A COMPETENT ATTEMPT AT MEDIEVAL WARFARE!
Posted by Play.com Reviewer, 26/03/2012 19:55:06
During the 12th Century, German Emperor Frederick Hohenstaufen (RUTGER HAUER), known as Barbarossa, is campaigning in Italy to expand his vast empire. While out hunting, he is unhorsed by a frenzied wild boar and saved from a savage mauling by a young boy, who shoots the animal with his crossbow. In gratitude the shaken Emperor gives the boy his dagger.
Years later, the war in Italy is not going well for Barbarossa. Although the north has been conquered, the southern countryside is still proving stubborn and one bastion of resistance is the key city of Milan. Spurred on by his new, young bride Beatrice (CECILE CASSEL), the Emperor determines to lay siege to the fortified city whatever the cost.
Within the high walls the desperate inhabitants prepare to fight. One of them is Alberto Da Guissano (RAZ DEGAN), the young boy with the crossbow, who has now grown to manhood. He must also protect his friends including future wife Elenora (the lovely KASIA SMUTNIAK) and her sister, Tessa (FREDRICA MARTINELLI), who are trapped in the city too.
The German forces meet savage resistance, despite bombarding Milan night and day with catapults, but thanks to the treacherous Italian nobleman Siniscalco Barozzi (veteran actor F MURRAY ABRAHAM), Barbarossa finally gains entry and subdues the last of the defences.
Proving to be a merciful conqueror despite owning a vicious cruel streak, Barbarossa razed Milan to the ground but lets the defeated inhabitants go to make new homes elsewhere in Italy. His wish is that Milan will crease to exist and be stricken from history.
Obviously this leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of the proud Italians, who after initial bickering finally rally together under the banner of Alberto Da Guissano and form an army, less than a thousand strong, known as the Company Of Death. Although heavily outnumbered, the Italian forces resist the Germans and attempt to wrestle the country from the Emperors grasp.
Director RENZO MARTINELLI has certainly researched his subject for BARBAROSSA. The medieval setting seems right, while the clothes each actor wears look lived in and the grime authentic for the period.
However, the film often suffers terribly during the few battle scenes, including the siege of Milan, which never give the impression of thousands of warriors being involved. This is in part due to the constant close ups of the combatants and therefore we rarely have a sense of vast, sweeping armies in action. Yet at least the horrors of medieval warfare are not shied away from and MARTINELLI enjoys slow motion shots of sword blows, decapitations and splattering blood.
Unfortunately there is a complete lack of Extra Features on the disc to accompany the film, which will surely disappoint anybody with an interest in the period. Why no documentaries, commentaries or even a Trailer or Subtitles on offer here?
While BARBAROSSA is a competent piece of film making, I much preferred IRONCLAD which was filmed the following year. Still, the medieval epic has been in the celluloid wilderness for decades and now seems, at last, to be making a welcome return.
Note: This Review was made by Play.com customer: Quiggan on Rakuten’s Play.com on the date shown.