Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Middle Earth Docu-Drama

Even with a wide selection of cable channels, educational (and particularly, historically educational) television programming in the USA just out-and-out sorely lacking. Although televisiona has always been a bit of a wasteland, one could still occasionally count on something relatively interesting being shown, like Ken Burn's Civil War or old cable stand-bys such as "The World at War" or "Wings". Now, stations even inappropriately calling themselves "The History Channel" have nothing on them but Do-It-Yourself or Reality shows. I'm sure our friends in Great Britain may disagree, but it appears to me that there is at least an attempt to have some historically based programming there, even if it may be a bit low brow for scholarly types, and produced on very limited budgets.

Recently, I got a chance to watch the two episodes of a movie that I think aired on Channel 4 in the UK, entitled "1066 - The Battle for Middle Earth". Although one could quibble about some historical inaccuracies, and might be a bit off put by the cheesy dialogue and narrow camera focus required to make a limited number of reenactors look like they are engaged in major battles, this is obviously a film produced by people with a love of the subject matter.  The movie tells the story, in the style of a combined documentary-drama, of the momentous events that struck England during the year 1066 - the Viking Invasion of the North, the battles of Fulford and Stamford Bridge, finally climaxing with the Battle of Hastings - but not from the perspective of the Dukes and Kings, but rather from that of the little people, most specifically, the people of the small village of Crowshurst, which was laid waste by the Normans during the initial stages of their invasion.

Yes, the movie is obviously made for the small screen, but there was stuff about it that I really liked. At the beginning, the Saxons are all actually speaking Old English (it sounds like something you can ALMOST understand), before shifting almost imperceptibly into our modern language. Shield wall warfare is also displayed much better than is normal in typical Hollywood productions, along with the charge of the Norman cavalry, and the fragmented and intermittent nature of hand-to-hand warfare in the Dark Ages.

In the States, copies of this movie are very tough to find, but if all things Medieval are up your alley, the effort to get a hold of it will surely reward you. To wet your whistle, check out the two videos below, from the Battle of Stamford Bridge. I love the interpretation of the "giant" Viking defending the bridge against the entire Saxon army that starts at the end of the first video and concludes in the second one.

And if this isn't enough to perk your interest, I guess I should mention that the film's narration is done by the actor who played Bilbo in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies.

1 comment:

  1. Nice call. I had the joy of watching this a while ago. I recommend to all, hairies and non-hairies.