Show name: Medieval
Release date: 2022
Genre: Historical drama
Starring: Michael Caine, Matthew Goode
Directed by: Petr Jaki
Length: 125 minutes
I do like a good period drama, and I always enjoy historical drama films. So, when I saw that Medieval was out on DVD, I leapt at the chance to watch it.
Medieval is the most expensive Czech film ever made. It is in English and features quite a few English actors, including Matthew Goode and Michael Caine.
It also features a large number of Czech actors, all of whom are fluent in English.
It was filmed in Czechoslovakia and is the story of Jan Zizka, who went on to become one of history’s most successful military commanders.
Medieval tells the story of the young Zizka (Ben Foster). When the film begins, he is helping Lord Boresh (Michael Caine) arrange for the safe passage of King Wenceslas (Karel Roden) to Rome to be blessed by the Pope.
At present there are two popes, the other being in Avignon, so the French are determined to thwart the Czech king’s safe passage.
Wenceslas’s main adversary inside Czechoslovakia is Lord Henry Rodenberg (Til Schweiger) so Boresh and Zizka plot to snatch Rodenberg’s fiancée Katherine (Sophie Lowe) as a hostage to keep him on side.
The arch manipulator is all of this is Sigismund (Matthew Goode), who is Wenceslas’s brother.
Religious fervour doesn’t stop Sigismund from throwing himself into all manner of nasty plots, ostensibly to assist his brother but really to further his own ends.
Much of the filming took place outside and in natural surroundings such as woodlands, valleys and mountains.
Czechoslovakia is such a beautiful country, and the wildness of the locations supported the almost continual focus on action.
There was a grittiness to Medieval that isn’t always seen in period drama. There were little or no luxurious costumes even though many of the core characters were immensely rich.
Instead, the costumes were workaday, reducing the social distinctions between the central characters and the peasants and villagers they encountered.
If you enjoyed the bloodshed inherent in Game of Thrones, then Medieval is probably for you.
Almost all of the film was action. Either snatching Katherine from her current captors, or coming across hapless villagers and torturing them into divulging Zizka’s whereabouts.
The plot was complex within the simple parameters of the main narrative arc. Continuously shifting alliances made it difficult to trust anyone except Zizka, but this was one of the central lessons of the film. Even his own men have their own thoughts about how their hostage can be used to their best advantage so his position is never secure.
The plot had real drive right up until the end, with some literal cliff-hangers in there for good measure. The cathedral where Katherine is snatched, the caves where she and Zizka hide out, and the hunting castle where the climax takes place were all unique locations that spoke powerfully to the cultural identity of the film.
I really enjoyed the almost total focus on action and bloodshed. The scriptwriter also worked in a fictional love story, which never hurts even in an action film. The portrayal of Zizka’s brother and nephew also provided more personal emphasis to balance the fighting and intrigue.
I loved Medieval. Life then was gritty and cruel, and this film couldn’t have done a better job in bringing that to a modern audience.
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