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Shadow of the Sword (DVD)

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Genre: Documentary / Theatrical Release: 2005 / Director: Simon Aeby / Actors: Lee Ingleby, Joe Mason, Anastasia Griffith, John Shrapnel, Patrick Godfrey ... / DVD released 2007-01-16 at MTI Home Video / Features of the DVD: AC-3, Colour, Dolby, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC

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      27.06.2008 10:20
      Very helpful



      Good boys go to heaven bad boys become Catholics

      Shadow of the Sword- A Review By Addy

      Certificate: "R" or "18"
      Genre: Adventure-Drama/Historical
      Running Time: 108 min.
      Year: 2005
      Producer: Helmut Grasser
      Executive/Co-Producers: Mike Downey, Peter Rommel
      Editor: Karin Hartusch
      Screenwriter: Susanne Freund, Steve Attridge
      Director of Photography: Vladimir Smutny
      Sound: Colin Nicholson
      Music: Matthias Weber


      Nikolaj Coster-Waldau: Kingdom of Heaven, Wimbledon, Black Hawk Down
      Peter McDonald: Sea of Souls, Felicia's Journey, I Went Down
      Eddie Marsan: The Illusionist, Miami Vice, V for Vendetta
      Julie Cox: Second in Command, Children of Dune, Dune
      Steven Berkoff: The Flying Scotsman, Beverly Hills Cop, A Clockwork Orange

      Brief Synopsis

      Shadow of the Sword is also known by an alternate title which is "The Headsman." For the sake of the most common title one shall refer to the film as Shadow of the Sword. So the film is set during AD 16th Century, Martin and Georg are two bastards fortunate enough to be taken into the sanctuary of a monastery as babies. As time transpires these two grow to be extremely close almost like siblings. Eventually with their careers determined, Martin becoming a captain in the army and Georg becoming a Benedictine monk of the Catholic Church, little do they realise at this juncture that they will ultimately be in opposition as their destinies unravel. The central focus of the film is the Catholicism and the inquisition maintaining its dominance on the populace at a time when Baptist monks are threatening to unravel the Catholic Church and undermine their intense grip on society as a whole, and are therefore seen as heretics by the Catholic Church in a bid to eradicate them. The film is also so much more than this however, looking at society as a whole and the constraints that are set on the people by the choices they make and the roles in society that they play.


      Raised from a baby in a Catholic monastery, Martin is a very close friend to Georg who he grew up with. Martin is a captain in the army but through his love for Anna who is an apothecary which often gets her the label of witch by some of the cruel public as well as being the daughter of an executioner which gets her additional contempt and loathing. Martin has no choice but to lose his social standing if he wishes to marry Anna but his love for her runs deep enough to give up his elitist social position. Little does Martin know that events are soon to unfold that will see him take up the sword as the new replacement executioner. This is a job that will see him treated as an outcast by the local populace and viewed with extreme malice. Not only that, but his choices will see him not only battle with his conscience, but with the Catholic Church and fight for the very things that are most precious to him.....his family.


      Georg is a Benedictine Catholic monk and friend to Martin. Georg becomes head of the monastery and intrinsically he has a good soul. He is very tolerant and has a good sense of right from wrong often deep down questioning the morality of some of the churches actions. He allows the Baptists to speak their sermons to the people and does not quite fit the bill of a stereotypical Catholic of the time. Yet, the Arch-Bishop is less than impressed and Georg is balancing precariously on a very rocky precipice. Being somewhat weak in tenacity Georg succumbs to the pressures of the church, especially when he discovers that the emperor is angered with him. The Arch-Bishop convinces the emperor to give Georg another chance. Only now there is a further incentive for Georg to go against his own personal feelings of being empathetic and reasonable, since there is a new visitor to the area and monitoring Georg is part of their agenda.......the inquisition!


      My word her life sucks. Anna is a complete social outcast with one or two minor exceptions. Anna is despised for being the daughter of the local executioner and as already mentioned she is an apothecary and as a consequence of this she is cursed at publicly and referred to as a witch. She is spat on and scorned, refused the purchase of goods and pretty much downtrodden Anna's life is enriched when Martin looks at her with eyes that have something other than hatred in them as well as the really nice gesture that Martin does for her publicly. The major problem for Anna however, is the unwanted affections of a rancid, evil, repugnant member of the town who will unleash a cruelty on Anna and her family that will bring down the full wrath of the inquisition.


      The Inquisitor is played by Steven Berkoff. Now here is a guy that has job satisfaction. A sadistic wretch who seems to use his beliefs to allow him to do what he enjoys the most....hurting people in the most prolific manner. It is very apparent to see why these people were feared by everyone, no one is safe from this abhorrent monster. During his visit the deaths toll spirals in a frightening manner and the population depletes faster than you can say plague or leprosy, not to mention to intolerable torture and cruelty he inflicts on people.


      A bit of a silly man really. He is the instigator of many deaths and he acts very much like religious zealot although much of this seems a front done out of his own fear of the inquisition. This wretched pathetic man also holds a deep dark murky secret about Martin that is sure to cause some serious problems if it was ever to get out...... you will be pleased to know that for the viewers entertainment it does.

      My Opinion

      Firstly let me get this out of the way, this film is........."Awesome!" The first thing that really struck me about this film is the sheer authenticity. The sets and costumes are frankly exceptional. I was not around during the 16th Century but from my knowledge base this is what it and the people would have looked like. Throughout the entirety of the film I was in awe of how incredibly well done all the authenticity was, be it the costumes, sets, or props. The fact that the executioner and his family were treated with contempt is also factual. I know from studies that when the identity was known they were absolutely despised and sometimes even murdered. Many victims of the executioner were actually victims of circumstance, so it's only natural the populace would dislike the person in this role. However, from his perspective it is a job that pays well and gives a modicum of status with the social elite, albeit very small. The storyline as well as sub plots are gripping and acted out to absolute perfection, yes the acting is totally top notch, flawless. You get see with shocking clarity the hardships of living in this period and the idiosyncrasies of society as well as how fragile it all was. The cold reality of the Catholic Church and its corruption, as well as its barbarity is rammed home with stark effect. I warn you, it is explicitly graphic in its scenes of torture and murder and the executions are seen from the perspective of as if you were there. Whilst some may feel repugnant about the graphic nature, it is forgivable because the director clearly does not want to shock but give the film realism and engage the viewer for compassion and comprehension of these conditions that were a part of the real world at one time, as well as generate a lucidity of the absolute cruelty of the inquisition. However, being forewarned of these scenes is normally appreciated. There is one sex scene that is whilst being a tad graphic, it is done very tastefully and is more about making love rather than wanton bonking.

      The film is accompanied by a very decent soundtrack. Some parts have pan pipes style music and some pieces of music that in style are much like Clannad or Enya. Overall the music is really rather good, totally apt to the film and most pleasant to listen to. Some scenes really stick in the mind such as sweeping cameras over lush beautiful green landscapes with hills in the distance and a gorgeous log cabin synonymous with a simplistic but carefree life with gorgeous music accompanying it. The film also has a few great interesting plot twists and turns and it actually finishes in a manner that I could not have anticipated. This film really ticks all the correct boxes and is well balanced between story and action keeping a mass appeal, the film is that versatile. In truth I watched this film not knowing what to expect but in the back of my mind I figured it would be a pleasant feature or at least hoped it would be. I like sword films or historical films pretty much in general so I took a gamble. It really paid off, what I got was truly one of the finest films I have seen in years and pondered the thought how it was that I was not aware of this film prior to now. My older children loved it {those old enough to see the more graphic scenes of the film} and my wife also thought that it was in a class of its own. I purchased my copy from Amazon and correct on the date of 27th June 08 these versions are available to buy at these prices.

      Shadow of the Sword - A Headsman's Tale [2005] (REGION 2) (PAL) [Dutch Import] £14.49. This copy has a very nice cover.

      Shadow of the Sword [2005] (REGION 1) (NTSC) £2.79
      So cheap for such a fantastic movie



      What I learned from this film

      * Never trust your best friend
      * Daring to be different could see you a few pounds lighter
      * Executioners often had a second job keeping regular money coming in but imagine if the executioner was a local barber. "I'd just like a bit off the top please" whoosh, lop.
      * Nobody is safe
      * Not all witches are ugly old hags, some are very nice looking chickadees
      * If you want to kill lots of people stuff the military, join the church. Church members wanted for wanton killing, and maiming role up role up. Good rates of pay, job satisfaction, but sadly Sundays are not a day off.

      Thank you all muchly for reading/rating my review, Adam.

      © June 2008


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