This film wonderfully directed by Richard Lester offers an entirely different take on the legendary characters of Robin Hood and Maid Marian. It is 1199, Robin and Little John, return to England, after King Richard the Lionheart's death during the siege of Châlus. Marian, who is an abbess now, is taken from Kirklees Abbey. Robin and his followers once more prepare to fight against the Sheriff of Nottingham, their old foe. As for the story I will refrain from saying anything else.
"Robin and Marian" is about ageing, accepting life as it is. Which is a far cry from the non-stop swashbuckling of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" with Errol Flynn. This film shows how everyone deals with the progress of time, but offers no judgement.
Sean Connery is splendid as the middle-aged Robin. With insight and passion he portrays a man who does not take well to the passage of time. Which is sometimes painful to behold. Audrey Hepburn shines, in what I think is certainly one of her most interesting performances. Her excellent Marian has wisdom, intelligence, spunk and a wistful touch. Her chemistry with Connery's Robin is brilliant. Their rekindled love is shown with a bittersweet, poignant tenderness. Which one does not see often on the screen, and Audrey Hepburn and Sean Connery certainly rise to the challenge. Of the other cast members Robert Shaw and Nicol Williamson stood out for me. Shaw's Sheriff is cunning but also fatherly (he has moved on but is still a match for Robin). And Williamson's Little John although staunchly loyal to Robin knows very well that things are over.
This film has a gritty, authentic medieval look, with the lovely locations of the forest to enjoy. A great soundtrack by John Barry also adds to its wistful mood. But the viewer gets a rather stereotypical portrayal of King John. The usual evil John of the legends. As well as that the film incorporates some interesting symbolism.
"Robin and Marian" does not destroy the legend of Robin Hood and Maid Marian. To me they became very realistic and infinitely more human. Not in the least because of the fantastic performances by Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. No matter what, the two lovers will always be together, in the hearts and minds of people. However this film does not compromise, ultimately leading to its downbeat and heartwrenching finale.
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