The Saint
Review of a screenplay


The Saint tells the story of Thomas Becket, a chancellor of 12th century England, who as a servant and confidant of the king learns that his under-age daughter was abused and indirectly put to death by the king. After retaining an outward loyalty at first, Becket uses his nomination as archbishop of Canterbury both to oppose the king politically and to settle his personal conflict with him. While he is physically defeated, his ideas, as well as the people for whom he fights, gain victory at the end.

The story basically follows C.F. Meyer’s novel The Saint (Der Heilige, Stuttgart 1969, Reclams Universal-Bibliothek Nr. 6948/49). Some changes have been made for the purpose of straighter progress (to keep up the pace) and for closer connection between the characters and their individual stories. For example, there is no more frame story, no more French scene, and the love-story between Hans and Hilde is continued until the very end. The historical time, which in the novel is very long (due to the frame story and various internal tales), has been radically reduced to a total length of only a few months. Thereby the movie will not correct the novel’s an der Geschichte verübten Frevel (transgression against history, C.F. Meyer), because the viewer, like the reader of Meyer’s book, will be interested only in the excellent story, and not in the verification of its historical details.

As themes the story provides many highly up-to-date subjects:

 The psychological conflict between the vigorous, unscrupulous king and his sophisticated, yet aesthetically and morally sensitive chancellor  is of greater importance for the result of the movie than even the themes, that guarantee that it will be highly recognized. On the one hand, Becket, as a stranger and go-getter, trys to protect himself and his daughter from surroundings he despises. On the other hand, he is acting more purposefully, more adapted to the society than all of his Norman rivals. The broken relationship to the king defeats Becket’s personality for a time, but then it  revives and changes, as a new, independent aim in life reconnects him with his roots. In Becket’s character we find a complex, puzzling texture of personal motives and political action, philosophical clarity and religious experience. Thus, the less-than-spectacular title turns out to be something to ponder over rather than mere information.
The German character Hans mirrors the main character. His story links the various sequences and scenes in a reliable form and, almost like Becket’s, it alternates between a flight from himself and the desire for a purged, new life.

"248 commandments according to the number of limbs of the human body. Each limb says to man: I ask you to exercise this commandment on me."

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