Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Reckoning

Somehow this film slipped under my radar. Set in 14th century and following a group of players as they discover and dramatise a murder, it has one or two rather interesting cast members. Paul Bettany is the lead, a priest who has commited adultery, and perhaps something more. Again, Bettany is one of those actors who caught my eye earlier on in his career and I've been following him ever since. Very much at home in the medieval era, I can't help but see him in another, earlier-set role ... Is he any good with a sword and on a horse, I wonder? Also, present but in a secondary role, is Matthew MacFadyean, most recently seen in Pride & Predjudice. His role is rather ineffective, but it's good to see him all the same. But there are loads of familiar names in this film. I wonder how I missed it!

The setting is generally good. Sometimes designers think medieval, then think completely filthy and it gets rather overdone. But here, the clothing looks worn in, a bit mucky, but not over the top. Same goes for the people. The script is naturalistic, helping to establish that these people are real. I'm sure I've said before, that for me, stylised speaking just bars the way to really identifying with the characters. It should be the way they behave that's the marker to a different era. And there's a fair amount of that. For example, Gina Mckee's character, doesn't get a vote when the Players decide on big issues. She doesn't get a vote because she's female! Bettany gets a vote despite being a newcomer. And then, of course, the local lord is all-powerful, as it's a feudal society.

One or two things did jar, or at least mildly worry. For example, though this is made clear it's an unusual concept, I'm not sure if the Players would have been allowed to do a play that wasn't religious in nature. It's the 14th century and there were a lot of restrictions. A couple of centuries later, there's no problem. I'm just not sure for this era. Also much is made of the local lord being Norman. Would this still matter by then, or were they more integrated by this time? All this just undoubtedly shows my ignorance about the medieval era! French actor, Vincent Cassel, whom I always like seeing, just gets a walk-on baddie part. I'm not keen characters with such limitations. Cassel was under-used to say the least. With the haunting L'Appartement and the off-beat The Messenger: the Story of Joan of Arc, I want to see more of him, please :-)

Still, the film is well worth a look; I got my copy from the local library.


At 6:32 pm GMT, Blogger wil said...

I haven't seen The Reckoning yet, but I thoroughly enjoyed Barry Unsworth's novel, Morality Play, on which it is based. I highly recommend it.

At 6:54 pm GMT, Blogger Sarah Cuthbertson said...

Ooh! You've made me want to see this film, and not just because Paul Bettany is in it. I never heard of it before -- it must have missed out at the local multiplex and I obviously wasn't paying attention when it was reviewed in the papers.

I do so agree with you about stylized dialogue -- on film it seems even more stilted than it does in novels, I always think.


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