Monday, 13 September 2010


“If it’s a good movie, the sound could go off and the audience would still have a perfectly clear idea of what was going on.” - Alfred Hitchcock

At the weekend we watched Mel Gibson’s 1995 film “Braveheart” again as we were given a Bluray disc with the 15th Year Anniversary re-release. I had forgotten much about this film, although I remember that I had enjoyed it the first time round. Now, in the comfort of our own living room, quite relaxed and with the remote control firmly grasped (seeing the film was about three hours long, a couple of breaks were required!) we were able to take it in very objectively and with the benefit of having read an encyclopedia entry on William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Edward I, just before watching it.

The screenplay of the film is based loosely on historical facts, but there are several fictional interpositions and some gross misrepresentations of the historically verified events. For example, Princess Isabelle was only nine years old at the time of Wallace’s death and her son (later to be crowned Edward III), was born in 1312, which is seven years after the death of Wallace and five years after the death of Edward I. Hence there is no way that she was “Princess of Wales” as the film suggests and also there is no way that William Wallace fathered Edward III. But it makes a good story and people love scandal!

The story centres on the historical figure William Wallace, who is a Scottish rebel who leads an uprising against the cruel English ruler Edward I (“Longshanks” as he was 6’2”), who wishes to take the crown of Scotland for himself. When William was a young boy, his father and brother, along with many others, lost their lives trying to free Scotland. Once he loses his wife to the barbarity of the English, William Wallace begins his bloody struggle to make Scotland free once and for all, thus giving assistance to Robert the Bruce, the heir to the Scottish throne, to become the king of Scotland.

The film was good enough and Mel Gibson manages to direct well and star in it at the same time. Sophie Marceau looks delightful as the Princess. The cinematography is truly stunning and some of the Scottish landscapes are absolutely breathtaking. The brutality of many of the scenes is quite striking and seeing that Gibson got into trouble with “The Passion of the Christ” for excessive violence, I am wondering if this is one of his trademarks or some penchant of his… There are crucifixion-like images in the film and visual imagery of martyrdom, too.  It is a formulaic Hollywood film and panders to the Scottish nationalistic ideals. The English are depicted as absolute barbarians and heartless, cruel oppressors – which may have an element of truth in it, however, the Scots are no angels either, considering the treachery of some of their lords, also shown in the film.

The movie failed to move me somehow. It was entertaining, amusing, diverting, rousing, sometimes sad, but there was a lack of true emotion and poignancy in it. There was a feeling of authenticity in some scenes, but in others I felt that it was a little phony and the Hollywood view of the history of the world came through more strongly than the illusion of reality. Now why wasn’t it emotionally engaging? I don’t know. Maybe it was Gibson and his hair – we couldn’t take his long locks seriously! Maybe it was the obvious embellishments in the real history to make it more cinematic? Maybe it was the whole package?

Nevertheless, the film is enjoyable and worth seeing (or seeing again, to see what you think 15 years later). It won five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Cinematography and Best Director – which doesn’t mean much, except that it followed Hollywood’s rules and Hollywood recognised these efforts. And did I mention the music by James Horner? Nice unobtrusive generally Celtic-sounding music that sounded a lot like the “Titanic” music. I’m being overly critical maybe, but no, we enjoyed it, truly…


  1. This had too much blood and gore in it for me Nic!!! I was not enjoying all the battle scenes. But I liked the movie overall and I think Me looked cute in this one...... :-)

  2. I remember seeing this film when it first came out and being very impressed by it, although it was gorey!
    Like you, Nicholas I don't remember having a strong emotional response to it except for revulsion in some scenes.
    As you suggest I may have another look at it in order to reevaluate it. What a good idea to read about the actual history before you see such a movie... Gives it perspective, and you can then understand the extent that artistic license has been taken.