By G. Michael Dobbs
This week, an epic Swedish film is featured in the DVD review column
Arn the Knight Templar
Based on a highly popular trilogy of historic novels from Sweden, "Arn The Knight Templar" is a film that, once again, could have found a theatrical audience in this country if some distributor had given it a chance.
This is now a recurring theme for me: seeing a foreign film or a low-budget domestic movie that should have had a theatrical release. The simple fact is that studios and theater owners are so obsessed with making and booking "sure things" films that would appear to have a built-in audience that movies such as this one never have a chance.
It didn't use to be that way, but it is now.
Why I think "Arn" would have developed a theatrical audience is that it has elements that are quite appealing. The story takes place in the time of the Crusades, when a young man raised in a Swedish monastery falls in love with Cecilia, a young woman who is destined to be married as part of a political alliance between warring factions.
Arn and Cecilia are discovered -- Cecilia is pregnant -- and the church, controlled by the ruling faction, places Cecilia in a convent and expels Arn from Sweden for 20 years.
Trained in the monastery by a former Knight Templar, he joins the medieval order and fights in the Crusade, where he assumes near legendary status. The film details not just his struggle there, but his return to Sweden and his reunion with Cecilia.
Danish director Peter Flinth does an admirable job keeping the various story elements rolling at a solid pace and focusing on the main characters in the midst of some epic settings.
The result, for me, was a very satisfying movie experience that presented both a period piece with a love story and an adventure.
The two lead actors, Joakim N tterqvist and Sofia Henlin, are quite good with their performances as Arn and Cecilia and effectively convey the passing of 20 year and the changes in their character. Milind Soman also shines as the Arab leader Saladin.
With romance and adventure set in a compelling historical setting, "Arn" has a lot to offer audiences. Haters of subtitles should be aware the film is in several languages, including English but is primarily sub-titled.
The DVD includes the standard making of features.
A reader recently called me about the availability of some of these films featured in this column. I make an effort to try to alternate between moves I think would be available through the network of Redbox machine and the few video stores we have left and through on-line services such as Netflix.
The problem today, with the decline of video stores that would stock thousands of titles and provides customers with dozens of new releases each week, is that it's now almost incumbent for movie fans to join Netflix to find the films the folks at Redbox don't include in their selection.
Although I'm a member of Netflix myself and have rented through Redbox, I'm hoping video stores will make a comeback, as they provided a service neither of the other, newer businesses does not.
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