28th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies
Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York City: March 29-30, 2008
Lorraine Kochanske Stock, Now Starring in the Third Crusade: Depictions of Richard I and Saladin in Films and Television Series
When Hollywood and international filmmakers train their camera lenses on the historical subject of the medieval European Crusades to create feature films or television series, they focus almost exclusively on the twelfth-century Third Crusade. Perhaps their emphasis on this particular "holy war" is prompted by the colorful and well-matched pair of western and eastern antagonists whom medieval chroniclers and modern historiographers alike have made into the "stars" of the Third Crusade, England's King Richard I (nicknamed "the Lionhearted") and Saladin. American, British, and international film directors often reinterpret the medieval Crusades as reflections of not only medieval history/myth, but more importantly, contemporary political events and especially wars (current or just previous to the time of the production of the film/TV series). Douglas Fairbanks's silent Robin Hood, which took the hero and Richard I to the Third Crusade, reflected WWI. Robin Hood Films and TV of the 1950s used that medieval war to reference the recent WWII. 1970s films and TV provided a similar "distant mirror" of the Viet Nam War. Is it accidental that the earlier Gulf War and the current Iraq War coincided with the creation of a cluster of recent examples of cinematic medievalism dealing with holy wars between East and West? These include The Crusaders (2001), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Soldier of God (2005), and the BBC TV series, the New Robin Hood (2006), which features Arab characters and Robin Hood's recent return from Third Crusade with an advanced case of post traumatic stress disorder.
Last modified: Dec 1, 2007
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