In a world dominated by kings and queens, knights and maids, the medieval sport of jousting has to feature somewhere. And now imagine this: in a bulging arena full of fanatical supporters, a fair-haired man with a mischievous smile who steals every woman’s heart in a blink of an eye emerges under the protection of his shining armour. My six year old self immediately had her first genuine crush on this angelic knight.
This medieval adventure comedy “A Knight’s Tale” stars Heath Ledger, the sex symbol import from Australia, who plays the main character of William Thatcher, a peasant with the dream of becoming a noble knight. However this was not way of things in the 14th century – it was impossible for someone of low birth to achieve this high status. Nevertheless young handsome William did not give up when he probably should have done so and started winning tournaments under a forged patent of nobility. In doing so he not only secured the admiration of the other noblemen and knights, but also the attention of the noblewoman Joceyln (Shannon Sossaman). In his tournaments William is always surrounded by his friends and supporters and even accompanied by a young version of the famous British poet and author Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany), who appears completely naked in his first appearance on screen. And of course there is, like in every other medieval romantic comedy drama, an evil knight in black armour (Rufus Sewell) who tries to unveil William’s secret identity.
This film may be corny and pretty stereotypical, but even 18 years after it was released I am still enjoying it as much as I did when I was a child. Furthermore it could be said that the storyline is quite thin and predictable, but sometimes I personally need a film where I don’t have to think too hard about any tricky and twisted plots. The film’s director Brian Helgeland, who also directed Legend (2015), breaks this seemingly monotonous story by letting the tournament audience clap and sing to the worldwide famous hit “We will rock you” by Queen.
Although the film contains various jousting scenes in the tournament arena the storyline is not solely about dark medieval times. Anyone who also fancies seeing Heath Ledger dancing in green leggings to the song “Golden Years” by David Bowie definitely has to watch this film. And because poor William has a hard time convincing the beautiful Joceyln of his affection for her, he recites a love speech which any girl would die for. This undertaking is enough to warm the hardest heart, and moreover teaches all of us how we should sometimes fight for love.
We should not forget either the sacrifices which were made for the production of this film. During filming, the stunt double of Heath Ledger was hit and fell to the ground unconscious, and Heath Ledger himself knocked out the front teeth of Brian Helgeland, the film director, whilst demonstrating a jousting scene. Shooting a medieval comedy clearly involves violence, fights and blood not only on screen but behind the scenes too.
If you like mushy films with some eye candy included where you don’t have to take the atmosphere too seriously then I would highly recommend this film. Even though it is based on the ancient collection “The Canterbury Tales” written by (the real) Geoffrey Chaucer, it doesn’t seem too rusty. I would actually call this film an experiment of melding old and new together and for my taste it successfully achieves that goal. Because not every film could actually mix this rough knight’s tradition with several classic rock hits. Heath Ledger in medieval times unquestionably rocked me.