Sunday, February 24, 2008

Some Of My Least Favourite Things

My more regular readers (both of you) know that there are certain things that really get me angry. The most common (because it happens so often - see my last post for instance) is political double-standards, hypocrisy and just plain lying. An example of which came up on Thursday after the British government admitted, after strenuously denying it for some two years, that American secret rendition flights had passed through British territory. I partly blame our government for not being more forceful in demanding this information from our supposed allies, but most of my ire is reserved for the renditions themselves and the extra-judicial nature of the war on terror. Apparently the bare-faced lie coming out of the administration to explain this lack of communication when they broke international as well as British law was due to an "administrative error". And that is, apparently, meant to suffice. Unfortunately that seems to be the case as, what should have turned into a huge diplomatic falling out has just been swept under the carpet. I may have said this before, but I feel so strongly about it that I will mention it again, the ends do not justify the means in a democracy that purports to uphold the rule of law. Because the end is to live by, and defend, the rule of law. By carrying out such practices you are destroying what you are fighting for. George Bush himself said that "these people hate the very things we stand for" (I might be paraphrasing here). But by locking people up without due process and recourse to lawyers or the ability to dispute the reasons for their detention for 6 years (and counting) then the moral credit the Americans once had has dropped way into the red.

But that is not really what prompted today's post. The trigger was, instead, the film Kingdom of Heaven, which I saw on TV on Wednesday. The film takes place during the Crusades and centres on a young, noble (in the moral sense of the word) knight who goes to the Holy Land to help the Crusade and ends up discovering that the Christian rulers there are worse than the Muslims they are fighting. I was vaguely aware of the film when it came out (I was already on my trip) but it didn't interest me then, but now, having travelled through the Holy Land where the film is set, and knowing more of the history, I was curious to see how it would be portrayed and whether it would live up to my pedantic standards. The general historical events and background are true enough - the Crusades, Saladin, the battles and so on. I don't even mind that the hero is very different from the real life personage (I accept artistic licence) as the real history is very complicated and full of double-crossings, intrigues, marriages, divorces and shady deals (far too much for your average American moviegoer to comprehend in a single sitting). Anyway, none of the historical accounts can be 100% relied upon. No, what really annoyed me was the blatant disregard of geography. The film shows Orlando Bloom's noble toiling in the desert on his lands at Ibelin, completely oblivious to the fact that Ibelin is situated in rather green, lush countryside less than 10km from the Mediterranean. Similarly the castle of Kerak is shown as rising up on a low mound surrounded by flat desert on all sides, when in fact its on a spur with canyons on three sides and a dense little town below it. And Jerusalem? what a joke. In the film the hero goes to Golgotha to be alone with god, and proceeds to climb a small, secluded hill off in the countryside. In fact Golgotha would have been within Jerusalem's city walls at that time and there had been a giant cathedral on the site since the 4th century. I could go on, but you get the picture. I find it exasperating that they would put so much effort into recreating the clothes, weapons and other paraphernalia of the time and yet they couldn't be bothered to actually go out to the places they were supposedly filming to get a feel for the landscape and topography (maybe special effects computers can't deal with hills?). It just killed the film for me (not that it was any good to begin with).

If there are any aspiring film-makers out there I hope you read this and take note and do some proper research when you shoot your films.

P.S. Just to show you what an anal pedant I am I've trawled the net to find pictures of Kerak castle from the film and the real life castle. See if you can tell the difference.

1 comment:

Ex-Shammickite said...

As far as the Brit Govt keeping quiet about American secret rendition flights going through it's airports, there are probably MANY MANY things going on that we don't know about, and never will. I don't think any governments can be trusted to tell the whole truth about anything at all. The whole Afghanistan/Iraq war is a crime anyway.
And movies are made for entertainment, not for historical accuracy, mores the pity. Especially American ones cos the average American knows very little about the rest of the world. Most of them don't even know where Canada is. Not their fault really, cos American media, magazines, newspapers, TV etc concentrates on what goes on in USA, to hell with the rest of the world unless they go off and fight a war somewhere.
I heard a great quote by Gwynne Dyer (military historian and freelance war correspondent and journalist) on the radio the other day... well, he said it, but it might have been quoted from someone else... he said " War is God's way of teaching geography to Americans."
How true.