For Kevin Macku, “Kingdom of Heaven” was a game changer.
I suck at chess. I get too emotionally invested in pawns. Of course, the best way for people to not lose at chess is to not play, but then we become pawns ourselves.
“Kingdom of Heaven” is a romantic fictionalization of the life of Balian of Ibelin, a French blacksmith-turned-lord played by the English-speaking Orlando Bloom.
So, yes, Ridley Scott is apparently not into making documentaries. He is into awesome action with giant battles, underscored by Harry Gregson-Williams. The whole coming-of-age journey is played out in front of a backdrop of the 11th Century Crusades. Balian, shortly after the suicide of his wife, goes on pilgrimage to the Holy Land to try to atone for her soul only to discover that he’s the inheritor lord of a plot of shoddy land that, after a montage and a lot of digging, turns into a fruitful farmland which we never see again. Along the way, he learns about being a knight and a good man, the kind of which all men should aspire to be. Most of that character-building, however, is shoved into one scene where Balian sits down opposite the leper King Baldwin IV, played by Edward Norton.
Normally, when say, Liam Neeson gets to play the dying fatherly figure, he gets to explicate all of the movie’s moral information (and Neeson actually gets a shot at doing that in “Kingdom of Heaven”, too). But this scene between Balian and Baldwin is a distillation and drawing out of morality, exploring the intricacies of the metaphor in ways we don’t normally get to play around with. I’d repeat key lines, but really, every line is perfectly placed and worded in the original scene. It gets the point across time and time again.
“A king may move a man. A father may claim a son. That man can also move himself, and only then does that man truly begin his own game.”
I’d love to believe I lived by this advice (truly, a lot of my writings have been about movement lately), but believe me when I say that, as a 20-something trying to come into his own in this economy, making one’s moves oneself is hard. It’s so much easier to shirk responsibility, to find blame rather than cause, to look elsewhere and shift all of my troubles on other people’s shortcomings. It is so easy to say, as King Baldwin warns, “But I was told by others to do thus…”
Apparently, I fit into the category of “what does not suffice.”
But then again, I still really suck at chess.
Photo: “Kingdom of Heaven”, Twentieth Century Fox, 2005.