was the Black Knight. Ulrich had watched him ride up to the gate ready to joust and watched opponent after opponent forfeit. It wasn’t the ultimate win that Ulrich noticed; it was a defeat that he saw in the mannerism of the Black Knight that showed a defeat when he wasn’t allowed to participate. When he was called to face him, the Black Knight waits to see what he will do. Though Chaucer finds out his true identity and Roland tells him and tries to get him to forfeit, Ulrich shows him ultimate respect, closes his helmet, and rides into battle against him. An act that the Black Knight sees as an act of mercy since Ulrich knew who he was.
Paul writes about showing people honor/respect. Ulrich shows us that in both of these instances. Kate needs help financially, but she also seeks acceptance. Through his kindness, she gains both. With the Black Knight, Ulrich sees the emotional strain caused upon not competing, having that inner desire to compete himself, though against advice, he takes up his joust for the betterment of another.
I have 3 favorite scenes. I’ll list them as they appear in the film.
I have heard people say that Ulrich should have run when Count Adhemar finally proves Ulrich to be a fraud. William knows he will be arrested. Wat tells him to run. Roland tells him to run. Kate and Chaucer tell him to run. He looks at Jocelyn for her support, and she confesses her love, tells her she’ll be a pig farmer’s wife, and she wants him to run. Sadly, it seems to be the mentality of many people today; break the law and hide from the law. William broke the law of paper, but does not feel that what he did was wrong. Nor will he run and disgrace his name and his father’s name. Another area that Paul speaks about honor is just a few short versus away from the previous scripture I shared. William knows if he runs, no honor or respect will ever follow him.
He goes to the arena. He is Arrested. He is placed in the pillory and left to the people.
The pillory is my second favorite scene.
As William is in the pillory, bent and clamped, Roland walks up with a club. Not wanting his friend to be hurt he tells Roland to leave. “Let them have me.” Roland takes guard and replies with a simple, “God love you, William. So do I.” His friends gather to protect him. The people won’t have him if they have anything to do with it. What loyalty. What devotion.
Sadly, the only thing that can truly save and protect him is something like mercy from someone of great authority, a Lord, a Duke, or even Prince Edward would work.
When we speak about our soul, our soul is in a similar way. When our life is of the world, we are low and left to the world, helpless, hopeless, and though we may have a few on our side, there’s really nothing that they can do for our soul when the end approaches. Our soul requires a prince to show us mercy.
Finally, my last favorite scene and line (sets of lines actually) comes at the end. Adhemar in knocked on his noble gluteus Maximus and has the wind knocked out of him. He’s dazed and confused. His eyes dart back and forth at the sky and you begin to see our characters gather around him and start speaking a line kind-of/roughly taken from the Bible and finished by a blessing. The Bible passage is in the Old Testament book of Daniel in Chapter 5 we read about king Belshazzar. During a drunken feast a hand from heaven comes down and writes on the wall: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. In far the king calls for all of his magicians and such and they can’t translate. Then he’s told about Daniel. Daniel is called forth and he translates. Belshazzar is told that God is displeased and his rule is over. The king dies that night
I have to be honest, I love this movie. I saw it twice when it was first released in 2001 in the movie theatre. I bought it on VHS the following summer. When I broke down and bought a DVD player I bought it on DVD. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen it.
It is not historical. (footnote 2) The music is not time period. The dress is not time period. The dance is not time-period. The trade-mark stamp is not time period. I DON’T CARE! this movie was made to entertain. It does that. For me it continues to do that.
I read a few reviews after I typed up my rough draft this morning… seems like about an 80/20 split.