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10 Films Set in the Middle Ages (BFI List)


RMeingast
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BFI (British Film Institute) came out with a list of 10 "great" movies that are set in the Middle Ages (that's referring to roughly the 5th to the 15th centuries A.D., and not to the menopausal/andropausal ages of men and women...)...

 

Anyway, the list is here:

 

http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/lists/10-great-films-set-middle-ages

 

Lot of usual suspects but nice to see "Marketa Lazarová" made the list...

 

Think the only one I haven't seen is "Andrei Rublev" by the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky.

 

 

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It's a list of ten so much is omitted, obviously. How you narrow things down to ten is subjective.

And some of the films BFI has listed wouldn't be on my own list of ten...

But that's the way she goes. No mention in the list of award-winning Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira and his historical films set in the Middle Ages, either.

Or any of Roberto Rossellini's historical films.

Or many others.

Oh well...

 

A problem with "Alexander Nevsky" is that it was made as Stalinist propaganda and so there are a number of historical errors in the film. The historian, author, and "Guardian" newspaper film reviewer Alex von Tunzelmann (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_von_Tunzelmann) comments on the film here in her article "Alexander Nevsky: Stalinist Propaganda in the 13th Century":

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/oct/08/alexander-nevsky-reel-history

 

She rates it as a C - on history, but a B + for entertainment...

 

 

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I concur, RM. "AN" grows tiresome for its propaganda through and through. Though some lovely pictures to look at.

 

 

I prefer Eisenstein's "Ivan the Terrible" (1944). Jaw-dropping stuff; images that burn into one's retina.

 

 

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It must be understood that all legitimate movies between 1924 and 1960 had to be heavy with state-approved ideals.

 

There were some made independent of the state but they were very much low-budget and were usually very short.

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> {quote:title=RMeingast wrote:}{quote}It'

> A problem with "Alexander Nevsky" is that it was made as Stalinist propaganda and so there are a number of historical errors in the film. The historian, author, and "Guardian" newspaper film reviewer Alex von Tunzelmann (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_von_Tunzelmann) comments on the film here in her article "Alexander Nevsky: Stalinist Propaganda in the 13th Century":

> http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/oct/08/alexander-nevsky-reel-history

>

> She rates it as a C - on history, but a B + for entertainment...

 

My knowledge of Russian history in the 13th century is pretty much non-existent, so I'll certainly accept her criticism of that. I also realize that it was intended as propaganda. But, its propaganda vehicle is showing the determination of the Russian people to repel foreign invaders. I don't find fault with that sort of propaganda, at the time in history when the film was made. As to its entertainment value, personally, I'd give it a 9 out of 10. Also, I've never seen any other film that so looked like it was that era.

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> {quote:title=ValentineXavier wrote:}{quote}I also realize that it was intended as propaganda. But, its propaganda vehicle is showing the determination of the Russian people to repel foreign invaders. I don't find fault with that sort of propaganda, at the time in history when the film was made. As to its entertainment value, personally, I'd give it a 9 out of 10. Also, I've never seen any other film that so looked like it was that era.

 

The propaganda concerns more than simply **** foreign invasion. It concerns the Marxist view that the nobles, clergy, and middle class were evil and enemies of the "common people," this was heavily reinforced in the film. Also the film was meant to draw a specific parallel between Nevsky and Stalin, as Eisenstein himself wrote (This was meant to further foster the leadership cult surrounding the figure of Stalin). Considering that Stalin and his regime murdered millions of people, that is rather ironic. Also ironic is the fact that after this film was made, Stalin made a deal with Hitler (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) and that the Soviets invaded eastern Poland on 17 September, 1939 (the Germans invaded western Poland on September 1, 1939, starting World War 2.):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_invasion_of_Poland

 

Estimates are of up to 1 million Poles deported to Siberia by the Soviets and approx. 150,000 murdered in their occupation zone.

 

The Soviets also invaded and occupied the Baltic states Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia around this time, resulting in the deportation and murder of thousands more:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_occupation_of_the_Baltic_states_%281940%29

 

The Soviets also invaded Finland at this time:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_war

(The Soviet Union was expelled from the League of Nations for this invasion.)

 

So much for **** foreign invaders... Guess that didn't apply to the Poles, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians and Finns facing the Soviets in 1939...

 

Anyway, for entertainment value it's a good enough film so why not on a list. As the British historian rated it in her film review linked in my post below, it gets a B+ for entertainment but only a C minus for the history portrayed.

To me, it's more like a 1938 propaganda movie transposed to the 1200s and hijacking the Nevsky story.

 

The BFI list is not for propaganda films set in the Middle Ages or comedy films set in the Middle Ages but for any film set in that time period.

So anything goes, I guess...

 

The BFI writer was inspired by the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini and came up with his list.

It is what it is.

I don't agree with all the film choices and would add some to my own list.

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> {quote:title=slaytonf wrote:}{quote}Of course, Hollywood films had zero historical distortion, or Western propaganda.

 

Yes, I'm sorry I brought it up now...

 

"Alexander Nevsky"? Why not?? The more the merrier...

 

And you could argue "El Cid" and "Braveheart" are propaganda movies: "El Cid" is anti-Islam and "Braveheart" is pro-Scots and anti-English...

(The Spanish historian Ramon Menendez Pidal was historical consultant on "El Cid," so the history is pretty well portrayed.)

 

So whatever...

 

I guess the big difference is that "AN" was state-sponsored and controlled propaganda made in a totalitarian state, with Eisenstein trying to get back into Stalin's good graces by making the film (it was screened for and approved by Stalin personally before its general release).

 

The Hollywood flicks were made in democratic countries ("El Cid" was filmed in Fascist Spain, I guess.)... So the propaganda in them is the filmmakers and studios own...

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Well, I certainly don't deny what you say about Stalin, WWII, the propaganda aspects of the film, and I knew much of it. I built a kitchen for an old Lithuanian, and he told me lots of stories about Russia invading the Baltic countries. But, I still like the film, and think it's somewhat better than several listed.

 

I am a Pasolini fan, and I would love for TCM to give him a month. I guess they couldn't show *Salo* though. It's probably the most powerful anti-fascist film ever made, but painful to watch. I think everyone should see it once.

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>RMeingast:

>And you could argue "El Cid" and "Braveheart" are propaganda movies

 

I would, I would, but you already did.

 

As for state censorship:

 

34dt06h.jpg

 

 

And as for artists being persecuted for having reactionary or counter-(American) revolutionary tendencies:

 

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcS2S7Mae0grpLCd-TwRSzb

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> {quote:title=ValentineXavier wrote:}{quote}Well, I certainly don't deny what you say about Stalin, WWII, the propaganda aspects of the film, and I knew much of it. I built a kitchen for an old Lithuanian, and he told me lots of stories about Russia invading the Baltic countries. But, I still like the film, and think it's somewhat better than several listed.

>

> I am a Pasolini fan, and I would love for TCM to give him a month. I guess they couldn't show *Salo* though. It's probably the most powerful anti-fascist film ever made, but painful to watch. I think everyone should see it once.

 

Yes, and I owe you an apology too, VX... Movies are movies, and I forget that sometimes.

Being a history buff, you can get hung up on that and overlook the art of filmmaking.

I like "Marketa Lazarova," for example, a film that was made in Communist Czechoslovakia in 1967.

 

I haven't seen "AN" for a long time, but the battle sequence is certainly a good one...

Personally, I'd take "Braveheart" off the list and replace it with "AN," if it was up to me...

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> {quote:title=slaytonf wrote:}{quote}Great movie Buddah says: Don't get your history from movies.

 

Yes, and excuse me while I move on to another thread about the upcoming "Clash of the Titans," featuring Ray Harryhausen's historically accurate monsters... :P

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No apology necessary. What you posted was pertinent, and accurate. And, I can understand your attitude. I have a problem with Leni Riefenstahl's work, no matter how competent it was. I guess I find it easier to overlook the propaganda in *AN*, because of the era the film was depicting, and that the obvious modern target of the film was Nazi Germany.

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> {quote:title=RMeingast wrote:}{quote}

> featuring Ray Harryhausen's historically accurate monsters...

 

I have learned recently that there are great artistic demands for anatomical accuracy in even the wildest monster creations. A monster which violates natural forms to a great degree are not as scary as one which looks as if it could be real.

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> {quote:title=ValentineXavier wrote:}{quote}No apology necessary. What you posted was pertinent, and accurate. And, I can understand your attitude. I have a problem with Leni Riefenstahl's work, no matter how competent it was. I guess I find it easier to overlook the propaganda in *AN*, because of the era the film was depicting, and that the obvious modern target of the film was Nazi Germany.

Well, as long as you understand my comments.

They're in no way meant as a defence of fascism or Nazi crimes.

And there is a problem in Eastern Europe and Russia today where people are concentrating on the crimes committed by communists in the past

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prague_Declaration_on_European_Conscience_and_Communism), while some may be seeming to forget the Holocaust and the crimes of the Nazis.

This can be dangerous when neo-fascists take advantage of this focus to gain popular support in those countries...

 

When I watch movies set in the past, it's hard not to notice the historical things and to focus on that at the expense of the story and the meaning of the film. It is rather trivial, I guess, to focus on historical accuracy because it is a movie and not a documentary.

Just a bad habit, I guess.

I like movies set in the past that are pretty accurate regarding the historical details of the time, and also have the look and feel of the time period as well.

But if you're not an historian or history buff, that can make for a pretty boring movie...

 

Anyway, no problems...

 

Other good movies that could be on the list include:

 

"Útlaginn": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%9Atlaginn

 

"Becket": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Becket_%281964_film%29

(Many historical inaccuracies for nitpickers like me but still a good movie)

 

"The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Men_Who_Tread_on_the_Tiger%27s_Tail

 

"Mongol": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongol_%28film%29

(Saw this on one of the French-language movie channels in Canada not long ago. Pretty good...)

 

Either of the William Tell movies:

 

The silent from 1923: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Tell_%281923_film%29

 

And the 1934 version: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Tell_%281934_film%29

 

"The Name of the Rose": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Name_of_the_Rose_%28film%29

(I haven't seen this one for so long, I can't remember if it's a good movie or not?)

 

"The Return of Martin Guerre": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Retour_de_Martin_Guerre

 

Anyway, probably many others you could add to a list...

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> {quote:title=RMeingast wrote:

> }{quote}

> And you could argue "El Cid" and "Braveheart" are propaganda movies: "El Cid" is anti-Islam and "Braveheart" is pro-Scots and anti-English...

> (The Spanish historian Ramon Menendez Pidal was historical consultant on "El Cid," so the history is pretty well portrayed.)

>

> So whatever...

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

> The Hollywood flicks were made in democratic countries ("El Cid" was filmed in Fascist Spain, I guess.)... So the propaganda in them is the filmmakers and studios own...

>

>

 

 

 

 

The last paragraph is more to the point. EL CID isn't anti-Muslim, and that was never the film's intent; the enmity between Mediaeval Christian and Muslim Spain is well documented, but the film isn't about that. Muslims are merely the foes faced by Rodrigo de Vivar and his kings. Morever, the film depicts admirable Muslim emirs, who become allies of the Cid, as opposed to the brutal ben Yussuf's brutal campaign to conquer Christian Spain as Rodrigo is.

 

The film is propaganda, but of the ndirect sort, meant to glorify Generalissimo Francisco Franco's Fascist regime that, not coincidentally, provided significant funding, and Spanish army troops, to producer Samuel Bronston for the making of his film.

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> {quote:title=Sprocket_Man wrote:}{quote}

>

>

>

>

> The last paragraph is more to the point. EL CID isn't anti-Muslim, and that was never the film's intent;

 

Yes, that's true. My bad. I threw that out on the spur of the moment.

A somewhat humorous summary of "El Cid" by a "war movie buff" is here:

http://warmoviebuff.blogspot.ca/2011/06/63-el-cid.html

 

And the use of the Spanish historical consultant for the film, Ramon Menendez Pidal, was not all it was cracked up to be...

 

This interesting article explains the problems with Ramon Menendez Pidal and historical inaccuracies in the movie: http://anotherbagmoretravel.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/el-cid-the-film-fact-and-fiction/

 

> {quote:title=}{quote}The film is propaganda, but of the ndirect sort, meant to glorify Generalissimo Francisco Franco's Fascist regime that, not coincidentally, provided significant funding, and Spanish army troops, to producer Samuel Bronston for the making of his film.

 

The 1965 flick "Battle of the Bulge" was aired on TCM not long ago and that movie was filmed in Fascist Spain as well. Lots of historical inaccuracies in the war movie about the famous World War 2 fight in Dec.1944/Jan.1945.

But the bizarre thing is the American and German soldiers (except for the stars of the film) were played by Spanish soldiers on loan for the movie (tanks and vehicles used in the film on loan too).

So you have a movie about American soldiers fighting fascists and winning, being made in a fascist country and using fascist soldiers as the American soldiers in the movie.

Oh well...

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