Monday, May 30, 2016
British History in Film | Braveheart (1995)
In The Black Rose, Edward I (aka Longshanks) is portrayed as a reasonable and even compassionate man who wants to unite his broken country. That takes the form of trying to settle an anachronistic conflict between Normans and Saxons as well as some vague talk of stopping oppression in general. It's quite easy to like that Edward.
The Edward Longshanks in Braveheart is very different. He's also trying to unite the people of his island, but by ruthlessly taking them over. The truth is somewhere in the middle with the historical Edward making significant contributions to English law, but also squashing rebellions and trying to conquer Wales and Scotland. Braveheart focuses on the latter conflict, of course.
I like Braveheart a lot, but I don't always feel like I should. I don't think it's a problem with Mel Gibson, whom I always like on screen even if I have problems with him personally. My issue with the movie is that I feel manipulated by it. Between the speeches and the music and the super generic theme of Freedom, I can see exactly what the movie is doing to make me feel the way it wants me to feel. The thing is that it works and I usually do feel the way it wants me to. But I can also see the strings that it's pulling and that creates some dissonance for me.
It ultimately wins me over in spite of that, though. If all it had going for it was speeches and music and Freedom, I probably wouldn't like it, but it also has humor and - for me - more personal themes about loyalty and leadership. Those are things that connect with me about Braveheart.
But I still like Rob Roy better.
Next time: We met Edward's undependable son in Braveheart and lucky for us, someone wrote a play about him.