A Knight's Tale (2001)

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

 

To every story, there is an ending, and in every play there is an oddball. With every comedy, all elements of humor are combined to create such great satires. This is what A Knight's Tale strives to become, and if you have a good sense of humor, within five minutes of the opening scene, you will be roaring with laughter. William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) is a young squire with ambitions toward knighthood. There's only one thing that stands in his way: you must be of noble blood to be a knight. But when opportunity knocks (or rather, his knight master bites the dust), open the door.

 

While his friends Wat and Roland dream only of the good life, William longs for more, and the idea of playing a game of charades is greatly appealing. Convinced he is as capable as any man of "noble blood," William decides to take on another identity, that of Ulrich von Liechtenstein, knight and nobleman. Along the way he meets up with a quirky scribe (Paul Bettany) with a gambling addiction, who loves the idea and passes him off some forged paperwork to convince the nobility of his bloodlines. After some intense training, William goes off to fight, and turns out to be reasonably good at it. (After being trounced, whacked, nearly drowned, etc., a dozen times in training.) Another loop is thrown into the works when William meets and is enthralled with Jocelyn (Shannon Sossoman), a porcelain-skinned, dark haired beauty. Unfortunately, the evil black knight Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell) is also in love with the fair princess... and will eventually be the knight against whom William is pitted in the final battle.

What follows is a charming, wacky, and overall unique blend of humor, knighthood, honor,  and romance that hasn't been seen in a long time. This is a different variation of the story with some humorous spots, yes, but also a few problems. There's none of the blended dull strings here, or even the "medieval disco" of Ladyhawke; instead, we're blasted with modern-day rock. You know it is going to be a fun film when "We will rock you!" has the audience in the jousting stands stomping their feet and shouting. Its messages are ultimately good ones and for the most part the content is tame, but does contain a couple of things that might disconcert parents. William is given hope by his father that with hard work, he can change his fate and become what he dreams of. When faced with the truth, he refuses to run away, taking a valiant stand against it that can be summed up in one word: honor.

 

God is mentioned a few times in the proper sense, and we are given a glimpse of a missionary preaching along the side of the road; but a slight reference also alludes to the "guidance of the stars." Excellent lessons of compassion and honesty are praised here, but are overshadowed by some minor cravats that make family viewing rocky. Chaucer is a man who likes to gamble, and in doing so, often looses his shirt... and his pants... and his shoes. We're given a couple of glimpses of his full bare backside in two scenes (in one of them, he sits down on the roadside and so we see most of his naked side). Some mild sexual innuendo, a few lines about women's breasts, and implied premarital sex make up pretty much the rest of the film's objectionable content. Jocelyn slips into William's tent, climbs onto his bed, and they kiss passionately. He is badly injured at the time but that may or may not have prevented a consummation of their love. Language and violence are surprisingly low for a film of this gender, with one or two mild abuses of deity and one use of "son of a ..." The violence is present but overall bloodless, and the dialogue witty and intelligent. It's not the most hilarious film I have ever seen, but it is one of the most enjoyable!


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