Arn: The Knight Templar
A Swedish mix of Romeo and Juliet, Kingdom of Heaven, and Braveheart, this 2008 movie/miniseries is a big-budget attempt by Scandinavian filmmaking to crank out a swashbuckling epic. Arn is given to a monastery by his parents as a pledge to god after the boy survives a childhood illness. In the monastery he is taught to read and write as well as the military arts by a former Knight Templar. The Templars were one of several military orders within the church dedicated to protecting Christendom and regaining the Holy Land. When Arn’s education at the monastery is complete he returns to the “real world.” He falls in love with a woman, Cecilia, betrothed to his clan’s enemy–the Romeo and Juliet element of the story–but they defy their parents. The
result of this is both are excommunicated and as punishment are sentenced to 20-years, “half a lifetime,” of service in a monastery. Cecilia, now pregnant with Arn’s bastard love child, is cloistered away and spends the next 20 years battling the abbess. Her child is taken within minutes of birth, and only years later Cecilia learns that the child was male and is still alive. Arn, meanwhile, is sent to the Holy Land as a Knight Templar. There he distinguishes himself in battle, but runs afoul of a brother knight. Arn saves, befriends, and is later saved by the famous Arab leader Salahadin. This is the Kingdom of Heaven element. Eventually Arn returns home to Cecilia–and his now grown son Magnus. However, all is not well. The enemies of his clan have gathered an army. Arn must fight one more battle. This battle, according to the text on screen at the end of the film, helps to secure peace for Sweden for many years and even bring about the unification of the kingdom. This is the Braveheart element.
Arn is a moderately successful epic. It does well to develop the characters and show many fine visuals. However, it seems to lack punch. The emotional core to the story–the love of Arn and Cecilia–is never in doubt and the happy ending is telegraphed from their very first meeting. Where are the twists and reversals in the story? It feels as if much was left out from the source material, a trilogy of novels by Jan Guillou, despite the 133 minute running time.
What is Arn lacking? Despite a hefty $30 million budget, the battle scenes are mostly brief and workmanlike, but nothing more. According to some sources there were no CGI effects, although with the number of arrows fired in the climactic battle(and the death they cause) I feel this is erroneous. The acting is good, the dialogue fair, the plot does wander at times, but this is likely a by-product of the source material. Novels afford the time and space to explore side and sub-plots, but films… even mini-series are more often harmed by them than aided by their inclusion.
If you’re a fan of epic sword-and-sandal epics, like Spartacus, 300 or Gladiator, or medieval sword-and-cross epics, like Kingdom of Heaven, fight-for-freedom epics, like Braveheart and Last Samurai, then give Arn a try.