I usually write reviews for current movies which are in the cinema. But for this one I’ll make an exception.
For me this movie is a great 8, or more, out of 10 scoring movie that is rarely found these days. And I think this one deserve a review because I haven’t seen it’s release date for the US, or my country Indonesia.
The story follows a Rob Cole, a kid of a poor Christioan family in a 12th century English village. After being able to feel death coming for his mother, Rob’s mother died from “side-sickness” and a traveling healer cannot heal her, because of more than technical reasons.
He then lives with the healer/barber as his apprentice, though not before some forcing and pleading. When Rob grows, he gets to accidentally feel death comes to a person but his master didn’t believe him. When his master gets older and has cataract, which the barber thinks as unhealable, Rob goes to a Jewish healer and got him fixed. Rob then sets to learn the knowledge, like the Jew did, from the great Ibn Sinna in Ispahan in the near orient.
He has to disguise himself as a Jew because the Muslim madrasa does not admit Christians. Disguised as Yassi Ben Benyamin, on his journey Rob meets a girl, Rebecca, but they are parted when a sandstorm engulfs their caravan. Reaching Ispahan, at first Yassi was not accepted by Ibn Sinna’s men and got beaten.
A Jewish madrasa student brings the wounded Yassi to care….by Ibn Sinna himself. Rob is then accepted into the class after showing interest in medicine to Ibn Sinna. In Ispahan Yassi meets Rebecca again and it’s revealed that she is to marry a Jewish influential man, Bar Kappara.
Meanwhile, the shah of Ispahan denied a peace accord with the Seljuks, the overzealous Muslim group with no tolerance to the Jews or science. The Seljuks responded by sending in a plague of the then incurable Black Death.
As the plague gets worse and the city sealed off, Bar Kappara flees the city leaving his newly wed wife. Yassi rescues Rebecca and tends to her in the madrasa. Along her time there, they grow closer.
Together with Ibn Sinna, Yassi then managed to fight off the plague. Rebecca heals and tells Yassi she is going back to her husband’s house. Yassi steals the moment and makes love to her. Ibn Sinna then tasks Yassi of an old man with side-sickness. Yassi tells his master that they can understand the illness better if they understand complete human anatomy, which means dissecting a corpse. Ibn Sinna dismisses the idea thinking that God, in all faiths, prohibits it because it defiles the corpse.
The old man then dies and Yassi secretly dissects his corpse and documents the internal anatomy. He then finds the cause, and cure, of side-sickness which is appendicitis in reality.
But the mullahs, the mosque clergy who are in bed with the rebellious Seljuks and views the madrasa as Godless, caught Yassi red handed and charged him with necromancy. They also frame Ibn Sinna to die along side Yassi and banish the Jews from the city. Yassi then reveal his disguise so as to spare the Jews community.
Meanwhile, Rebecca’s adultery is revealed and she is to be stoned to death. The shah, who has become a friend of Yassi, interfered and spared all of them. This enrages the mullahs and triggers a riot in the city. The shah spared Yassi and Ibn Sinna because he has side-sickness. They then operate on him.
The shah then tells Rob to flee the city as he goes into battle against the Seljuk army. He doesn’t survive the battle and Rob manages to return and set up a hospital in London.
Honestly, since Labor Day (2013) I rarely find a drama that is not boring and drives me to sleepiness. Probably the adventure side of the movie that does this. Based on a novel’s story, the movie greatly tells us of more than just an adventure, but of indomitable will, passion, clash of civilizations, the thirst for knowledge, faith, and tolerance. The movie is great in depicting the conditions of the time and place, and also the human nature.
I am surprised that this great movie is not made out of a Hollywood studio, but a German based. The cast selection is great. Putting excellent senior actors like Stellan Skarsgard, Oliver Martinez and Ben Kingsley aside new talents like Tom Payne and Emma Rigby is a great choice.
Kingsley especially played his part excellently and successfully conveyed the charisma of Ibn Sinna. Although for me Oliver Martinez’s Spanish accent is all to heavy to be mistaken for any Middle Eastern accent.
The music and soundtrack is great. They are not just being there slightly noticeable, but can also bring into light the well placed music moments. The transition between tunes related to middle-ages england villages to the oriental middle east is greatly done, because it is seamless. I personally couldn’t distinguish when did the transition go, is it on the Egypt port scene, or the Ispahan entrance scene.
Overall, again this is a great movie deserving an 8 out of 10 score and a recommendation to go and see it. Seeing that it is limitedly released, it will worth your time looking for it on the internet.
Source: Johan Dondokambey – imdb