Things I Learned From The Movie : Kingdom Of Heaven

A movie about knights, chivalry, faith, honor and everything that is good, mingled in the bad; of high ideals and utter human brutality; of promise, loss, joy, grief and the constant plight of man to progress from its animal tendencies in an environment where the base instincts can seem the only way to live. A story about sins, redemption and the epic struggle between evil and good, in the world–and within all of us.

What man is a man, if he does not make the world any better

-Balian, Baron of Ibelin (as per the movie)

This might sound sloppy, but I did not entirely check the historical accuracy of the movie. Somehow, the events are accurate, but truly, the characters, scenes and captivating moments were borne of the imagination of the creatives. There was no way to tell for sure, before we had the ability to capture videos, so perhaps we can spare the movie these liberties. Also, for some odd reason, the movie resonated with me, that I feared, checking on the historicity of it, through the telling of some chroniclers, may yield inconsistencies, which will just ultimately sadden me on both ways. That it was not accurate and that I had to check, thereby ruining the passion, drama, emotion and impact of the movie.

Kingdom of Heaven is a 2005 epic historical drama film directed and produced by Ridley Scott and written by William Monahan.The whole film is a heavily fictionalized portrayal of the events leading to the Third Crusade, focusing mainly on Balian of Ibelin who fights to defend the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem from the Ayyubid Sultan Saladin. (Wikipedia)

Now that we are done with the fundamentals and the details of the film. Here are some of the noteworthy lessons, we can take from the movie.

Lesson 1 : The World Is Unfair

The movie begins with a steady introduction to the period, characters and the social mindset of the times. It starts in France, where a priest buries his brother’s wife, who after succumbing to depression post a stillbirth, ended her life, is deemed unworthy of salvation. It was poignant, how the gravediggers, were asking questions to the priest, seeking mercy, upon finding kindness in their heart for the woman being buried, only to receive reputes of condemnation.

“There is so much in done in Christendom of which Christ would be incapable to even dream”, was the line said by the Bishop to the priest upon offering coins for proper burial. Only to fall on deaf ears and the coin pocketed.

It is easy to think, that as a society we are doing so much better. That we had gone far ahead from the thinking, practices and beliefs of an era, we so eagerly label to be the Dark Ages. Yet, one only needs to look around, remove the veil of hypocrisy and fear to realize, that we are not entirely far from those times. The world is still run by ruthless individuals, who cover themselves in propriety, while conducting illicit evil. We are still under the control of those, who exert power by utilizing laws, made to dominate by obscuring humanity to a certain set of laws, that while we all know in our deepest of souls to be wrong, are proclaimed to be right. That we still lay silent, or look away in the face of inhumanity through handpicked ideas preached by influencers, experts and many others–who subscribe only to the cult of the self and disregard the greater good of all.

Yet there are stll those, who while unpopular and rejected, cling on to human decency and allow their hearts to realize that not all that is good is right and not all that is bad is wrong–that sometimes, our conscience will have to help us decide and we have to choose the good, over the bad, even if the world views it to be wrong.

Lesson 2 : We Only Die Once. We Should Make The Most Out Of It.

The plot progresses to a revelation, that the priest’s brother, half brother actually, was in fact the son, of the younger brother of the Lord of the land, who know happens to be a Baron of the Holy Land. This bastard son, who had just lost a wife, Balian (Orlando Bloom), also a master craftsman, soldier and engineer, was visited by destiny when the father he did not know comes to visit, offer him patronage and a chance at another life. Godfrey (Liam Neeson), a respected Baron of the Holy Land, comes back to his home, to find an heir, seemingly, to carry on his will to help the Kind of Jerusalem in forging an ideal land of peace and unity amidst extreme diversity.

Having asked pardon for being an absentee father and receiving the initial rejection of his son, Godfrey was about to leave empty handed if not for a twist of faith that pushed Balian to seek refuge with his retinue of knights. Having incited to violence by the evil tongue of his half brother, the priest, on account of his dead wife, Balian commits murder and catches up with Godfrey.

This fateful twist culminates, as Godfrey’s nephew, in connivance with his father, seeks to kill his uncle in the guise of justice for the crime of Balian. Carnage ensued, as Godfrey refused to give Balian, surmising, in my assumption, that it was not entirely justice, but murder and the taking of Godfrey’s title that was the real motive.

The scene was poignant however. To see knights die and there friends, honor them without a shred of grief emanated a sense of duty, purpose and obligation towards a good death. How many of us, would calmly close the eyes of our friends without any anger, grief or desire for vengeance? How few of us, would find calm, in the fall of our closest of people, in the freshness of their passing? Hard to tell. But this tells us how people, those who adhered to the honor, duty and courage were in those days. How many looked death in the face, without fear, as long as they are safe in the knowledge of its purpose, goal and righteousness.

In a time where life expectancy has perhaps increased. When we all have no need to fear the violent death of war and can openly desire and find means to extend our life to enjoy it, how easy it is to forget, that death is a part of life. That we all must die. That while we can live our lives daily as if our last, we have had multiple repeats and chances. We can only die once, however, and if we fail to make a purpose out of it, we had missed a good opportunity.

“One only dies once, and if one does not die well, a good opportunity is lost and will not present itself again

– J. Rizal (Doctor, Poet and National Hero)

Lesson 3 : We Are What We Do.

The rest of the story is straightforward and easy to anticipate. Godfrey dies, Balian inherits not just his title, but somehow his will and ideals. The film takes a bit of a time to develop Balian’s transformation from who he was in France to the person he had become with some key features that teach lessons of valor, fairness and honor.

Finding himself in the desert upon crossing a treacherous sea attacked by a powerful tempest. he comes to find an oasis, a horse and his first test of valor. Challenged by someone who initially presented to be a great Arab war lord for the horse, Balian emerges victorious, yet just. Releasing the slave of the war lord he had vanquished, who we later find out, was the actual war general, he distinguishes himself to be someone who fights with honor, integrity and the chivalry.

But many knights had done this. Godfrey himself was well known to the Arab warriors as mighty and just. So the film takes us to a scene that truly communicates timeless wisdom.

Baldwin IV of Jerusalem (Edward Norton) in a simple yet profound manner reminds us that, between what is right and wrong, good and bad and the quagmire in the grey areas–we cannot but play safe, point our resolve to the influence of others nor justify a poor choice in upholding universal good to circumstances. In this message to Balian, he reminds him that, we all have to stand to our actions and only we alone, are both responsible and accountable for it.

In a world where choosing the good over the bad, confusion between some good things that are made wrong and bad made to look right, it is hard to distinguish which path is honorable. May we always remember, the wise words, of Baldwin to hold dear what is right and good, not for any other reasons, but for the love of right and good.

“Be brave that God may love thee. Speak the truth even if it leads to death. Safeguard the helpless.”

Balian (Baron of Ibelin, 1143-1193)

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