Based on the books by Jan Guillou this film is in fact the merging of two epics produced in Sweden. It also happens to be Sweden’s most expensive production thus far. It tells the tale of a boy raised in a convent and trained to become a warrior by a former knight Templar. He falls in love and has a child with a young woman named Cecilia and the two are forced away from each other. Cecilia must pay penance living as a nun while Arn is sentenced to 20 years fighting in the name of God as a Knight Templar in Jerusalem.
This is indeed a huge production, and a beautifully shot one at that. The director of photography deserves any credit he recieves for making this film look as big and epic as it wishes to feel, allowing it to rub shoulders with the monster budgets of Kingdom of Heaven and Braveheart.
Speaking of other violent, period epics, the story does seem to be borrowing familiar plot threads. A small band defending their homeland against all odds but lead by a skilled warrior, star-crossed lovers who are separated by nefarious forces, hierarchy preying on poor villagers, betrayal by superior officer in the military…anything sounding very familiar so far? Despite borrowing much from contemporary epic films, it still delivers a decent story with some solid, dignified performances by its leading and supporting cast. One complaint I might harbor about the story was how I could fully depend on our two lovers getting betrayed at every turn. Whenever there was a glimmer of hope, I could not invest myself emotionally because I would just assume it will all be torn down soon enough.
Another issue I had with the film was the portrayal of violence. The film’s R rating is somewhat deserved considering the amount of blood that is spilled in battle, but said blood has a more Monty Python vibe than grim realism. When one warrior’s hand is cleanly severed, it comically lands on the ground without losing its form while heclutches the blood spurting stump as if we were the one quarter of the way through the Black Knight’s Battle with King Arthur (Holy Grail anyone? “Merely a flesh wound”?). If the film was committed to making itself so violent, then they should have invested more time in making said violence harder to watch. Make the horrors of ancient battle come alive and shock us, not amuse us or make us roll our eyes.
Widescreen 2.35:1. As mentioned before, the footage looks great and the DVD quality does nothing to dampen their powerful presense. The colours are vibrant in the nature shots, the deserts look appropriately scorching and the winters look dismal and icy.
Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 available. The sounds are clear in all speakers and there is always a lot to hear. The dialogue, in all languages, is clear and the effects are well mixed. As well, the composer did not slouch when creating a monstrous and interesting score.
English subtitles are needed as the film goes through a large assembly of languages.
Behind the Scenes Featurette 1: A thorough and interesting look into the development of the first film (as Arn was originally two separate releases theatrically, in other parts of the world). Plenty of interviews, making of footage and facts about taking this story from the book and placing it on film.
Behind the Scenes Featurette 2: Just as good as the first one but, logically, is about the second film.
Alas, I was hoping for more historical Special Features that might help to tie the fiction of the story to the truth behind the founding of Sweden as a kingdom/nation.
A worthwhile, and well made period piece for those that dig all things medieval. Enough story to move it along (as borrowed as it may be at points…heck, even a pinch of Lawrence of Arabia found its way in) and talent on both sides of the camera. I suppose I should chalk up any frustrations I have with this film to the fact that this particular edition of it has been chopped down from being a mini-series that ran many hours in length, to two theatrical films, and finally to this single, compact action film. Perhaps such reduction of storytelling time can be called a sort-of “dumbing down” if you will.