165 of 193 people found the following review helpful
There are a few I think who missed the point.
, July 26, 2000
This review is from: Braveheart (DVD)
In order to maintain the appearence of objectivity, I was going to rate this movie 4 stars. But I just couldn't. It really deserves 5, and it's going to get every one of them. This movie features some of the most stunning cinematography I've ever seen (scenes of particular brilliance include the deer-hunting scene and the slo-mo shots right before Gibson's first rebellion), impeccable acting (I don't know why the British have been hiding their actors from the American film industry - every one of the British/Scottish actors in the film was amazing, and Patrick McGoohan (sp) gave an incredible performance as Longshanks, not to mention newcomer Sophie Marceau), a magical musical score, and on and on and on and on. Physical elements alone qualify this work for the title of Best Picture.
Yet, a number of people chastise Gibson and the movie for a number of reasons, primarily its departure from historical accuracy. I do believe these people have missed the point, for I do not believe it is fair to criticise a movie for failing to realize a goal for which it never really strived. I wonder: do these same people criticize Homer's "The Odyssey"? Do historical hardbodies cast aspersions at T.H. White's "Once and Future King" for taking historical liberties with "King" Arthur? (For that manner, any of the hundreds of contributions to the Arthurian legend). What about Robin Hood? Beowulf? Romance of the Three Kingdoms? Why is it copacetic for a book to create a myth around a cultural hero, but when it comes to film we must be expected to be as straightlaced about historical fact as an army bootcamp is about bedmaking and floor cleaning?
I have read a lot of reviews below and a number of criticisers of the film's historical authenticity spit out the word "epic" as if it is a word that the American film industry has abused and transmogrified into a catchphrase for luring in gullible American movie-goers. But I argue that Braveheart, and the historical inaccuracies which it adopts (and it adopts many, which are nicely pointed out elsewhere), fit the same formula for "Epic Fiction" that we use to classify great (and I mean, universally accepted as great) epic works of fiction such as the Iliad, the Odyssey, etc. These works are not about who did what where and when and in what fashion. They are about the myth, the hero, and the way that they have influenced the ideals of the culture (italicize that). Was there really a Grendel, a Cyclops shepherd, a Wizard named Merlin, or Chinese war heroes who could single-handedly take on a small army? No. And yet, these works of fiction (and the mythological heroes that they have created) have had as much if not more of an impact on their respective cultures than any real life historical event. The impact of the epic is therefore not to be underestimated. Does the fact that Gibson portrayed the battle of Sterling Bridge without a Bridge really make that much of a differnce? The end outcome was the same, at least from an idealogical point of view. He rallied his men to victory with brilliant tactics against insurmountable odds. The presence or absence of a bridge, naked men, or twenty foot spears does not change that. The myth survives.
Finally, regarding historical accuracy, there is the fact that although the movie does take a lot of liberties in order to portray a THEME - I am intelligent enough to suspend my disbelief during the movie. Furthermore, after the movie is over, (and this is a credit to the movie-maker) I was intrigued enough to go do some research on the subject from an objective historical source to find out what really happened. If a work of art (which is not, I remind you, required to be objective - artistic objectivity is almost an oxymoron and film should not be treated differently in this regard than any other form of art) instills in me a desire to learn more about a subject while at the same time portraying well the epic themes it sets out to portray, then in my book it was a successful venture and worthy of all the accolades it receives....Again, this is an epic, and just as a Greek epic might portray the Trojans as ruthless savages and their own members as heroic visionaries, I think it is acceptable for a Scottish epic to do the same to the British. And calling Gibson a homophobic is just ridiculous. Whether or not Edward II was really gay is not important. If he was, then BY THE STANDARDS OF THE DAY, he was an outcast, and would have been perceived, especially by his father, as weak, without potential, and unfit to rule. If he wasn't gay, but was just disinterested in ruling a kingdom (and history is filled to the brim with examples of less than sterling royal progeny), he would have again been seen (especially by his father) as weak, without potential and unfit to rule (because fathers - especially kings - have expectations of their sons), and questions about his sexuality would have naturally begun to arise among the nobility and commonfolk. What we as viewers of a historical or epic piece of artwork must do is refrain from judging said work by our standards. Today, homosexuality is (for the most part) accepted by society. Back then, it wasn't, and the mere rumor was enough to get you rejected from society (and vice-versa). Therefore, in light of the times in which the movie is set, the portrayal of the weak fop of a prince, EdwardII, as homosexual is both acceptable and indicative of the society that the movie was trying to portray. It wouldn't, for example, have made much sense to portray Edward I as gay. Not because a gay man couldn't be a successful King or military leader, but because a gay man would never have achieved respect as a monarch - THEN - by the people or his enemy.
In closing, this is an excellent film that deserves its status as a best picture, despite (and perhaps because of) its historical inaccuracies. I encourage anyone with any interest in medieval history to view it, because it might just entice you to look into more historically accurate documents that, while not as entertaining as the movie iteself, will give you a more wholistic picture of what really happened.
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