Monday, June 8, 2009

El Cid (1961)

Last year saw the release of a deluxe DVD of Anthony Mann's 1961 epic film, El Cid, starring Charleton Heston and Sophia Loren. According to one review:
"El Cid's" medieval tale of chivalry and passion is one of the rare films of its kind that actually feels passionate. More... than epics marred by the intrusion of modern sensibilities. It also has the distinct advantage of Sophia Loren as Heston's leading lady, a better-than-average script, magnificently mounted spectacle, and solid performances by a large cast united in the belief they were doing something worthy.
Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (1040-1099), also known as El Cid Campeador, was a Castilian knight who lived in a time of social chaos, Muslim incursions, religious hypocrisy, and leadership that tended to be both weak and cruel. Mio Cid which means "my Lord" or even "my Hero," conducted himself in such a way that he won the respect of both Christians and Moors, creating a legend of courage and chivalry which has inspired songs, poems, plays, and, in the last century, the epic film.

With a musical score worthy of a champion, Mann's El Cid draws upon the medieval ballads as well as Corneille's seventeenth century play. With an archaic but coherent dialog, the epic moves from Rodrigo's stormy marriage with Dona Jimena to his various struggles with Alphonso VI to his emergence as the savior of Christian Spain. Throughout the film, the sign of the Cross appears, marking the increasing sacrifices of Rodrigo as he seeks to follow the path of justice, in spite of the cost to himself. People often criticize the final scene as being beyond belief and it is, for it comes from a mingling of history with legend. Nevertheless, it is difficult not to agree with Rodrigo's friends, as they kneel on the shores of Valencia to pray for him, asking God to receive into His kingdom "one who died the purest knight of all."

1 comment:

Terry Nelson said...

One of my favorite films!