The screenplay isn't up for much and Orlando Bloom, playing the loss-of-faith crusader Balian of Ibelin, does indeed look--as The Independent cruelly observed--like a backpacker touring the Middle East in a gap year.
Yet, it was the reaction of the mostly Muslim audience watching the film that was moving for Fisk.
When the leprous King of Jerusalem--his face covered in a steel mask to spare his followers the ordeal of looking at his decomposition--falls fatally ill after honourably preventing a battle between Crusaders and Saracens, Saladin, played by that wonderful Syrian actor Ghassan Massoud--and thank God the Arabs in the film are played by Arabs--tells his deputies to send his own doctors to look after the Christian king.
At this, there came from the Muslim audience a round of spontaneous applause. They admired this act of mercy from their warrior hero; they wanted to see his kindness to a Christian...
But at the end of the film, after Balian has surrendered Jerusalem, Saladin enters the city and finds a crucifix lying on the floor of a church, knocked off the altar during the three-day siege. And he carefully picks up the cross and places it reverently back on the altar. And at this point the audience rose to their feet and clapped and shouted their appreciation. They loved that gesture of honour. They wanted Islam to be merciful as well as strong. And they roared their approval above the soundtrack of the film.
I was particularly impressed when Fisk said that Amin Maalouf, the author of The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, stated that the film was "too fair." While Scott may have found history irrelevant for "Gladiator" and Arabs nothing but primitive butchers in "Black Hawk Down," it sounds like he got this one right.
And now that my boyfriend is here for the summer, and I'm finally starting to feel a bit better, perhaps the proverbial dinner and a movie might be a nice thing. :)