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.
a mediaval plot following a great tradition of many successful
movies within the recent years
a typical example for an encounter between Islam and Christianity,
and that in the midst of Europe (England)
the sexual abuse of a minor by the highest representative
of society and strong criticism of an entire social echelon.
the rebellion of an ethnic minority against it’s suppression
by the reigning powers and culture an element of mystical religion, suspensefully
linked with the skeptical, political intelligence of the main character.
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
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