Monday, December 2, 2013

Crusades (1995)

Directors: Alan Ereira, David Wallace
Writers:    Alan Ereira, Terry Jones
Narrated By: Terry Jones

In this four part BBC documentary TV series, Terry Jones (Monty Python) takes a look at the crusades in a black comedic way. The wars were essentially fueled by the Pope who had some territorial ambition, with the threat faced by the Byzantine emperor from the Turks uses as a pretext.

The first episode titled 'Pilgrims In Arms' shows why and how the crusading army was formed and how it was unlike other wars waged by the Europeans with the 'Holy' nature attributed to it. During that time Jerusalem was occupied by the Muslim Turks but the people from all religions lived there without any issues with Jews providing finance and Christians doing administrative work. The Byzantine emperor when he called for help was expecting a small army to defend Constantinople but what he got was an army of Barbarians who were on a war pilgrimage to the Holy City. He just let them pass through his City after getting their allegiance. Crusaders being very thick were not that well planned in terms of provisions and all that and so proceeded by pillaging the people and villages  they encountered. They really didn't discriminate between Christians and Muslims when it came to robbing, torturing and killing.

The second episode 'Jerusalem' covers their journey to Jerusalem, hardships and the lucky breaks they got along the way. Muslims were really not a uniform sect, but more of warring factions who were really not united against the crusaders. Compared to the barbaric nature of crusaders they were far more civilized and educated. 

In the third episode titled 'Jihad' Jones covers the response from Muslims as looked to a uniting leader to wage Jihad against the Crusaders. Slowly the Muslim world inspired by religious war mongering put aside their infighting against the common enemy and the leader Saladin was the figurehead. He is considered as very noble as many a times he protected the captured Christians from his own army. He recaptured Jerusalem and status-quo was maintained over there. Truce was reached between him and the crusade leader Baldwin in 1190s.

In the fourth episode titled 'Destruction' , after the death of Saladin, a new leader who had more in common with the crusaders in terms of brutality emerged to finally destroy the the barbarians from Europe. Islamic world recognized the Christians as the common enemy and this feeling has been ingrained in them since those times and is kind of the reversal of sides from the start of crusades. The world is still reeling from its effects.

The documentary is extremely funny with Terry Jones reenacting some of the events, the uniforms they wore etc. His cynicism about religion and the nuts who act upon it makes it more watchable compared to other normal history documentaries. It made me want to re-watch the film 'Kingdom of Heaven' which also features some of the characters like Saladin and the leper king Baldwin portrayed amazingly by Edward Norton.

Rating: 5/5